#NotTooYoungToRun: Nigeria must give youths a chance to govern ― Odinkalu

Protesters on Tuesday shut down the main entrance of the National Assembly gate as security officials denied them entrance to speak with lawmakers.

Hundreds of young Nigerians marched on the country’s parliament on Tuesday, calling for lawmakers to remove age barriers on political posts, including the presidency.

Addressing the protesters at the Unity Fountain, before they marched to the national assembly, Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman human rights commission, said the future of the country is in the hands of the youth.

He said the country could not afford to lose such legislation.

#Video: FULL VIDEO: ‘Not Too Young To Run’ protesters shutdown National Assembly gate

“We are in a country with the median age of 19 but people who want to save Nigeria’s unity have an average age of over 60,” Odinkalu said.

“Who are they saving the country for? People are being invited across the country as leaders of thought, who are they thinking for? At our age, average age of the Nigerian youth given our life expectancy, we are already in the middle age and life expectancy for women is 51 and falling, for men, it’s 49 and falling.

“So, if you are in your 20s, you are in your middle age. People like me are already in injury time and people like us should be seeking to replace ourselves with the kind of people who are leading the Not Too Young to Run movement.

“Because we are going to die and life expectancy is short, we must replace ourselves with better people, when I look at young Nigerians I’m reassured that this country has a future. That is one promising thing about us. So, today let us go and take the national assembly asunder if we must.

“We need to create inconvenience, if we don’t create inconvenience, nobody knows you are demonstrating. Let us cause some inconvenience, let Nigerians know young people matter. For the sake of this country, we need young people in office, we need young people in power, we need young people taking control.”

Nigeria’s 1999 constitution stipulates that the president has to be at least 40, while senators and state governors have to be aged 35 or above.

But with an increasingly young demographic in Africa’s most populous nation and a majority of voters (55.4 percent) in the 18-35 age group, the restriction is seen as unfair.

About 500 protesters, wearing white T-shirts and brandishing placards proclaiming “#NotTooYoungToRun”, marched two kilometres (1.5 miles) to the National Assembly.

A sit-in was planned outside the parliament building until lawmakers vote on a constitutional amendment to lower the age.

Protest leader Samson Itodo said they needed a two-thirds majority in the 109-seat senate and the 360-seat House of Representatives to vote in their favour.

“For us, we are saying remove the age limit completely. If you are eligible to vote, you should be eligible to run for office,” he told OAK TV.

“That is full franchise. But what we currently enjoy is partial franchise.”

Nigeria’s current head of state is President Muhammadu Buhari, a 74-year-old former military ruler who has been out of the country on indefinite medical leave since May 7.

Buhari’s age is not an exception in Africa, where many elderly presidents remain in power, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who is still president at the age of 93.

Itodo said Nigeria had a “youthful population” so it was crucial young people were more involved in the political process.

Senator Dino Melaye, representing members of the upper and lower chambers of parliament, promised protesters the issue had been given careful attention.

“There is already a proposal that will be debated between today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) in the National Assembly in the ongoing constitutional amendment,” he said.

“The age qualification for the presidency has been reduced from 40 to 35 while the ages for state governorship has been reduced from 35 to 30.

“House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly have been reduced from 30 to 25. This is the proposal that we are going to debate.”

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