“If not you, who? If not now, when?” this resolute call to self-determination and active citizenship is the anchoring slogan of the “Not Too Young To Run” campaign. Born in Nigeria in 2016, the campaign’s purpose is to promote increased youth participation in political processes by confronting age discrimination in candidacy for the legislative and executive branches of governance. Their goal is to reduce the age qualification for the office of the President from 40 years to 30 years, Governor from 35 to 30, Senate from 35 to 30, House of Representatives from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly from 30 to 25. The Bill also, admirably, seeks to mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process. Which would, hopefully, create a more competitive and diverse political landscape where various people groups and interests are adequately represented.
To date, victories experienced include an increased interest in political processes by young people, the emergence of youth candidates for political office, and the creation of a new political organization, the Modern Democratic Party, by 27-year old activist and entrepreneur, Prince Bukunyi Olateru-Olagbegi. Currently, the bill has passed the first and second reading stages in the House of Representatives. It is now before the Committee on Constitution Review. The movement has also inspired the creation of Ready to Run a platform encouraging youth to run for office and the global #nottooyoungtorun campaign.
Inspired by the Nigerian example, the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth initiated a global campaign #NotTooYoungToRun in partnership with United Nations Development Programme, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Inter- Parliamentary Union, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement and the European Youth Forum, to organise existing efforts into a global movement and provide youth globally with a central platform from which they can advocate.
The Global campaign boldly asserts two beliefs. Namely that “if you’re old enough to vote, you’re old enough to run for office” and that “age discrimination is a hindrance to full participation and democracy”. Resulting in the need to encourage youth participation in meaningful political decision making and in governance.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 14% of all Members of Parliament are under 40 years of age, yet people between the ages of 20- 44 make up 57% of the world’s voting population. More damning statistics reveal that although they are of voting age, 73% of states around the world restrict young people from running for houses of parliament. Considering that approximately 60% of Africa’s population is below age 35, civic engagement by youth is a necessity. More still if we hope for democracies to mature and be a genuine reflection of our respective societies.
This is not to detract from the fact that the occupation of public office requires strong character, “statesmanship” and other qualities which occupiers of the “highest office(s)” in one’s land need to possess. Taking these and other factors and questions into consideration, the respective organisation’s host events where one can hear what contribution millennials and young candidates have to offer modern democracies: YIAGA, #NotTooYoungToRun Global