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Young Nigerians seek abolishment of political age limits

West Africa – Thousands of Nigerians, mainly young people, marched on the country’s parliament on Tuesday to call out lawmakers and urging them to remove age barriers on political positions, including the country’s presidency.

According to Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, the president of the country has to be at least 40 years old and above, while senators and state governors have to be aged 35 or above.

However, considering the increasing 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 clearly seen as unnecessary and unfair.

About 500 young protesters, wearing white T-shirts and brandishing placards proclaiming “#NotTooYoungToRun”, marched two kilometers (1.5 miles) to the country’s National Assembly.

The protest organizer and 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 favor.

“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 said.

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

The Not Too Young To Run movement received with pleasure, the statement issued by the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara reaffirming his commitment and that of the House of representatives to the passage of the Not Too Young to Run bill seeking a removal of age limits in the requirement for Running for elective office as stated in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.

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

The issue of age consideration has been a problem and setback for young people in securing prominent roles in the Nigerian government. Nigeria’s current president Muhammadu Buhari is a 74-year-old former army general who has been out of the country on indefinite medical leave since May 7.

While Buhari’s age is not an exception in Africa as a whole, where many elderly presidents such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe remains in power at 93.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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