Press Statement by YIAGA AFRICA
The 2019 general elections remain one of the most contested elections since the transition to democracy in 1999 with 91 registered political parties, 73 Presidential candidates, 1,904 candidates for the Senate, 4,680 for the House of Representatives, 1,066 for the Governorship 14, 583 for the State Assemblies. The elections, beyond the high number of candidate’s highlights a more competitive political environment with the increase in the political debates and more importantly the number of young people registered as voters and contesting the elections.
Nigeria has conducted five general elections since the return to civil rule; 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The five elections were noted for the low levels of youth participation as candidates, this is regardless of the determining role of young people as voters and election administrators. This situation was in part due to the 1999 Constitution which placed minimum age limits for those wishing to contest the following elective positions and seats; President 40 years, Senate, 35 years, House of Representatives, 30 years, Governors, 35 years and State Houses of Assembly, 30 years. The constitutional age requirements shut the door on Nigerian youth who constitute a majority of the population and registered voters.
The circumstances of the 2019 general elections scheduled for February 16, 2019 for Presidential and National Assembly and March 2, 2019 for the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly polls, are however significantly different, thanks to the passage of the Not Too Young To Run bill into law in 2018. The campaign to lower the constitutional age limit to increase the involvement of the youth, defined as Nigerians in the age bracket of 18–35 years in the electoral process, was spearheaded by YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run Movement. The coming into effect of the age reduction legislation has witnessed the emergence of a new wave of competent and credible young women and men, who are running for political offices in 2019, with a fresh agenda that is committed to providing innovative, transformative and responsive leadership in the public domain. Young people’s right to run for public office cannot be overemphasised because it deepens and sustains democracy. Considering that regular elections are an indispensable feature of modern democracy, creating awareness on the importance of youth candidacy in elections, has become more relevant and urgent especially owing to Nigeria’s youthful population.
The release of the list of candidates by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for elections into the National Assembly (House of Representatives and Senate), Office of the President, Governors and State Houses of Assembly, provides invaluable data and opportunity to carry out comprehensive analysis of youth candidacy in the 2019 general elections in Nigeria. The participation of the youth in the electoral process will enable them to effectively enforce their civic rights only when their political aspirations are firmly protected in the constitution. The Not Too Young To Run initiative and legislation is truly a landmark development in that regard. Its gains must be consolidated and sustained in 2019 and in subsequent elections in Nigeria.
The observable trends in the participation of youth candidates in the 2019 general elections are in two broad segments. The first one is on youth participation in the National Assembly, and Presidential elections, while the second is on the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
With respect to National Assembly and Presidential elections, the following are among the most significant observations and trends:
- The list of all candidates in 2019 indicates that the passage of the Not Too Young To Run law opened up the political space for increased youth participation in the House of Representatives and Presidential elections, because it reduced the age for the President from 40 to 35 years and House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years.
- In total, 1,515 youth candidates, representing 23% of all the candidates, contested for seats in the National Assembly.
- Ten candidates or 14% of the Presidential candidates were aged between 35–40 years.
- Eleven or 15% of political parties fielded candidates for the Vice-Presidential position that were aged between 35–40 years.
- Youth candidacy increased from 18% in the 2015 House of Representatives election to 27.4% in the 2019 House of Representatives elections.
- The North West has the highest number of youth candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate elections.
- There is a strong and positive relationship between the number of registered young voters and the number of youth candidates contesting for election in the National Assembly.
- The candidate of the Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP) aged 33 years did not meet one of the electoral requirements for running for the Presidency.
- Four (4) political parties; Alliance for a United Nigeria (AUN), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Reform and Advancement Party (RAP) and We the People Nigeria (WTPN) have no candidates vying for positions in the National Assembly.
- Political parties with seemingly less national prominence have more youth candidates than the leading ones across all the elections; and finally,
- The number of young female candidates in the 2015 general elections was below 20%, is even lower in the 2019 general elections.
For the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections, the defining trends are:
- Less than one tenth (9.8%) of the candidates vying for the position of the Governor in 29 states of the Federation are youth candidates compared to 22.9% contesting for Deputing Governor.
- Majority of the youth candidates contesting for the positions of the Governor Deputy and the Governor are in the North West at 33.7%and 29.7% respectively of the total number of youth candidates contesting for these offices.
- Eighty-nine (89%) of the youth candidates for the positions of Governor are male, (11%) are female, compared to (72%) male and (28%) female, for the positions of Deputy Governor.
- Fifty-three (53) political parties fielded youth candidates for the Governorship election with JMPP having the highest number with 8 candidates, while 74 political parties fielded youth candidates for the Deputy Governorship positions with MPN having the highest number with 13 candidates. The APC and PDP have no youth candidates for the positions of Governor and Deputy Governor in all 29 states.
- There are 41.8% youth candidates vying for seats in State Houses of Assembly in all the 36 states with the majority (23.5%) from the North West.
- Only 13.9% of the youth candidates for State Houses of Assembly elections are female while 86.1% are male.
- Four political parties (ADC, APC, PDP, SDP) accounted for 16.2% of the total number of youth candidates in the State Houses of Assembly election.
- Among the states, Kano with (435) has the highest number of youth candidates for the State Houses of Assembly election.
- Among the political parties, the ADC with (434) has the highest number of youth candidates for the State Houses of Assembly election.
While the Not Too Young to Run inspired a new wave of youth political participation as aspirants and finally as candidates, there are still major challenges beyond the legal framework for elections that must be addressed to increase youth political inclusion. The beauty of democracy is in its ability to ensure inclusion and representation of different sections of the society.
For the 2019 General Elections, political parties still have a role to play by providing support to their youth candidates as they promote competent and capable youth leadership.