WE need to look beyond the euphoria and politics that have followed the signing into law of the Not Too Young To Run Act, NTYTRA, by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, June 1, 2018. A similar upbeat atmosphere characterised the approval by former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, also on June 1, 2011.
But since that law was passed, very little use has been made of it. The conduct of government business remains as opaque as ever. In fact, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, only last week outrageously claimed that it was “not a public institution” in answer to a FOI application by a renowned lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN. The euphoria that followed the signing of that law has not resulted in its effective use to improve transparency and accountability in governance.
Also, the two major political parties have tried to make political capital from the NTYTRA. President Buhari even put it as an item in his 2018 Democracy Day broadcast and gathered a cross-section of youths when he signed it with flourish.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, wasted no time in reminding the President that it was its member in the House of Representatives, Tony Nwulu, who pioneered it. The important thing, for us, is that the NTYTRA has become a reality. It satisfied Section 9 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which stipulates ways by which the Constitution can be altered by the National Assembly in collaboration with the various State Houses of Assembly and the President.
Arguments remain that reducing the ages of eligibility to contest for the offices of President from 40 to 35, Governor from 35 to 30 and State Assemblies from 30 to 25 did not go far enough.
Our founding fathers contested and won elections in their early twenties. That should be ideal for us this digital age. We agree with President Buhari that more work is required to ensure that the youth of today are totally unshackled by age to aspire to any public office.
We need to point out, however, that the NTYTRA is not just about elective offices. It is an agenda for a major paradigm shift to bring suitably qualified younger persons massively into all cadres of leadership, governance and administrative positions. People give of their best in their youth.
The majority of our population is composed of the youth. We must rejig the leadership machinery of our nation to accommodate the youth into whose hands the future of Nigeria will fall. We must start now to prepare them for that challenge.
The NTYTRA should be a transition from the old to the young and also from the past to the future.