Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
It seems there is no limit to the mischief and delinquency members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives would come up with. And this is a shame. That the members have chosen to waste public funds and time to discuss a bill seeking to reduce the age qualifications for interested candidates for the positions of the president, governor and the Senate in the country is vexatious and ridiculous.
Against the background of many challenges facing the country, a bill seeking to amend the constitution to allow 30-year old persons to run for president is not one to be considered at this time. There are hundreds of issues of urgent national importance that should engage members’ attention, if they would be true representatives of the people.
The age qualification bill, which also seeks to make provision for independent candidacy, wants to alter sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the 1999 constitution, that peg qualification into the office of the president at 40 years and above, office of governors and Senators at 35 years and above and the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly at 25 years and above.
In his lead submission, the bill’s sponsor Tony Chinedu Nwulu representing Oshodi-Isolo 11 Federal Constituency of Lagos State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), noted that electing candidates into public offices is an important aspect of democratic practices. He then stated: “Countries like the United Kingdom (UK), decided in 2006 to lower their age of candidacy from 21 to 18, something which had existed since the Parliamentary Elections Act 1695” and to him, lowering the age would encourage greater youth participation. The federal legislator added that the bill is to fulfil the growing desire and demand of youths to participate in the democratic process.
Without disputing the need to encourage the participation of the youth in the contest for offices, this bill is certainly one frivolity too many! First, constitutional amendment is not a joke. Where, for instance, is the result of even a national opinion poll not to talk of a referendum that supports his proposed amendment to the constitution?
In another classic case of elite thoughtlessness the other day, a former governor and now a senator reportedly suggested the possibility of a bill to establish a “Chartered Institute of Politicians.” Whatever that means, this is just so embarrassing at a time the nation’s legislators should be showing interest in debates that will accelerate good governance. The reform of the oil and gas sector, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy currently beset by monumental corruption, should engage the legislators’ attention. There are other issues even in the investment sector that need to be addressed through law reforms. Specifically, there have been discussions of numerous laws that impede foreign direct investment, import processes at the ports and registration of businesses, land acquisition titles and all that. But Nigerian legislators are hardly interested in any of these! Rather, tragically, what catches their attention is how to reduce the age qualifications for the highest offices in the land.
Experience counts, no doubt. And being young has many advantages too! But what is required in the offices of president, governors, senators and others is not just the age or paper qualification but personal character. In any leadership position, experience, emotional and executive intelligence, maturity and knowledge count a great deal. Even in life cycle, there is the age of imitation, when children learn by copying what they see around them; there is the age of dreams of what they want to be in future. And there is the age of action when people are mature enough to take on responsibilities. Definitely, anyone can be called to lead. But it would be a gamble taken too far to call on impressionable minds to lead Africa’s largest country and economy with its diversities.
It is quite intolerable that Nigerians always seek to lower standards when the rest of the world is raising the bar in leadership recruitment. It is only in Nigeria that a neophyte could leave junior school and be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives or Senator without any experience in leadership anywhere. It is only in Nigeria that ordinary persons and failed managers could end up as governors, senators and in other leadership positions. This is part of the terrible blight on the country’s political leadership and governance. This is embarrassing enough and the celebrants of mediocrity and frivolities should withdraw this obnoxious bill for it is not of any use to Nigeria at this point in the nation’s history.