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Nigeria: The Birth of Millennial Leadership

Imagine a country where youth leaders are often beyond the “youth age range” and youth-focused policies are discussed without inclusion and input from youth?

Welcome to Nigeria.

Nigeria is a country where youth make up a majority of the population but are often sidelined by political elite and powerful leaders. However, we are seeing a ‘new’ Nigeria take shape, where youth are demanding their rightful place in the political process. One of the tools that Nigerian youth are using to demand political inclusion is the “Not Too Young to Run Bill.” Nigerian youth are using this bill to not only advocate for greater inclusion into the political process, but to also demand more access at the table where decisions are made. Nigeria’s population has exceeded 180 million people and more than sixty percent of Nigerians are under the age of 25 years old. The current politics of exclusion and disenfranchisement does not reflect the true realities on the ground in Africa’s largest democracy.

This bill seeks to reduce the constitutional age requirement for running for elective office in Nigeria: from 40 years to 30 years for President of the Federal Republic; from 35 years to 30 years for State Governor; from 30 years to 25 years for Federal House of Representatives; and from 30 years to 25 years for State Assembly.

I am excited each and every day that I have the opportunity to interact with Nigerian youth working to expand political participation in Nigeria. As a young Nigerian working to strengthen democracy and expand opportunity in my home country, I recognize the challenges that we face each day. The “Not Too Young to Run Bill” will provide young Nigerians with a chance to actively compete with the political elite and create inroads at Nigeria’s highest level of elected politics.

Recently, Mr. John Tomaszewski, Africa Regional Director for IRI, spoke at an event debating the merits of the “Not Too Young to Run Bill.” Mr. Tomaszewski made the case that Africa, a continent with a dominant youth population, should take seriously the inclusion of young people in its decision making. He not only debunked the widely propagated excuse that youth are undisciplined and immature but called on Nigerian youth to ‘act better because you deserve better.’

I am pleased at how far we have come in the process of cementing the place of Nigerian youth in governance and I am optimistic that there is no better time to have the bar removed, than this very time.