THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described as wrong and unacceptable, President Muhammadu Buhari’s appeal to youths not to contest for president in the 2019 general election.
The PDP explained that the president’s plea, which he made while signing the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill into law, on Thursday, was “totally unpresidential, unlawful, discriminatory and further showcases the disdain with which Mr President holds the youth who he had earlier described, without apologies, as lazy and lovers of freebies.”
The main opposition party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Friday, in Abuja, said: “We want Nigerians, particularly the youth, to note that President Buhari’s position reflects the policy of his dysfunctional All Progressives Congress (APC) not to allow our youths the opportunity to aspire to top levels.
“President Buhari and the APC have been using all manner of machinations to frustrate frontline participation of the youths and, of course, the women in active politics and governance.
“It is unimaginable that a president can sign a law and immediately seek to suspend it. President Buhari’s attempt to talk down on and intimidate the youths from contesting against him in 2019 shows that he is not in support of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill and only assented to it because he had no other option under the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).
“We therefore urge Nigerians to be alert and wary of booby traps as well as landmines that the APC and the Presidency will set on the way to scuttle the quest for our youths to fully participate and aspire in our democratic process.
“On our part, the PDP insists that the Nigerian youths have come of age; and are free, under all circumstances, to contest for any position, including the office of the President, even in the 2019 general election.
“In 2019, when the re-branded PDP is returned to power as the vehicle of good governance and economic prosperity, our party will further encourage the amendment of our electoral laws to enable any Nigerian that can vote the right to stand for elections.”
The PDP called on all Nigerian youths to note that President Buhari and the APC had nothing to offer them and the nation at large and therefore jettison all support for him and his party in their 2019 re-election bid.
“As we march to 2019, the PDP charges all Nigerian youths to come together and rally on our repositioned platform and give vent to their wishes and aspirations, within the circle of our collective task, to rescue our nation from the misrule of the APC,” the PDP declared.
However, the National Youth Leader of the PDP, Udeh Okoye and the sponsor of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill in the House of Representatives, Honourable Tony Iwulu, commended President Buhari’s assent to the bill which lowers the age requirement to contest for the presidency and the House of Representatives.
Addressing a press conference at the national secretariat of the party, Okoye noted that the PDP would go a step further to broaden opportunities for the youth to confirm its status as a youth-friendly party.
Describing the presidential assent to the bill as a victory for the youth, Okoye said: “We must thank our lawmakers for this, and Mr President for accepting to assent, for the first time, a progressive bill driven by the opposition for the interest of Nigeria.
“We must appreciate the dogged commitment and effort of Hon. Tony Nwulu, who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives and mobilised his colleagues in the National Assembly to support the bill, which has been passed into law an assented to by Mr President.”
In affirming PDP’s youth credential, the youth leader recalled that many federal appointees under the former ruling party were young people who acquitted themselves well.
He added: “It has been the norm in PDP for the interest of the youth to be projected and protected. Please permit me to draw a few examples of this commitment of PDP to youth development and inclusion in governance.
“The likes of [Nasir] el Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Oby Ezekwesili, Charles Soludo, Femi Fani-Kayode and a host of others were brought into government administration by PDP while they were still young.
“The youngest members of the two chambers of the National Assembly are PDP members like Hon. Tony Nwulu. In the State Assemblies, the youngest parliamentarians are PDP members, and even the youngest Speakers of State Houses of Assembly are from PDP.
“It was under PDP administration of the country that the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligent Unit (BMPIU), known as Due Process, was set up in 2001 which ensured transparency in government procurements and spending. A youthful Oby Ezekwesili was appointed the head of BMPIU. She was 38 when she was appointed in 2001.”
He went on to speak about the achievements of the PDP in office, including the establishment of critical institutions across all sectors of the nation’s economy.
In his contribution, Iwulu, who represents Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency of LagosState, explained that the PDP was the only party where the young people could find their voice.
The legislator called on the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, as well as “the majority of the National Assembly members who are PDP at heart” to return to the party because that was the only place they could find a home.
In the same vein, convener of Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement, Mr Innocent Itodo, applauded the president for approving the downward review of age qualification to run for a political office in the country by signing into law, the age reduction bill.
Addressing a world press conference on Friday in Abuja, Itodo said Buhari had written his name in gold for listening to the demands of the youth of the country.
He said the signing of the bill would not only ensure youth participation in the democratic process but reduce political violence and instability in the country.
He, however, called on the president to expedite action on signing into law the electoral reform bills bordering on limiting campaign expenditure and cost of securing party nomination.
Itodo, however, said that the retention of the age qualification for governor and the Senate at 35 years was contrary to the demands of the Nigerian people, describing it as unfortunate and disappointing.
He called on the National Assembly to revisit its vote on the age qualification for both offices, while also ensuring that the law is immediately gazetted.
“The 2019 elections present an opportunity for young people to assert their power not only as voters or campaign merchants but also as qualified electoral candidates,” he said.
He said the movement was committed to inspiring and supporting more youth candidates with content and character to run for office through its Ready-To-Run initiative and other interventions aimed at promoting youth candidacy in the next elections.
The youth movement demanded that political parties reserve 50 per cent of party tickets for capable, competent and morally upright youth aspirants across all elections in 2019, while also calling for enthronement of internal party democracy.