Written by Uzor Darlington
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) team at the Youth Department of YIAGA Africa.