Recently, Kenyans conducted their general elections which saw the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta re-elected with 54% of the total votes cast. But, this is not the issue here.
Kenya, like Nigeria, is a youthful country. The country’s median age is estimated at just 19 years. Voters from the age of 35 and below also constitute 51% of its 19.6 million registered voters. Thus, to win elections in Kenya, aspiring candidates must work hard to win the votes of the youths.
The elections ended with inspiring stories of young candidates that made some historic marks. Let me mention a few.
Simon Muturi, a 24-year-old, campaigned on his bicycle to secure his nomination and then went ahead to win in the general elections as the Representative of his Ward under President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party.
Mururi’s had a personal budget of 20,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $200 USD); and was voted into office by the youths of his Ward that constituted over 50% of the registered voters. He thereby defeated all the older, richer and politically more experienced and more connected candidates.
John Paul Mwirigi, a 23-year-old candidate, campaigned on foot and defeated the ruling party’s candidate. After winning the Igembe South Parliamentary seat, Mwirigi is set to be the country’s youngest Lawmaker.
The road to Mwirigi’s victory was not easy. His personal election budget was the lowest of all and his campaign was the cheapest. He raised all he could muster into the election campaigns through his commercial motor cycle business (“okada” or “kabu kabu” business in Nigeria), and the small handouts he got from his colleagues in the business. He had no campaign posters because he could not afford them.
In Nandi County, located in Kenya’s North rift valley, 32-year-old Stephen Kipyego Sang made history after winning the gubernatorial seat in the County. Before now, Sang was also Kenya’s youngest elected Senator.
In Nigeria, the median age is 18; and youths are those between the ages of 18 to 35. In the 2015 general elections, youths constituted about 70% of the 70,383,427 registered voters.
How have the Nigerian youths transmuted this their numerical voting strength to their political advantage the way the Kenyan youths did? Are there lessons to learn from the Kenyan experience?
Although I cannot tell how the Nigerian youths can work it out politically like their Kenyan counterparts, I certainly can tell how they cannot.
The Nigerian youths cannot be like their Kenyan counterparts because of blind and occultic political followership; because of senselessly and constantly fighting and insulting each other on the social and other media as a result of party affiliations; because of religious or regional or ethnic sentiments; because of absence of collective self-determination; because of gullibility and mediocrity; because of political godfatherism, etc.
With the passage of the Not Too Young To Run Bill by the Senate, a Nigerian youth may become the President at the age of 35; the Governor or Senator at the age of 30; a Member of the House or Representatives or Assembly at the age of 25.
The Bill is currently awaiting endorsement by at least two-third majority of the State Houses of Assembly and Presidential assent to become an Act.
As the 2019 general elections draw nearer, all eyes will be on the Nigerian youths to see how they can bring in the needed political change like their Kenyan counterparts.
It is a shame that despite the comparative advantage that the Nigerian youths have in terms of higher level of education and exposure, the Kenyan youths are now the political pacesetters in Africa.