WHY AN URGENT NEED FOR YOUTH INCLUSION IN DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA —-By: Comrd. Chukwuebuka Onah
PRINCE ENIOLA OJAJUNI AS A CASE STUDY
The National Youth Policy classifies youth as all persons between the ages 18 – 35. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria places age restrictions in elective offices despite prescribing the age of 18 as the voting age. These age restrictions create a huge gap between the voting age and eligible age to run for office. Whilst the right to vote is guaranteed, but the right to be voted for is not guaranteed until the attainment of an age bracket that is above the youth age classification. For instance, all those who fall within the youth age category are deemed unqualified to run for the office of the President, Senate and Governors. This in itself is ironical and discriminatory. Whilst the constitution recognizes 18 as the voting age, it denies young people the opportunity to pursue their political aspirations until a certain age. This confers
partial franchise on youths and it alienates them from the political process.
At 18, an individual is presumed to be responsible for his/her actions and he/she is capable of understanding party manifestoes to ascertain which party or candidates deserve to be holding public office in trust for the people. Without a doubt, this requires mental capacity, soundness of mind, maturity, integrity and self-leadership. Similarly, these qualities are required for public leadership as well.
Therefore, if at 18 an individual is believed to have both mental and leadership capacity, it is logical to allow the individual to seek for political office at the same age. In 2015, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria, advocated for the removal of the age limit for the Office of the President. He criticized the provision as discriminatory against young Nigerians who have the energy, ideas and other qualities to lead the country to greatness. Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, publicly advocated for a downward review of age criteria for running for certain elective office.In his words;
“I think it may not be out of place to lower the age qualification for certain elective offices in the next constitutional amendment exercise”.
Globalization and technological advancement has expanded the frontiers of political socialization and capacity development. Most young people have become more aware and politically active through the use of social media and digital platforms. Their ability to engage policy debates on political economy and democratic governance issues is unprecedented. This is also complimented by increased access and opportunities for leadership development and democratic governance programs at the local, national and international levels targeted at young people. This explains the giant strides being recorded by youths in all aspects of our national life like in business, technology, entertainment, agriculture, sports, education etc