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23 Aug 2017

What Nigerian youths should know before running

The #Nottooyoungtorun bill recently passed by the National Assembly as part of the amendment to the constitution is a welcome development to the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

As laudable as it might seem, there are however requirements like knowledge, competence, legal campaign funding amongst others needed for any young person aspiring to the position of leadership particularly governance to ensure that candidates are not at the mercy of corrupt politicians who have mismanaged the country. There is no doubt that any individual that meets the requirements of the constitution with strong qualities can be a better leader.

When this bill eventually becomes law, it will be a great opportunity for the youths. I believe this is the time for youths aspiring to be in governance to start putting their act together. Governance is a serious business. Anyone that intends to go into politics to serve the people must learn the ropes by joining a political party that meets his/her aspirations or vision and at least be in any public or private establishment that will provide the needed experience. In the past weeks, some Nigerian celebrities flooded timelines on different social media platforms with posters announcing their intention to run for different offices. It is important to know that governance is no joke and thus must not be treated in a light manner. If they have interest in politics, they must start from the grassroots because leadership is not for the gram but for those who are willing to serve in truth.

In spite of the open political participation in the world’s leading democracies, only very few countries have their heads of government between the ages of 35 and 40 years old. The reason is because it requires time to acquire the relevant experience and competencies to head the government of any country.

It is pertinent to mention a recent few: Emmanuel Macron at the age of 39 became the youngest President of France after defeating Marie Le Pen of the National Front on May 7, 2017. Macron started his professional career as an inspector of finance in France’s Ministry of Economy and later became Deputy Secretary General in President Hollande’s government in May 2012. He was appointed Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs in 2014 and in 2016 formed the centrist political movement with which he won the presidential election. Macron holds two Master’s degrees in Philosophy and Public Affairs.

At 38 years, Leo Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant, became Ireland’s youngest Prime Minister on June 14, 2017. A medical doctor by profession who launched his political career as a teenager by joining the youth wing of the Fine Gael political party, Varadkar worked as a junior doctor for several years at St James Hospital, Trinity Teaching Hospital and Connolly Hospital in Dublin. He was elected in to parliament in 2009 after which he was made Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sports and later Health Minister.

The United States, which Nigeria models its democracy after, had John F. Kennedy as its youngest elected president in 1960 at the age of 43; on the opposite side, the oldest elected president in the US is Donald Trump, although a successful businessman, he obviously is learning on the job because of his lack of public office experience. Unfortunately, I could not find a Nigerian president to use as a perfect example. Goodluck Jonathan was 54 years old even as allegations of corruption continue to rock his administration.

What all these examples show is that youths preparing for positions of leadership in governance must start on time, get the required experience, knowledge/competence in order to be successful. If the Nigerian youths do not gather the necessary requirement then, I fear enactment of the #Nottooyoungtorun law will be a waste of time and the corrupt politicians in government will have an excuse to rule for many more years and place their children to take up from where they stopped.

The youths must begin by organising at the ward and state levels. They must understand that anyone serving the country in any political position means serving the people that voted him/her into government. Anyone going into power for the sole purpose of making money should have a serious rethink. Unfortunately, this is the difference between our nation and other countries with prosperous democracy where the rule of law prevails. This is the direction our youths should be aspiring for to effect change.

Another important requirement for those aspiring for political office is campaign funding. No matter how good a candidate’s intentions may be, lack of adequate financial support can be an obstacle to a successful campaign. As I flipped through the pages of the newspapers and read the online stories during the passage of the bill, one thing that came to my mind was the fear of corrupt politicians sponsoring youths into offices and ruling from the backend hence making the candidates figureheads in office.

In many countries, there are laws in place to access funds for anyone seeking office through election. In the US, finance laws are enacted by the Congress and enforced by the Federal Election Commission and the Independent Federal Agency. In the UK, an independent body oversees election and regulates political finance; the rules are on how much candidates can spend on their campaign and where they receive the funding from; there are limits on candidates spending and controls on the source of funding. These laws are to ensure probity, accountability and ensure those interested in serving the people have the opportunity to participate.

In our country, we must take the sources of campaign funding seriously to enable equal playing ground for aspiring young participants. In Nigeria, laws are made but enforcement is a major problem because of the high level of corruption in our public space. The Independent National Electoral Commission has the power to monitor campaign expenditure as contained in Section 153 of the 1999 constitution. In my quest for more information, I looked through the 2010 Electoral Act as amended, it has the election limit for President as (N1bn), Governor (N200m), Senate (40m), House of Representatives (N20m), State Assembly (N10m), Local Government (N10m) and Counsellor (1m). The problem as we all know is that the campaign expenditure law has never been enforced and the limits never adhered to which is why the media expenditures for the last presidential election was reportedly N8,789,685,298 (for the PDP) and N2,915,846,737 (for the APC), according to the Centre for Social Justice. INEC has to wake up to its responsibility on this, the use of public funding by public office holders is of great concern and we do not expect the youths to toe this line.

It is important that Nigerian youths follow the commendable steps of the current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, by creating a new niche rather than play the “follow follow” game of standing behind the corrupt politicians and singing their praises through sponsored protests and Twitter conversations. The social media has given youths the opportunity to create change and not for showing off wealth and lifestyles that don’t exist in their world. Until our youths wake up, I am afraid, politics in Nigeria will remain the same.

SOurce: Punchng

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