By CrossRiverWatch Admin
On Monday the 14th day of August 2017, I was invited to join a panel to discuss the benefits and role of the Youths, following the voting patterns observed at both tiers of the National Assembly with regards the Constitution Alteration Bill, and with particular focus on the NotTooYoungToRun Bill.
As usual, the very experienced speakers took the floor in turns to do justice to the subject matter, but I do not think that they particularly did the great job expected of them from the vastly filled hall made up of eager and expectant young people.
First of all the subject matter centered on the Youths, with a focus on key provisions of the Constitution Alteration Bill 2017, but most youths in attendance left at the end of the discussions, rather discouraged about their chances in governance, or even about the benefits of this Bill, or even the clear role(s) that they had to play in building society through politics and governance.
Was this discouragement deliberate or just a harmless deviation from the core of the subject matter?
The organisers and those in attendance – including yours truly – will have no clue whatsoever, hence the need to set the records straight and address some of the key issues on the minds of the youths across the great Republic called Nigeria.
DISTRIBUTABLE SPECIAL ACCOUNTS & DEMOCRATIC EXISTENCE FUNDING AND TENURE FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
This provision was passed in a vote of 84 – 8 (Senate) and 291 – 12 (HoR). This is absolutely a no-brainer, as no meaningful and sustainable community development can occur in the current financial structure of the federating states of Nigeria.
In the event Local Governments start having direct access to funds from the central government without the ‘middle man agency’ of state governors, Chairmen of councils would be voted into office on the basis of the ingenuity to harness resources at rural/community level and apply relevant allocated funds to the most pressing needs of those in the communities, whether in terms of Agriculture, Education, Peace and Conflict Resolution or Infrastructural development.
While State governors will now be piling up funds to influence negative voting patterns across the states by representative members of the State Houses of Assembly, it would be wise for all communities to engage their members and further attend the deliberations and voting sessions to ensure that the wishes and interests of the communities are pursued as agreed at community level.
Cross River State in particular will have to bank on the words of the Speaker of the CRS House of Assembly, who promised to ensure that all elected members of the State House of Assembly go back to their communities for proper engagement and dialogue before the deliberations and voting begin.
35% AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR WOMEN AS STATE COMMISSIONERS AND MINISTERS.
The Senatorial voting pattern on these 2 provisions clearly expresses the worries of the men in the male-dominated business of Law Making.
While it was voted for, and passed at 61 – 35 (Senate) and 248-46-1 (HoR) for affirmative action in favour of women being appointed State Commissioners, it was rather a negative voting pattern as the Senate failed to assure women of the 35% affirmative action as Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on a vote of 49 – 43.
Luckily the House of Representatives passed this on a voting of 248-46-1. If this does not seem weird, then nothing is.
While we live in a traditional African society where the males clearly dominate the females in all spheres of life, History has shown that women could become equal or better administrators and/or appointees.
This must have been in the thinking of the NASS when they believed women could make great State commissioners, though in sharp contrast to the disbelief of Nigerian Senators in women becoming ministers of the federation.
Nevertheless, my candid advice to the womenfolk is not to despair, but make sure they engage their respective House of Assembly members to express the need to have this voted and passed.
While this becomes enforced, it would definitely be a preamble to re-presenting the argument for 35% Ministerial appointments and finally having a positive vote by the State Houses of Assembly. Sure, there is hope.
This provision has been considered a landmark by all standards and was passed with a vote of 82 – 5 (Senate) and 275 – 14 (HoR).
With the massive level of awareness seeping in and through the Nigerian political space, subsequent elections would be more interesting than the usual.
When we consider the positive amendment of the Electoral Act (https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/for-the-record/major-highlights-of-electoral-act-amended-by-senate/191685.html) which, for some reason, has not been given the right level of publicity by both mainstream and independent Nigerian media, and the possibility of having independent minded candidates battle it out through a less-expensive but innovative and interesting Independent Primaries process, we may just be about having the first set of non-millionaire candidates.
By this I mean the possibility of having credible independent candidates who could rise to positions of authority through fairly expensive electioneering processes, which will not further require that they use their term in office to pay off debt to banks and political sponsors and god fathers.
A young female entrepreneur once asked at the Dialogue With Agba Jalingo® Town Hall Meeting why indigenes of Cross River State were starved of proper Entrepreneurial and Mentorship programmes, like those seen in the Western countries and other states of the federation.
While the answer given at the time made little or no justice to the question, I personally reiterate that when candidates are expected to overspend during elections, it is only natural and probably necessary that they recoup spent funds in order to pay off debt to their sources of lending and support base.
When a public office holder is committed to ‘loan’ repayment, his focus will never be on mass sustainability, hence the reason it is difficult to have meaningful and sustainable programmes and projects sprouting across the several corners of the states of the federation.
The concept of the Independent Candidacy should help to minimise electioneering spending (which we shall address in another article), thereby leaving a bulk of the resources (time and financial) gathered while in public office for the planning and execution of public sustainable developmental programmes and infrastructural projects.
REDUCTION OF AGE FOR ELECTION.
This provision is the key focus of the NotTooYoungToRun Bill 2017 which has – to the youths who make up about 70% of the voting population – been the highlight of the Constitution Alteration Bill 2017, seeking to introduce the Independent Candidacy in Nigeria’s electoral process and alter the provisions of sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for the office of the President, Governor, Senate, House of Representatives and membership of the state House of Assembly, as follows;
• House of Assembly – 25 Years
• House of Representatives – 25 Years
• Senate – 30 Years
• Governor – 30 Years
• President – 30 Years
This provision was massively passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives in a voting of 86 – 10 and 261 – 2, respectively.
Some would argue that this bill was quite irrelevant, given the fact that from post-colonial Nigeria and without legislation favouring the youth, there were youths running the affairs of government.
There were the likes of Okoti Eboh who was elected to the Western Region House of Assembly at 32 years of age and later to the House of Representatives, Minister of Labour and Welfare and finally Minister of Finance at 38 years of age.
Just like Okoti Eboh, another protégé of the great Nnamdi Azikiwe is our own home-grown Matthew Mbu who was elected into the Eastern Region House of Assembly, House of Representatives and later Federal Minister of Labour at the young age of 23 years.
This trend has continued ever since, giving rise to a 32 year old Nigerian Head of State in 1966 in Yakubu Gowon and later on a 37 and 39 year old Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigerian Heads of State, respectively.
Back home in Cross River State, we have seen in recent times, where a young and vibrant Donald Duke became a very charismatic Governor of Cross River State at 38 years of age. The list is endless.
Another school of thought would argue that considering the fact that the youth have hardly been given a look-in with respect to elective and appointive opportunities in recent times – one of which saw the emergence of the youth leader of a major political party at 60 years of age, damning the bench mark of the United Nations and other international charters on the age range of the youth category – this bill was timely.
It has therefore been seen as a necessary fillip for a re-emergence of a new breed of credible young leaders with the necessary capacity to influence issues of governance and society.
The Nigerian Youth might wonder, “what the hell is he talking about? How can we challenge the old guard with all the finances that they have got?”
The answer is simple and very clear; when cash is offered in return for a vote for a non-deserving candidate during or prior to an election, simply reject it if you can, or accept it without any commitments, and then go ahead to vote according to your conscience, remembering that you are under no obligation or oath to sell your votes in return for a piece of the stolen commonwealth, your portion of which has been brought back to you.
Considering the wails, complaints and cries of Nigerians, our society has come to a point in our political evolution, where the electorate are free to vote the credible persons presented by the various political parties, irrespective of which candidates come forward with either funds or an archaic family name.
Let candidates be assessed by their character, personality and capacity to drive through an idea into a sustainable operation, project or programme, and not on the basis of their names or the god father backing and tele-guiding them.
If truly our mumu don do, this has to be the way forward for our dear Country.
In closing, I would like to encourage the aspiring youth using the story of a trail blazer and a myth buster by name Tony Chinedu Nwulu.
Tony was born in 1979 and is a native of Mbaise LGA of Imo State. In 2015, at the age of 36 years, Tony contested for a seat in the National Assembly on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Oshodi-Isolo II Federal Constituency in Lagos State, a Yoruba domain primarily dominated by the now-ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Tony went on to win his election and since continues to promote the values of good governance and delivery of democracy dividends.
It might interest every aspiring youth to know that Hon. Tony Chinedu Nwulu sponsored the popular NotTooYoungToRun Bill, which has given youths across the federation, massive hope and a breath of fresh air.
What are you waiting for?
Wofai Ewa is a conflict resolution expert and writes from Calabar.