Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has stressed the importance of opening up the political climate to young people in Nigeria, adding that the exclusion of young people from decision making processes that affect them could be equated to a crime against humanity.
Receiving the movement for the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill in his office, the Speaker noted that the young are Nigeria’s assets that must be harnessed for the growth and development of Nigeria.
Also, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki through his Special Assistant on New Media, Olu Onemola, told the same group, also known as the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), to advocate for free and fair elections, stating that the next step in the advocacy process is to ensure that more young people have their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs).
“Let me congratulate you on the campaign that helped in the passage of the (Not Too Young To Run) Bill in the National and State Houses of Assembly. What you have done has become a reference point across the continent.
Meeting the group, Dogara said, “One thing that we must emphasize and continue to emphasize is that we must get our young people to develop the capacity to participate and lead. We must also ensure that they have political influence. I’ve said this thing somewhere that any environment that exclude half of its population would not be fair, and this is true for the young people that now live in this great country called Nigeria. We have to accord you your rightful place. To continuously exclude the young people from participating in taking decisions that affect them, I believe, in my own opinion, would have amounted to a crime against humanity. There is no certainly criminality above excluding a greater percentage of people from taking decisions or participating in taking decisions on matters that affect them.”
He also harped on the importance of the youths getting the right training from a young age to enable them take up leadership positions in the future and deliver successfully, adding that the House passed the Bill in recognition of the fact that the time for political leaders to bother about the future of the country is long overdue.
“We just didn’t do it (pass Not Too Young To Run Bill) for the young people but as it is said great leaders bother themselves about the next generation.
“We did not do to impress anyone but because it is the right thing to do because the young people represent our asset for the future and if we do not invest in the young people, our future is doomed,” he stated.
“I have said it then, and I’ll repeat it, the young people represent our assets for the future. From statistics that I happen to believe, the population of young people on the Earth today is the largest ever in history, estimated at about 1.8 billion people between the ages of 1-24.
“More than 1 Billion of them are living in developing countries. It is estimated that in the next two decades, the young people will half the population of Africa, so it is incumbent on the political class to everyone that thinks himself a leader to begin to imagine what the future will hold for our people. If we don’t attempt to address it now, you can imagine the level of foolishness to wait until we are faced with the stack reality of the moment before we begin to talk about addressing this situation.
“I believe that the young people that saturate the earth bring with them a lot of skills which are unique, contemporary, with capacity, flexibility and even the capacity themselves to change the life of others including their own.
“So, as a matter of fact, I don’t see why the political climate would not be made open for them to participate to be empowered to develop their capacity to lead in all areas of human endeavor and I’m not just talking of participating in politics, they must take the lead. I’m happy that the Bill we have passed which the President has gladly acknowledged that he’ll assent to is something that will become a reality before the 2019 elections by the Grace of God.”
He expressed delight that the bill which has become an inspiration to other sister countries to provide legal backing for youth inclusion in governance, will come into law before the 2019 election and assured of help with resolving any bureaucratic issues that may arise.
Hon Dogara said he will be available to celebrate the milestone when the president signs the bill into law and urged the advocacy team to make a big deal of the feat they have achieved.
Earlier, the convener of the movement and the leader of the delegation, Mr Samson Itodo, expressed gratitude to the Speaker for keeping up with his promise to promote youth inclusion in politics by ensuring the bill is passed.
He commended the speaker’s leadership in pushing for the passage of the bill, saying he inspired them to keep the movement strong.
Furthermore, he said what the 8th House has done is show the world that it is a parliament that prioritises youth engagement in the political process and as a result, the United Nations has commended the Nigerian parliament, while the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) and the African Union have adopted the resolution to include youths in political processes.
Itodo also said baring any last minute changes, President Muhammadu Buhari will sign the bill into law at 1 p.m on Thursday and urged the speaker to help push for accelerated gazetting of the law.
He also invited the speaker to deliver a paper at a celebration conference billed for the end of June to mark the historic feat, draw attention political party to the need to allow the youths secure party tickets at the primaries and discuss on the quality of leadership in the 2019 elections.
Saraki, on his part, said that the passage and assent to the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, will be the first phase in the journey for more youth inclusion in politics.
He added: “So the first thing for the advocacy that will support ‘Not Too Young to Run’ must be free and fair elections.
“The only way you’re going to make a difference is for you to have your voter’s card.
“‘Not Too Young to Run’ has just finished phase one. Phase two is ensuring that you have a lot of young people that have PVCs and letting everyone know that you have PVCs so that all the political parties will pay attention that you have the numbers.
“My advice for all young people is that, this is not a short race, it is a marathon,” the President of the Senate said.
Speaking for YIAGA, Itodo commended Saraki, the Senate and the National Assembly for the passage of the Bill.
“This is the first time that we had a National Assembly whose leadership played a visible role in the passage of the Bill. The fact that you played a part in providing the leadership for the passage of the Bill is significant.
“We want to convey our appreciation to you and the other 108 members of the Senate that we are pleased with this development. You and your counterparts in the House of Representatives have written your names in gold,” Itodo said.