Editor's note: The Co-Founder/Chief Executive of Connected Development [CODE], Hamzat Lawal, writes on the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, arguing that the bill is coming at the right time as Nigeria continues its journey in democracy as a fast evolving developing country.
There is no doubt that as the 2019 elections is fast approaching, a lot of Nigerians are anxious as to what the outcome would be. By outcome, I mean not just the results of how people voted, but the eventual climate - or anticlimax - of the progressively charged atmosphere over the whole nation as of today. Of course, everybody can feel the temperature rising.
Now, let us use an analogy to appraise our present situation as a nation. If Nigeria were a pregnant woman, she would be in her first trimester by this month of May. Her due date for delivery (DDD) is February 2019. On that date, we expect her to give birth to a free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. A genuine democratic process. Surely, we earnestly hope to see a bouncing baby who will be the unifying force to weld together a divided people, and a polarized polity.
Personally, I would love to see the delivery of a new kind of baby in our midst by that time: the Not Too Young To Run becoming a reality. Officially known as the Age Reduction Bill, which is presently on the table of President Muhammadu Buhari waiting for assent, the universal approval of the #NotTooYoungToRun movement leaves no one in doubt that it is a baby whose time has come in our democratic experience as a fast evolving developing country.
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Pregnancy is an amazing experience in life when a little human being is developing inside another human being. This period lasts for approximately 40 weeks that has been divided into three trimesters. The first three months of pregnancy is considered the first trimester. This period lasts from fertilization to the 13th week. It is a critical period in the life of any pregnant woman. This is where Nigeria is today.
With nine months to go, Nigeria needs to take all the precautions for the better and healthy growth of our unborn baby, which must not come out stillborn. Because we are at that time when the embryo will implant, form the fertile part of the placenta and develop all its organs, the woman’s body shall show a lot of visible, dramatic changes.
The many political organizations in Nigeria are currently aligning and realigning. There are a number of political movements declaring themselves, one of which to recon with is the “New Nigeria 2019” #NN19. There are threats of pull-outs, merge-ins, and burst-outs. Young Nigerians have also joined the political fray. The ruling party is rumbling with internal turmoil. And the body politic is trying to make sense of so many forces tugging at the soul of the nation. This is normal for the first trimester.
Just like a pregnant woman, the dramatic changes taking place in the body commonly cause nausea and fatigue in the first trimester. Did I hear someone say that there would be no elections in 2019? Yes, that is the spirit of the first trimester. Doubts. Retches. Near-abortion. But, fear not, our pregnancy is intact!
However, if not managed well, this period presents a great risk of more serious complications which include the risk of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. And because we need neither of these mishaps, there are ways of managing our situation in order to experience a smooth and safe delivery come 2019.
The first strategy to manage the first trimester is ensuring there is sincerity of purpose on the part of our leaders. What we have today in several violence-prone states of the federation could be compared to the “breast tenderness” felt by pregnant women at the first trimester. The herdsmen-farmers crisis signifies an attack on the “breast spots” of the nation - from where our babies are fed, year in and year out. The “food basket” and “meat belt” of the country is under attack. We need a leadership that fits.
The Nigerian society is one of the most complex societies in the world, with over 300 different ethnic nationalities. To be able to govern it and manage this type of complexity and diversity is a job that requires extra sensitivity and hands-on intellection. President Buhari has shown capability in tackling the menace of Boko Haram in the north-east, and needs a new energy surge to dismantle the present risk faced by the people in the area of orchestrated threat to food security.
The second strategy to manage our present situation is deliberate effort at peace building at all the strata of government and the civil society. Just like a pregnant woman, Nigeria is experiencing nausea, and to manage this pesky side effect, one must eat bland foods, such as toast and crackers, and also keep blood sugar at an even level with intake of Vitamin B6 and ginger products.
There is so much job to be done by the civil society in helping nurture citizen responsibility, without joining in fanning the embers of ethnic and religious sentiments which creates a very combustible atmosphere in times like this.
The third strategy is the use of open forums to ventilate ideas that would ordinarily not find mention in the public space, and therefore potentially cause unforeseen crisis situations. This can be likened to the problem of constipation that is felt by the pregnant woman in the first trimester. At this time, progesterone (hormone) and the enlarging uterus can impair motility of stool causing bloating, gas, and discomfort. The political atmosphere has to be constantly doused down by “fluids and veggies.”
As tensions rise ahead of elections in Nigeria, some fear the country's unity will face a new test and divisions will be exacerbated by a growing divide among the people. But what I see is an emerging opportunity for the government to utilize the positively unutilized, and redundant, energy of the Nigerian youth, which is encapsulated in the Not Too Young To Run Bill.
Like I have reiterated in my previous interventions, Nigeria is currently passing through difficult times, and is highly in need of a “cohesion-incentive” to make the youths continue believing in our great country and our young democracy. The #NotTooYoungToRun bill, which is celebrated by the world and lauded by the best of political intellectuals, is such a mechanism. It presents yet another opportunity for the youths and the government to see eye-to-eye, stand side-by-side and hold hands in a journey to birth a people-oriented new Nigeria.
The spirit of the bill is in the truth that for far too long young people have been deprived in the political space, and now they have an opportunity to contribute their quota. As expected, every new born baby is to be a uniting factor in a family, and my hope is that the baby that will come forth from the womb of Mother Nigeria come 2019 and beyond will be adopted by all and sundry as reflecting the epiphany of yet another divine intervention in our collective journey to greatness. A hope for the future!
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How Nigerian youths protest made the National Assembly pass the 'Not Too Young To Run' bill on NAIJ.com TV