President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday asked youths who might be eyeing his seat to postpone their campaigns till after the 2019 presidential election.
Buhari, who has already indicated interest in seeking a fresh four-year mandate in 2019, made the appeal shortly after signing the much-publicised Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill into law at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The new law reduces the eligible age for those seeking to be members of the state Houses of Assembly and House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years; and those aspiring to be President from 40 to 35 years.
The age limits for senators and state governors were not reduced as originally proposed by the sponsors of the bill.
“I am confident each one of you will transform Nigeria in your own way – whether through the media, agricultural enterprise, as economists, engineers, or as lawmakers in your states or at the federal level, or as state governors – and even someday, as President. Why not?
“But please, can I ask you to postpone your campaigns till after the 2019 elections!” Buhari told the excited youths who thronged the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa to witness the signing of the bill.
He, however, expressed how proud he was with what the youths had accomplished with the new law.
The President described the day as a significant one for all Nigerians, and most especially the nation’s youths – and the role they play in the nation’s democracy, politics and national life.
He said the new law as a landmark piece of legislation that was conceived, championed and accomplished by young Nigerians.
“The coordinators of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement have now established a formidable legacy – which is that, in our maturing democracy, if you really want to change something in Nigeria, and if you can organise yourselves and work hard towards it – you can achieve it. The outcome of such efforts is this remarkable feat.
“These efforts have resulted in the heroic task of enshrining in law, a reduction of the minimum age for elective offices in Nigeria,” the President added.
While highlighting the changes introduced by the law, Buhari expressed surprise that the age limits for senators and state governors were not reduced, as originally proposed by the sponsors of this bill.
This, he said, was an issue that needed to be addressed in future.
This notwithstanding, the President said the focus and contributions of the youth had successfully increased the quality and maturity of Nigerian democracy and expanded the playing field for youth participation in politics.
Buhari added, “You, the young people of Nigeria, are now set to leave your mark on the political space, just as you have done over the decades in entrepreneurship, sports, art, media entertainment, technology, and several other fields.
“You are undoubtedly Nigeria’s most important resource – not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals – but you and all of us.
“Your energy, intelligence and talents are what will drive and develop Nigeria, long after we are all gone.
“This is an opportunity for me to affirm that this administration will continue to do everything in its power to make Nigeria work for you.”
Buhari, however, urged the youth not to see the signing of the law as the end of the journey.
Describing it as only the beginning, the President said there was still a lot of work ahead, towards ensuring that young people take full advantage of the opportunities provided not only by the constitutional amendment but also through Nigeria’s boundless prospects.
“You should inculcate the spirit of self-help. Those who complete their training should not just sit down and wait for government or private sector to employ them.
“You should be innovative and turn your hands to any legitimate work that will enable you to sustain yourself.
“You may have noticed already that every one of you represents one of our 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. This is because today is about preparing for the bright future of our country,” he added.
Members of the NTYTR Movement from across the country were led to the brief ceremony by Samson Itodo.
Among them were the President’s daughter, Halima; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s daughter, Kanyisola; as well as Aisha, the daughter of Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
Also present were the sponsors of the bill in the Senate, Abdulaziz Nyako; and in the House of Representatives, Tony Nwulu. Both of them pledged additional legislative support to the group.
Speaking for the NTYTR group, Itodo urged the President to insist on internal democracy particularly in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He praised the President and the Vice-President for encouraging the bill, noting that Buhari would be positively remembered by posterity for being the Nigerian leader who signed the NTYTR bill into law.
Nwulu, in his speech said the law was a demonstration of their commitment to the inclusion of youths participation in politics.
Nyako on his part described the law as a very important law which received grassroots support from every part of Nigeria.