Despite comprising almost half of the Nigerian population, youth have been historically marginalized from entering politics at a state and federal level. Aspiring to increase youth’s participation in Nigerian politics, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Youngstars Development Initiative (YDI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) partnered to launch the “Not Too Young To Run” (NTYTR) campaign. NTYTR aims to pass a bill, as part of a constitutional reform, which would lower the age requirements for presidential candidates to 35 years old, for gubernatorial and senatorial candidates to 30 years old, and federal and state level representatives to 25 years old. The campaign has been gaining traction in Nigeria as the bill passed the Senate’s first and second readings and is now being reviewed by the National Assembly’s House Committee on Constitution Review (HCCR) and will soon be reviewed by the State Houses of Assembly.
As the bill awaits its next legislative step, YIAGA and YDI mobilized youth across the country to hold National Days of Action in their states with one common goal: engaging their state representatives to support passage of the bill. Between March 30 and April 10, NTYTR state leaders and local youth peacefully marched to their respective State Houses of Assembly in 19 states, geared with NTYTR posters, chanting “I am young, I can vote, I must run.” In Borno state, NTYTR coordinator, Ambassador Bolori Ahmed, reported over 5,000 participants in the state’s march, which was the first of it’s kind. He highlighted, “It is not common to have people march peacefully to a designated place to make their voices heard to the constituted authorities.”
During the National Days of Action, NTYTR campaign organizers flooded social media, radio stations and television programs with jingles and interviews to promote the bill as well as to encourage constituents and political stakeholders to take a stand. The March 30 National Day of Action captured the attention of Nigerians across the country, as #NTYTR became a trending topic on Twitter, while 11 different radio and television programs featured YIAGA or NTYTR state leaders.
YIAGA, YDI and NTYTR state leaders plan to continue marching for youth’s inclusion in the remaining Nigerian states. As the NTYTR organizers continue to put pressure on key stakeholders at the national and state levels during the bill’s legislative journey, an energized youth movement across Nigeria awaits its opportunity to become the change youth seek in their democracy. In the words of YIAGA Executive Director Samson Itodo, “without inclusion, democracy loses its vitality.”