The Nation Interviews Dr Karu Simon House of Representatives Aspirant in Gombe State

A renowned social/community worker Dr Karu Simon has assured residents of Kaltungo/Shongom Federal Constituency in Gombe State of quality representation if elected.

He said he will not only empower the people but also change the face of the constituency in four years.

Simon, who is vying for the House of Representatives slot on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), spoke with reporters in Lagos at the weekend.

He said: “I represent a fresh breath in the most educated and richest federal constituency in Gombe state.

“I have always been involved in community development and social works in the last 20 years across the north.

“I believe the passion for people will allow me make trendemous impact that will lead to empowerment and transformation of lives.”

Simon said he has all it takes to move the constituency to the higher level in just four years.

He added: “My works in the National Assembly will attract unprecedented developmental projects that will change in a way people cannot imagine.

“I am young and grounded. I have support of the grassroots. I believe I have what it takes to represent my people most elaborately.”

Ready To Run Movement: Another Opportunity For Young People To Make A Statement – Darlington Uzor

 

Recently, there have been a lot of claims from the ruling elites in Nigeria that young people are not ready to run for elective political office, allegedly due to lack of experience and capacity. However, there is good news. Born out of the Not Too Young To Run campaign is the Ready To Run; a non-partisan movement dedicated to inspiring young men and women to run for public office. The movement aims to make a statement that young people have immense capacity to address Africa’s governance challenges.

Ready To Run movement is the first of its kind in Africa, practically ready to train, profile and support young aspirants running for different elective offices, compared to other platforms that only encourage youth participation in governance. Ready To Run will locate competent youths, with integrity and character who are interested in running for elective office, inspire them to successfully run for public office and win, support young aspirants with capacity building, promotion and resources, and link aspirants to training opportunities etc.

The independence of African states from colonial rule signaled strong prospects and hope for a better and prosperous continent. However, that hope never stood the true test of time as it seemed to have been dashed by the plagues of bad leadership, corruption and mismanagement. This is not unconnected to the sad fact that, despite abundance of human and natural resources, Africa is still characterized by penury and underdevelopment.

Africa is unarguably one of the most endowed, fertile regions of the world and the richest continent on earth in terms of natural resources. But today, the image of the world’s most resourced rich continent has been damaged by corruption, mismanagement and bad leadership. Using Nigeria as a case study; abject poverty, infrastructural decay, the king of the jungle; high rate of unemployment pervade the land and mostly corruption—these and more developed out of failure in leadership, mismanagement of resources and corruption, and this has kept Africa and Nigeria in perpetual under-development.

Nigeria in particular has suffered from these menaces more than other African countries. According to the African Development Bank (AFDB), about 152 million Nigerians live on less than $2 a day, representing about 80 percent of the country’s estimated 190 million population. According to the AFDB, which stated this in its 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook, the level of poverty in the country is unacceptably high.

The experiences of many Middle Eastern and North African countries during the 2011/2012 Arab uprisings show both of these dynamics at work. Youths played a central role in overthrowing autocratic rule in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, sparking protest movements across the Middle East. Young people in the Middle East, especially the growing urban youth population, have been hurt by low wages, unemployment and high food prices that have exacerbated their livelihood.

We must remember that Nigeria is a young nation and was one of those at the forefront for the struggle for African independence. We must also remember that young people have always designed the promise of this country. The heroes of our past, our founding fathers, people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Saudauna of Sokoto, Aminu Kano, or Obafemi Awolowo, initiated and realized the most important projects of their lives as young people.

Despite comprising more than half of the Nigerian total population, her youths have been historically marginalized from entering political space be it at the state or federal level. Aspiring to increase youth’s participation in Nigerian politics, the YIAGA Africa launched the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign which is a movement of youths and civil society groups advocating for the reduction of age for running for elective offices to mainstream young men and women in electoral politics.

We can agree that the Not Too Young To Run is Nigeria’s largest and most successful youth movement in recent times. The movement is driven by the compelling need to restructure the country’s political system, to address the deeply entrenched and undemocratic political exclusion, to institute inclusive politics, transformative leadership and electoral competitiveness in the electoral process. The historic Bill which was recently signed into law by President Muhammad Buhari will definitely increase the number of young people running for various elective offices, especially with the help of the Ready To Run campaign. Ready To Run is poised to solve this African Leadership problems by grooming ethnical young leaders with innovative ideas, capacity and character to change the narrative come 2019.

Uzor Darlington is a passionate youth activist and development enthusiast. He is a Program Officer for the Ready to Run Campaign at the Youth Department of YIAGA Africa.

Sourcehttp://yiaga.org/2018/06/04/not-too-young-to-run-a-story-of-people-power-and-democratic-renewal-i-samson-itodo/ 

Nigeria operates a rigid constitution. Rigid constitutions by their nature are complicated and painstaking to change. It takes time, effort and resources to insert a comma, full stop or delete a word from a rigid constitution. This is attributed to the cumbersome amendment process prescribed in the law that makes it nearly impossible to amend a section of it. As an official document with special legal force, the constitution requires strict adherence to its conditions for amendment. Failure to meet one condition renders an amendment a nullity, resulting in the waste of public resources, as seen in the case of the botched 4th alteration to the constitution under the previous administration.

In order to alter the constitution, a constitutional amendment bill must be introduced and passed by a two-thirds majority of members in each chamber of the National Assembly and must also be approved by a resolution of the Houses of Assembly of no less than two-thirds of all states in the Federation. Section 58 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), makes presidential assent a condition precedent for the passage of bills into law. That means the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must assent to any bill altering the provisions of the Constitution before it takes effect. In view of this tedious process, it is not misplaced when stakeholders rejoice at the successful passage of a constitutional amendment.

The Not Too Young To Run bill fulfilled all conditions prescribed in the constitution for its passage. The Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill with an overwhelming majority while 33 out of 36 state assemblies adopted the age reduction amendment. May 31, 2018 will be remembered in history as the day democracy won and Nigeria witnessed a true “youthquake.” President Buhari signed the Not Too Young To Run bill into law, reducing the age for running for the office of the President from 40 to 35 years, House of Representatives 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly 30 to 25. He acknowledged Not Too Young To Run as a “landmark piece of legislation conceived, championed and accomplished by young Nigerians.” What an affirmation of youth power! Democracy thrives when citizens assert their sovereignty through active, strategic and systematic engagement with democratic institutions.

The advocacy for age reduction was conducted against the background of a failing state and loss of faith in manifestly weak democratic institutions, such as political parties and parliaments. The weak relationship between the executive and legislature was not only stifling growth, but it was also undermining democracy and governance. Worst still is the prevailing philosophy that public leadership is hinged on service to self, ethnic or religious affiliation, rather than service to the people. Nigerian citizens, particularly young people, were frustrated, disenchanted, and disillusioned with a country where justice is not for all but for a select few who can afford it. Lastly, building consensus in a pluralistic and politically sensitive nation like Nigeria is an arduous undertaking.

The roadmap to the bill’s success was anchored on the trilogy of people, power and democratic Not Too Young To Run as a campaign began in May 2016 with the sponsorship of an age reduction bill in the National Assembly. The decision to engage the National Assembly on this issue was a departure from previous strategies adopted by Youth Action Initiative Africa, now known as YIAGA AFRICA. Previous advocacy strategies were limited to the submission of memoranda and participation in public hearings, but the Not Too Young To Run campaign adopted a more people-driven, disruptive and strategic approach.  Thus, for two years, young people organized and built strategic capacity to push for age reduction.

The campaign was used as a tool to organize its constituents, who are mostly young people, to create the power they need to achieve the common purpose of reducing the age for running for office. From the outset, it was important to ascertain their values, interests and resources as well as their readiness to take strategic actions to address the issue of exclusion which was a common enemy. This was followed by a categorization of the people who share our values and vision into five blocks: Constituents, Leadership, Opposition, Supporters, and Competitors. United by our shared purpose and vision, we then proceeded to build a strong community of people who exercise agency interdependently on behalf of those values or interests. We recruited and developed leadership within our constituency. Driven by our snowflake or interdependent leadership model, we built leadership teams at the national, state, and local government levels to achieve our goals. Every individual or organization involved in the campaign took responsibility for advancing the cause in their sphere of influence. Through it all, the movement remained about the people, not any individual.

Our approach to power and power dynamics contributed in no small measure to the success of our struggle against inequality and gerontocracy. We approach Power as a relationship rather than a status. For us, “power” is the influence created as result of the intersection between interests and resources. The convergence of interests and resources establishes the influence we need to take action.  As a movement, we organized  around two forms of power: “power with” and “power over.” According to Marshall Ganz, “power with” is created just by organizing our resources with others, creating the power we need to affect the change that we want (e.g. community union, or interest groups, etc.), while “power over” refers to situations where others hold power over decisions or resources that is needed to create the change that you want. In such cases, we have to organize our power with others first to claim the resources or decisions that will fulfil our interests.

Through interdependent collaboration, we organized to create power with one another.  We built strategic partnerships with several organizations and stakeholders from different aspects of human endeavor like civil society, trade unions, professional associations, faith-based and community organization etc. Media groups like Channels Television, African Independent Television (AIT), TV Continental, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Premium Times, Sahara Reporters, The Cable and YNAIJA played a key role in public sensitization and agenda setting. It also took a collaborative effort to organize series of public demonstrations, advocacy visits, town hall meetings, and public debates to push the campaign. When the Senate and House committee allegedly killed the bill, it took the collaborative power of different actors for it to be rescued.

As a movement, we also organized to challenge ‘power over’ held by decision-makers in the constitution review process. They include; Senate President and Speaker of House of Representatives; Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker who act as chairs of constitution review committees; 46 members of Senate committee on constitution review and 47 in the House; Senators and Honorable members; Speakers and members of State Assemblies. The movement also engaged four categories of influencers in our power map – leadership of political parties, traditional/religious leaders, godfathers and drafters and consultants to the committee on constitution review. Four questions guided our engagement with these actors: What change do we want? Who has the resources to create that change? What resources do we have that they need? and What do they want? The demands of the movement were clear – reduce the age for running for office –  but then the power to amend the constitution was vested in the national and state assemblies, not young people. We recognized lawmakers leverage on the youth vote to win elections, hence our campaign that youths will withdraw their vote and support for any legislator who voted against the bill. It worked.

Democratic renewal is specific and concrete. Our demand was specific – open the political space by reducing the age requirements for running for office in the constitution.  As it stands, the age requirement for running for the office of the president, house of representatives and state house of assembly has been reduced and of binding effect. Although this falls short of the demands of the movement, it is a progressive step towards fostering inclusive electoral politics. Maximizing the gains of this landmark constitutional amendment will certainly require increased voter participation in elections. It is therefore crucial for qualified unregistered young voters to participate in the ongoing voter registration, ensure they collect their Permanent Voter Card (PVC), and show up to vote in the 2019 elections.

Samson Itodo is an elections and constitution building enthusiast. He is the Executive Director of YIAGA AFRICA and Convener of the Not Too Young To run movement. Send comments and feedback to sitodo@yiaga.org He tweets @DSamsonItodo

 

 

 

Youth and Political Parties: A Conversation with Bisi Ogunwale

 

In many countries, contesting as an independent is a legal – though challenging – path to elected office. Though independents miss out on the financial support and name recognition benefits of party members, there are no barriers to their making the attempt. In Nigeria however, candidates must be members of a registered political party in order to be elected.

Despite this fact, many political aspirants are wary of joining political parties. Youth in particular are deterred by the cost and opaque nature of the party system, grudgingly seeking out parties only when it is too late. Despite advocacy around a constitutional amendment to allow independent candidacy, such legislation recently failed at the state level. For the near future, political parties remain a necessity.

For our April Tweet Chat, #ReadyToRun spoke with Bisi Ogunwale about challenges to youth inclusion in parties, how young aspirants can overcome these challenges, and the benefits to parties of having young members. Bisi is an expert on the ins and outs of running for political office. Having been involved in partisan politics since 2006, he recently published a book, Stepping Out: A Rookie’s Guide to Nigeria’s Politics, about his experience running for Kwara State House of Assembly in 2015.

Bisi’s start in politics began as a student, where he contested offices at University of Ilorin and in the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). He was elected as the first National President of the Student Physiological Association of Nigeria (SPAN). He entered partisan politics by becoming a member, and assisting in campaigns, for AC even as it became ACN and then merged into the All Progressives Congress.

“many young people lack interest or understanding of why they must join political parties…we don’t see our place in the parties.”

When asked why young people avoided joining political parties, Bisi suggested “many young people lack interest or understanding of why they must join political parties. No one stops youth from joining political parties…but we don’t see our place in the parties. We don’t see joining parties as part of our civic responsibilities.”

Bisi did feel that political parties were not doing enough to recruit young members: “every party has a youth wing right? Part of their responsibility should be engaging with other young people who are not members and converting them.” He also warned that youth involvement in political parties and choosing the candidates that end up on the ballot is more important than voting on election day.

will derive its most benefits if Independent Candidacy can also be passed into law.”

Bisi spoke on the benefits that independent candidacy would have for young people in politics, but was sceptical about instituting party quotas to ensure youth representation. Instead he pushed for a “level playing field” whereby nothing would stop young aspirants from contesting equally. He specifically championed the idea of direct party primaries as “the only solution” to party interest groups blocking aspirants.

Independent candidacy and direct primary elections would go a long way to solving the problems of youths who are reluctant to join parties. In the meantime however, political parties remain the only road to participating in Nigeria’s elections. Any young aspirant looking to contest in 2019 and beyond should find a party platform that fits with their aspiration and set themselves up to be meaningfully included in electoral politics.

Australian High Commissioner Praises YIAGA Africa’s #ReadyToRun Movement

On 23 May, 2018, The Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, H.E. Paul Lehmann praised YIAGA Africa for the Ready To Run Movement and the success of the Not Too Young To Run Campaign.

Receiving the Ready To Run Campaign team at the High Commission in Abuja, H.E. High Commissioner Lehmann commended Ready To Run in its efforts to ensure better representation of young Nigerians in the 2019 elections. Borne out of the Not Too Young To Run campaign, Ready to Run is a movement dedicated to inspiring young men and women to run for office and equipping them with the skills to win elections. Ready To Run aims to make a statement that young people can demonstrate excellent public leadership and have the capacity to address Africa’s governance challenges.

The High Commissioner also took the time to credit YIAGA Africa for their continued advocacy for the Not Too Young to Run Bill to reduce the age of running for political office in Nigeria, which is currently awaiting Presidential assent. In his words, if someone is old enough to vote at the age of 18 they can also be voted for, and age should not be a prerequisite for running for public office. He also pledged the support of the Australian Embassy to the Ready To Run Campaign.

Ready to Run is a movement dedicated to inspiring young men and women to run for office and equipping them with the skills to win elections.

During the visit, the High Commissioner gave examples from Australian politics, where young legislators have made significant mark in Australia’s House of Commons. He noted Hon. Wyatt Roy, who was elected the youngest legislator in Australian history at the age of 19. He also described some of the work being done to ensure inclusion of youth in Australian politics.

The Ready To Run team discussed opportunities for collaboration with the Australian efforts in Nigeria. The High Commissioner emphasized that Australia and the world cannot ignore the growing importance of Nigeria, which is soon to be the second largest English-speaking democracy in the world. He said that a part of the bilateral partnership agreement they had with the Nigerian Government is to promote inclusive Democracy and good governance and encouraged the Ready to Run team to involve the embassy in all their activities. He also expressed the High Commission’s readiness to support Ready To Run campaign in any way possible to ensure the total inclusion of Nigeria youth running for elective office come 2019.