By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday signed into law the `Not Too Young To Run’ bill and raised eyebrows on the non-reduction of the age limits for senators and governors as originally proposed by sponsors of the bill.
The President, who signed the bill in company of members of the `Not Too Young To Run’ movement at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, also jokingly appealed to the young people to postpone their campaign (presidential ambition) till after the 2019 general elections.
The bill was passed by the National Assembly in July 2017 to alter Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the Constitution, to reduce the age qualification for president from 40 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.
The bill, however, maintained the age qualification of 35 years for the positions of senator and governor as against 30 years as originally proposed by the sponsors of the bill.
“Surprisingly, the age limits for senators and governors were not reduced, as originally proposed by the sponsors of this Bill. This is an issue that may need to be addressed going forward.
“Nevertheless, your focus and contributions have now successfully increased the quality and maturity of Nigerian democracy and expanded the playing field for youth participation in politics.
“You, the young people of Nigeria, are now set to leave your mark on the political space, just as you have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields.
“You are undoubtedly Nigeria’s most important resource – not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals – but you and all of us. Your energy, intelligence and talent are what will drive and develop Nigeria, long after we are all gone.’’
He said that the signing of the bill provided him with an opportunity to affirm that his Administration would continue to do everything in its power to make Nigeria work for the young people.
“You may all know that the Bill I just assented now becomes an Act of the National Assembly.
“Thus, it may be tempting for you to think of this as the end of the journey.
However, it is only the beginning; there is still a lot of work ahead, towards ensuring that young people take full advantage of the opportunities provided not only by this constitutional amendment but also through Nigeria’s boundless prospects.’’
Buhari enjoined the youth to inculcate the spirit of self-help, adding that those who completed their training should not just sit down and wait for government or private sector to employ them.
He urged them to be innovative and turn their hands to any legitimate work that would enable them to sustain themselves.
“You may have noticed already that every one of you represents one of our 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. This is because today is about preparing for the bright future of our country.
“I am confident each one of you will transform Nigeria in your own way – whether through media, agricultural enterprise, economists, engineers, or as lawmakers in your states or at federal level, or as state governors – and even someday, as President. Why not?
“But please, can I ask you to postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections!’’
In his remark, Coordinator of the “Not Too Young To Run” movement, Samson Itodo thanked President Buhari for assenting to the bill, saying that with the signing, the president had succeeded in writing his name in the history books of Nigeria.
Itodo said the youth would continue to contribute their quota towards the development of the country by upholding the values of integrity and accountability.
“We, as young people, hereby make a commitment that we will remain patriotic, upholding the values of integrity and accountability and also contribute our own quota to rebuilding this country and bringing it back to the path of economic and political progress,” he pledged.
Itodo, however, frowned at those three states — Kano, Lagos and Zamfara — whose Houses of Assembly refused to pass the “Not Too Young To Run bill”.