Not Too Young To Run Bill and Kogi State

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As Nigeria moves towards 2019, another election year, arguments have started once again for the election of youthful men and women to run the affairs of the nation at both the state and national levels. The arguments are currently strengthened by moves by the National Assembly to lower the eligibility age for various elective positions across the country’s political space.

By the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, to qualify for the presidency of the country, one must have attained the age of 40 years; 35 for the Senate and 30 for the House of Representatives. For governorship, one must have attained the age of 35 years to be eligible.

But recently, the National Assembly passed the Not Too Young to Run Bill. By the provisions of that bill, Nigerian youths can now contest the presidency at the age of 35 and governor or senators at the age of 30.

The bill also stipulates that 25-year-old people can now legislate in the national and state assemblies across the country.
We acknowledge that the move by the National Assembly is the right step in the right direction. At least, it would restore some level of confidence in youths who are prepared to lead at different levels of governance.

Nigerian youths must take the challenge thrown to them with all the seriousness it deserves. We recall that most of today’s exiting leaders who were thrown up by the pre-independence day struggles and post-independence events up till 1966, started off in their 20s and early 30s to play prominent roles in governance.

That brings up the question of how ready the youth are to take up the challenge. For instance, Kogi State Governor, Yayaha Bello, is, by all standards, a youth, who was thrown into the mix of state governance by the unfortunate death of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 22, 2015 governorship election in the state, Alhaji Audu Abubakar.

Bello came into governance with all the hope that a vibrant youth has taken over the mantle of leadership of the state. There were high hopes that a breath of fresh air would descend on the state. But nearly two years after, can the people of Kogi actually claim that they made the right choice?

We make bold to say a big no! Harsh as our conclusion may seem, evidence in the state, particularly, the state civil servants’ plight, clearly support our conclusion.

Only penultimate week, the Senate did the unusual – donating 1,250 bags of rice to the beleaguered workers.

Hunger is working like a human being on the streets of the Confluence State, owing to the long months of unpaid salaries. We consider the donation by the Senate the highest ridicule that could be done to Nigerian workers, no matter how well intended. The donation is even made worse coming from a motion raised by the governor’s political enemy, Senator Dino Melaye, whom Bello is bent on recalling from the Senate.

More worrying to the governor would also be that a director in the state civil service, Mr. Edward Soje, committed suicide, a few days after his wife gave birth to triplets. The defence of the state government that Soje was only owed nine months’ salaries when he took his life adds to the ridicule governance has become in Kogi State.

Although the labour unions in the state claimed that Soje was owed 11 months’ salary arrears, we insist that neither nine nor 11 months is good enough. More ridiculous is the lame allegation that the late Soje falsified his age – reason for the arrears owed him. Add that to the reference made to workers who are claiming to be owed 11 months by the governor as political civil servants, the stage is set for an epic embarrassment from government on itself.

Kogi State has, like other states of the federation, received both bailouts and Paris Club refund from the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

We concede that Kogi is not the only state owing arrears of salaries. Many other states also owe, which prompted Buhari to wonder recently, how governors of those states sleep, knowing full well that their workers are hungry. Kogi is one of such states where NLC and other well-meaning individuals are now appealing to workers not to commit suicide. This is most disheartening.

We believe very strongly that being a young governor, who is vibrant and a hope for the youth, Bello should wake up to the responsibility of governance in his state. The payment of workers’ salaries is one area that he needs to act urgently.

The governor should move away from politics of pettiness and concern himself with the duty of redeeming his image with the workers. He should be an example that the youth, if entrusted with power, can use it well to positively affect the society.

Credit: The Nigeria Lawyer

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