INTERVIEW: #NotTooYoungToRun: How the journey began – Bill’s Sponsor

Tony Nwulu

Tony Nwulu, a member of the 8th House of Representatives, who represents Oshodi/Isolo II federal constituency of Lagos State, is the sponsor of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he speaks about the bill, now enacted into law, the untapped youth potentials and challenges. He also speaks on his gubernatorial bid in Imo State.

Excerpts.

PT: The bill was signed by the president recently. How did you come about this historic bill?

Nwulu: Well, this journey started over two years ago. A group of young people brought themselves together and they approached me and we discussed about this and that was the journey of the bill.

I saw a group of enthusiastic Nigerians, young Nigerians, very vibrant and very hungry to get involved in leadership. You know, quite thirsty to get involved in leadership and I was able to identify the hunger in them and I saw it to be a genuine cause and that was how I got involved really to ensure that I give them a voice in the National Assembly.

PT: What was your major challenge in the entire process?

Nwulu: My major challenge, like any other bill, it wasn’t easy convincing my colleagues. But I must also let you know that at a point they got convinced. A lot of them keyed in and then the leadership of both chambers threw their support and will on this bill.

They saw the merit of the bill and they decided to truly truly reward and identify with the younger generation. So I highly commend the leadership of the both chambers, also to my colleagues because it couldn’t have been possible without their support right from the first, second and third readings. You know, the bill could have easily been thrown off if it lacked that, but I think there was an increasing confidence in Nigerian youth, that helped.

And then the young people also organised themselves properly. You know they were able to be up and running in every way. Some of them went back and started engaging their Reps from their respective constituencies. So it was a mass approach.

Young people came out fully ready, and for once, I was able to underscore the fact that a lot could be achieved when young people come together to pursue a purpose. This bill has actually exemplified that because they came together and they were able to walk through and achieve this.

PT: Lagos, where you represent, is one of the few states whose state legislature did not support the bill. How do you feel about this?

Nwulu: It’s quite unfortunate that Lagos State’s house of assembly choose to be noted or to be inducted into the hall of shame of the Not Too Young to Run bill. It’s quite unfortunate because if you look at Lagos, truly you would understand the dynamism of being a youth and you have a whole lot of them.

So I wouldn’t really know, up till now, I am totally perplexed. Why would a state like Lagos not believe in her youth? I don’t know why but I leave that to the state assembly for posterity to judge them. It is very unfortunate. Same with Kano and one other state, that didn’t pass… about three states altogether that decided not to vote on it.

PT: One of the basics of the Not Too Young To Run bill (now Act) was to reduce the ages from the status quo, but in the signed bill, some of these were not reduced. What really happened?

Nwulu: Yes I know that question has come up severally, even Mr President talked about it during the signing and I’m sure it’s something we are still going to go back to the drawing board and see how to bring it in.

You know for some reasons, I cannot hold forth for the Senate. I don’t know why they decided not to drop theirs to what we proposed. Our initial proposition is that the Senate should drop to 30, President should drop to 30, so for some reasons they decided to drop the president to be their own 35, you know, and then governors should drop to 30 too. I don’t know why they did that but I am 100 percent sure that at some point, the youth will always ask for more. They’ve already started asking for more.

PT: You said you’re going back to the drawing board, now that the president has already signed it as it is, 35 years, don’t you think it would take the process back to square one?

Nwulu: No it wouldn’t, you can only do an amendment on the Act. There can only be an amendment on the Act. It’s a fresh new act of the National assembly, so this one subsists for now.

Any other amendment would be like the usual amendments you make to some certain clauses. It is not like we are going to pass the entire bill anymore. So it’s going to be to specifics; okay we want to change this particular line item. It’s not going to be like starting all over again to engage.

PT: So how long will that take?

Nwulu: We have to start first before we begin to estimate the level of time.

PT: A few days back, it was on the news that you declared your intention to run for governorship position of Imo State. What prompted you to do that?

Nwulu: What prompted me is my passion to lead and to serve, that’s the truth. When you have a group of young Imo-lites, gathering themselves in groups, in their thousands, organising a rally asking me to return back home and run for governorship for them and that is what you have seen me – it is as good as answering the call from the young people of my state to come. When they did that, I can tell you, you can verify on your own, I don’t know any of the organisers. I’ve never met any of their organisers before.

I was at Harvard when that rally was held in Nigeria, you know, but I was most touched that young people could organise themselves and ask for me to genuinely come and lead the state.

PT: You represent Lagos state in the House of Representatives, don’t you think that would affect you in your governorship race?

Nwulu: How?

PT: It would be like you are not based in the state for many.

Nwulu: Constitutionally, I qualify to run, that’s the most important thing, whether being based there or not. At the end of the day, you’re still going to talk to the electorate. If you tell the electorate what they want to hear, they would vote for you.

PT: Do you think you have a high chance of clinching the ticket of the People’s Democratic Party?

Nwulu: In my state, yes I do have. That’s just the truth. The chances are very very high considering the fact that I have age on my side and I have that vibrancy of youth and the state is in dire needs. Just like the incumbent governor has said, he is not intending to hand over the state to anyone above 50.

PT: Governor Rochas Okorocha recently anointed his son-in-law, do you think you would be able to slug it out with him?

Nwulu: He hasn’t committed any offence by endorsing anybody. The question is, have the people of Imo State endorsed the person too? The people will only decide with their PVC when the time comes.

The people will decide who they wish to be their leader. That’s the truth so it’s not about who endorses who or who you don’t endorse. What matters is who the people would actually stand for and vote. (Governor) Rochas has only one vote.

PT: As you mentioned earlier, you said you have age by your side. One of your major challengers in the PDP primaries would be the former deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha. Don’t you think he also has age by his side?

Nwulu: Well Emeka is very qualified to run for the position he is also vying for; so at the end of the day, let the people choose who they want. Whether it’s age, whether it’s experience, whichever one that counts, most importantly is that the final decision rests on the the shoulders of the electorate and the party delegates to decide on who to pitch tents with. But eventually everybody will go there and “sell their market”.

PT: How is your relationship with the governor of Imo State?

Nwulu: My relationship with him? I don’t have any relationship with him.

PT: You don’t have any relationship whatsoever?

Nwulu: No, no, we don’t have any relationship together, not in any way. We’ve not spoken on the phone, nothing. We don’t have any relationship.


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