Youthful electioneering towards 2019

Posted by News Express | 5 September 2018 | 1,222 times

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President Muhammadu Buhari has a mixed bag of a unique legacy regarding the landmark passage and bringing into being of the legendary Not-too-young-to-run Act 2018.

Buhari shares this glory with such political leaders like Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Sen Ike Ekweremadu and the youthful Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, a litigation lawyer from the North-central State of Bauchi.

I called it a mixed bag of legacy because rather than allowing the fuller essence and philosophical import of this Act to be fully manifested, the old people (old brigade) who run things at the top-most echelons of the political firmament in Nigeria have erected formidable obstacles that might frustrate the actualisation in real time of the gains of this fresh law, which is targeted at mainstreaming youth participation at the political leadership platforms of Nigeria. 

Proverbially, the political old guards gave out a carrot with one hand but used a heavy stick to retrieve it from the hands of the new breed political aspirants. 

This is so because of the economic indices that show that poverty among the younger population is high because millions of young people churned out from the universities and secondary schools have no employment opportunities. As a result,  they are left to wander around in squalid poverty in the urban areas, scampering for survival and searching for the proverbial greener pastures locally.

Others chose to migrate to foreign countries, where the threats of insecurity and instability do not constitute a grave threat to their lives. In Nigeria, a combination of the twin evils of political instability and national insecurity have constituted grave threats to the fundamental right to life that the citizens are entitled to under the law. Because of this reality, a lot of youth are on their way to move abroad. The few left behind are now impoverished and too poor to be able to pick up the expensive nomination forms of the big parties. Only the two big parties have big money-bags to be able to withstand the vicissitudes of elections and the extremely expensive campaigns that characterised general elections. And since political godfathers are those who anoint candidates, the poor youths are alienated from the reach of these rich godfathers; just as only the children of rich Nigerians will then be in a position with the appropriate funding support to run the expensive campaigns that herald general elections in Nigeria.

This is why Gov Rochas Okorocha, whose election seven years ago was funded by money-bags, has become suddenly so rich now as to become the godfather who wants to throw money around to railroad his son-in-law into office, by hook or crook, as his successor in Imo State. Already the state is heavily impoverished and ruined economically by Okorocha and his gang in the last seven years. In Nasarawa State it is rumoured, although without proof, that Africas richest man - the Kano-born Aliko Dangote, plans to install his managing director, into office as governor. The Nasarawa State governor had to arrange a media publicity to deny that he got bribed to the tune of N10 billion by the multi-billionaire to actualise the big man's political plot. Dangote is media-shy, so he has yet to deny or affirm. But, as is well known, Dangote, like most billionaires, pay the bills of some political aspirants who go on to win plump/juicy political positions. Millions of impoverished Nigerian youths have no access to these billionaires to be able to muster the kind of humongous cash required for electioneering activities in this part of the world. 

The first salvo was fired by President Muhammadu Buhari - even while endorsing the bill when it had already scaled through the crucibles of legislative firestorms of the National Assembly - when he told the youthful audience invited to monitor the symbolic signing of the law not to eye the office of president until after 2023. Apparently, he was banking on the power of incumbency to retain office for the second and final constitutionally allowed tenure, after next year’s general election.

The President is, however, not alone in this game of political deceit; because, the major political parties - including the ruling party that produced President Buhari - erected unattainable demands as a necessary pre-condition for qualification to seek for political offices under their platforms. 

The two leading parties (APC/PDP) have made and are implementing outrageous asking prices for the nomination forms that pre-qualifies aspirants to run for the respective offices in the 2019 poll. Only those cash-backed by godfathers and the rich are buying these forms. The youth are simply nowhere near these offices of these political players. So, they have managed to play at the fringes with most of them joining forces to register political parties since under the current uncoordinated and rudderless leadership in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) it is easier to register political parties than to buy a rural bicycle. The big political players are billionaire-quarters for now, even with the law passed to bring about an all-inclusive political game that will see the youth getting involved as aspirants and candidates, lest going ahead to win seats in the diverse political power configurations. 

The All Progressives Congress went to the ridiculous extent of hiking fee for the presidential form to N55 million, which the President - with all the security votes available to his beck and call running into billions - has stated that paying N55 million to buy a nomination form to run for the office of presidency is way too high. Most rational Nigerians have taken his words with a pinch of salt, however. 

Don’t ask me how President Buhari managed to put up a multi-billion naira housing asset in the Central Business District of Abuja as his campaign office. 

The campaign office of the President was inaugurated with pomp and pageantry by Buhari and his vice, accompanied by state governors such as that of Kogi and Plateau, including a large entourage of cabinet ministers, including Secretary to Government of the Federation, M. Boss Mustapha. The youths were as hired audience to clap hands for the old guards. Same way the youth were paid to pay solidarity visits to Buhari when he spent over three months on medical vacation in London on our bills, which is not even disclosed even with the freedom of information request made by many Nigerians. These youths were so misguided that they picked up crumbs from the Presidency to cheer the President shortly after he made snide remarks that Nigerian youth are mostly lazy and don't want to work. 

So, in their determination to alienate the youth from the mainstream of political positioning, APC also scaled up the nomination fee for office of state governors to almost N22 million, which most of the governors kicked against, even when a greater percentage of these non-performing governors have been alleged by Economic and Financial Commission of diverting huge and, indeed, humongous amounts of public funds to their private accounts. 

The chairman of Nigerian Governor’s Forum, Abdul'aziz Abubakar Yari, of  Zamfara State, has a date with EFCC for alleged fraud running into several billion. 

The anti-graft body had alleged that he diverted public funds belonging to his state from the Paris Club refund to build an exotic housing estate in the United States of America and an imposing hotel facility in a choice area of Lagos.

The Finance Commissioner and many close allies of the Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha have had brushes with the EFCC, even as most northern governors have grossly mismanaged the resources of their people. Yet, these corrupt governors have even protested against the high nomination fees charged by the All Progressives Congress.

Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) - which is the beautiful bride in the area of presidential primary election because of the high turnover of aspirants who jumped ship from APC because of lack of internal democracy - have been asked to cough out N12 million, while governorship candidates are not expected to pay less than N10 million.

These are predictable obstacles meant to rubbish the gains of the untested Not-too-young-to-run Act, which is aimed at bringing about youth participation in politics at the highest levels in line with constitutional provisions.

Section 14 (2) (c) of the Constitution states as follows: “The participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”

The above sub-section is an essential element of chapter two of the constitution: the Fundamental Objectives and Principles of State Policy, in which the supreme law obliges political office-holders thus: “It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive and judicial powers to conform, to observe and apply the provision of this chapter of the Constitution.”

The question that logically flows from the deliberately sowed infractions against the newly-minted Not-too-young-to-run law by the government and political parties registered under the Constitution is: Why spend so much time, resources to pass and sign the law to mainstream youth participation in strategic elections, but turned back to frustrate the law from coming into fruition? 

Why did President Buhari disrespect the law by cajoling would-be beneficiaries not to aspire to become president until after he had left office, when he would be in his 80’s, going by his official age? By the way, the Minister of Youth Affairs is a man in his 60s!. Talk of hypocrisy in Nigerian politics. 

 Another corollary question to ask political leaders is: Why did they embark on this grand-scale political deception of bringing about the youth-friendly law only not to be committed to its enforcement? President Buhari celebrated the signing of the law elaborately, even as his media spin-doctors went overdrive and overboard with propaganda to praise the President for being the political saviour of the youth. That is the same President Buhari who thinks most Nigerian youths are lazy. The President read the following celebratory remarks to herald the signing the bill into a law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the consequent amendments to relevant constitutional provisions to harmonise these incongruous provisions with the unambiguous provisions of the new law. 

In a jubilant mood as if he has just won the World Cup, Buhari told Nigerians that, first, he would like to welcome his hired audience, including some youth to the State House. He said that the day was a significant day for all of us in Nigeria, and most especially our young people;  and the role they play in our democracy, politics and national life; which is why we are gathered here for the signing of the “Not-too-young-to-run Bill”: a landmark piece of legislation that was conceived, championed and accomplished by young Nigerians. The coordinators of the Not-too-young-to-run movement have now established a formidable legacy. That is, in our maturing democracy, if you really want to change something in Nigeria and, if you can organise yourselves and work hard towards it, you can achieve it. 

The President said the outcome of such efforts is this remarkable feat. These efforts have resulted in the heroic task of enshrining in law, a reduction of the minimum age for elective office in Nigeria. For example, eligible age for aspirants for State Houses of Assembly will be reduced from 30 to 25 years; eligible age for aspirants for aspirants to the House of Representatives will be reduced from 30 to 25 years, while the eligible age for aspirants for office of the president will be lowered from 40 to 35 years. Surprisingly, the age limit for senators and governors was not reduced, as originally proposed by the sponsors of this bill. 

The President said this failure to effect a reduction in the age limit the Senate is an issue that may need to be addressed going forward. Nevertheless, he told the youthful audience thatyour 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. This is an opportunity for me to affirm that this administration will continue to do everything in its power to make Nigeria work for you. You may all know that the bill I just assented to 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 opportunities provided not only by this constitutional amendment but also through Nigeria’s boundless prospects. You should inculcate the spirit of self-help. 

The President admonished the young people that those who complete their training should not just sit down and wait for government or private sector to employ them, but should be innovative and turn their hands to any legitimate work that will enable them to sustain themselves. 

He fired the first major salvo against the fresh law by stating: But please, can I ask you to postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections? Finally, let me say how proud I am, and how proud the entire country is, of what you have accomplished. Congratulations and best of luck, while continuing to work to make Nigeria a greater country for us and future generations of Nigerians. God bless all the young people of Nigeria and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

What need to be done is for the young persons who are now running their own political parties to mobilize other vibrant young people to team up with them and sensitise millions of other youth to capture the momentum of achieving the legal and constitutional milestone of lowering the ages for strategic offices by breaking the bondage of the two-party gangsters constituted by APC and PDP. 

If the entire youth will refuse to sell their votes for plates of soup as was done in Ekiti, Edo, Ondo and Anambra states, the newly-registered political parties may as well become mainstream political parties and maybe we will have five major national political parties which will lead to the lowering down of the fees for nominations and reduce campaign costs. The developed world needs to help the youth to draw inspiration from that new law, but first Nigeria's suffocating poverty and collapsed infrastructures must be fixed. The industrialised nations must put the necessary legal frameworks to halt the capital flights out of Nigeria, most especially the high incidences of money-laundering by political office-holders who are taking these funds offshore. 

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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