Nigeria’s population is young and fast-growing. It is expected to be the world’s third most populous country by 2050 with 400 million inhabitants, the United Nations says.
With nearly 70% of Nigeria’s population below the age of 35, it is therefore crucial that young people are represented in the country’s political systems.
There have been welcome steps on this front. In May 2018, Nigeria passed a new law which lowered the age limits for political office from 35 to 30 years in the Senate, and 30 to 25 years in the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly.
Known as the “Not Too Young to Run” bill, the move was intended to reflect the changing demographics of Africa’s most populous nation and help usher in younger leaders.
This was a remarkable achievement for young people in the country, as it means that they had opportunities for representation which were not previously possible.
While this is a great step towards youth inclusion in politics, it is clear that more still need to be done to put young people at the very heart of politics, governance and decision-making process in Nigeria.
This is why WFD Nigeria, through its Inclusive and Accountable Politics (IAP) DFID-funded programme, is working to build the capabilities of young persons in politics. As of May 2019, and as a result of the work of the team in-country working with key stakeholders, a network of Young Persons in Politics with Values (PWV Network) was created to monitor and evaluate the activities of members of Young Parliamentarian Forum (YPF) in the National Assembly, as well as advocate for increased space for young persons in politics.
The same trend is being seen across the world, as young people are becoming increasingly involved in politics and youth inclusion in governance is being perceived as a catalyst for change. In many countries, we have seen the age of those in positions of leadership come down over the years – Justin Trudeau, for example, is 47 years old and David Cameron became Prime Minister of the UK at 43 years old. It seems though, that this trend has not extended to African countries just yet, where comparably Rwanda is leading the way with Paul Kagame’s cabinet reaching an average age of 47.5 years old.
It is disappointing to see that despite the new law in Nigeria paving the way for more young people to be inducted into the leadership framework of the country, none of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominations fall within the new policy’s definition of a young person. Indeed, while the National Youth Policy defines young people as being between the ages of 15 and 29, the youngest member among the list of nominees is 43 years old Sadiya Umar Farouq.
However, there are a few examples of young people who have emerged as leaders of the State Houses of assembly in Nigeria, including Rt. Hon. Abok Nuhu Ayuba from Plateau State, Rt. Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin (Oyo), Rt. Hon. Nasiru Magarya (Zamfara), and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi Salihu (Kwara).
This is a move in the right direction, but Nigeria must now recognise more broadly the importance of young people and provide them with the tools, knowledge and skills to lead by including them in political decision-making.