The background to The Convergence 2.0 was, first, with the success of ‘Not Too Young To Run’ movement and the emergence of young elected legislators across Nigeria. Severalyoung people were inspired to actually run for office because the constitution reduced the age for running through the Not Too Young To Run Act. This was the first major challenge to youth participation that YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run movement had to confront. We won that struggle but it did not mean that the struggle was over because there were other issues militating against youth political participation. Most young aspirants were confronted with the herculean task of securing their party nomination.

Whilst a large number of young people expressed interest to run for office,majority of them wereunable topurchase theparty nominationforms because the cost of forms was very high—a deliberate attempt by the ruling political elites, who are scared that the young people would retire them in the 2019elections. For those who defied all odds and purchased the forms, theyhad to combat stiff oppositionfrom party hegemons and oligarchshell bent on circumventing processes to impose their ‘anointed’candidates.This pervasive conservative ideology in political parties has made most parties hostile to the concept of youth candidacy.

Yet, a lot of young people defied all odds.

They got the tickets even whensomestate governors hijacked the machinery of parties at the state level and prevailed ontheleadership of parties to refrain from selling forms to young people. Despite this obstacle, some youth candidates navigated this hurdle and secured their party nomination.Others secured justice from the courts over their unlawful exclusion and theillegality perpetrated bytheir political parties.There were instances where political parties intentionally substituted young people who won party primaries. What could have been more cruel and sadistic than this?

It is against this background that YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run hosted The Convergence 2.0 to celebrate the newly elected young legislators for their courage, resilience and success at the polls. The young legislators were reminded of the difficult journey to electoral success and the need to be accountable to their constituents. The young elected representatives must viewpolitics as an instrumentfordriving socio-economic and political developmentbecause Nigeria needs a new leadership paradigm that puts the people first. This leadership model must be driven by the philosophy of results and impact as well as accountability and transparency.

Through The Convergence, YIAGA AFRICA and the Not Too Young To Run Movement is mobilising a new breed of visionary public leaders to sanitise electoral politics, obtain political power through the ballot and provide accountable, responsive and innovative leadership. This has been a long-term goal and vision. Because what we—and every young Nigerian—did this year, was to lay a foundation for a revolution. For the first time, we are beginning to see a lot of young people getting interested to actually run for office and know this: by 2023, a revolution is actually going to take place.

Feature Article from YIAGA AFRICA’s The Convergence Magazine Volume 2. Written by: Samson Itodo, Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA and Convener, Not Too Young To Run. Download the magazine HERE.