President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja on Saturday advocated the removal of the constitutional age limit of 40 years for a Nigerian to become president.
Mr. Jonathan described the provision as discriminatory against young Nigerians, who had the energy, ideas and other qualities to lead the country to greatness.
Mr. Jonathan spoke at an international youth conference, organised by the Nigerian Young Professionals Forum, NYPF, with the theme, Capacity for Change for a New Nigeria.
He challenged the youth to forward a constitution amendment bill to the National Assembly for the removal of all discriminatory provisions in terms of age and promised to support them.
The president said the call by the Chairman and Founder of NYPF, Moses Siasia, for 35 per cent affirmative action for the youth in governance also limited the aspiration of the group.
He noted that asking for a percentage amounted to self-limitation, considering that the youth had all that was required to govern, especially the numerical strength to get the highest office in the land.
“The youths have no limit in terms of number and capacity to lead this country to greatness. The only limit is that for youths to contest as president, they need to be 40. If General Yakubu Gowon was able to rule this country at 32, there is no reason why the youths should not be given the chance. So, don’t ask for “per cent” because by that request you are limiting yourselves. I think what the youth should do now is to come together, and I will support you, and take a bill to the National Assembly to amend some discriminatory provisions of the constitution in terms of age,” he said.
Mr. Jonathan pledged the continued support of his administration to the youth through policies and programmes that would continue to harness their huge potential for national development.
He said through programmes, such as YouWin, SURE-P, Graduate Internship Scheme and the Community Service Programme, his administration would continue to create opportunities for young people.
He stated that the youth deserved encouragement because they were the ones winning laurels and making the country proud in sports and other international competitions.
“These programmes and many more we are doing to make sure we give opportunities to our young people, because we appreciate the young people; they have made this country proud. I always say that whenever you read newspapers, watch television or listen to the radio, those who preach hate, quarrel and try to divide us on the basis of ethnicity and religion are not the young people but grandfathers.
“The youths live with whomever they are comfortable with regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation; they want to marry whomever they love. They are not like those old people who are disturbing us, who want to divide us based on religion and all kinds of sentiments. But listening to you here gives me hope that this country is beginning to change, and it is changing for the better,” Mr. Jonathan said.
Mr. Siasia noted that the leaders of the global economy were people below 35 years.
He said that NYPF was building the capacities of young Nigerians to make them ready tools for nation building.
“We have built a database for all young professionals globally. We want a situation where we will use young Nigerians to build the nation. But we have been nourished by a generation of broken promises, so we appeal to the president to give young professionals 35 per cent affirmative action in governance,” Mr. Siasia said.