Updates as 400 young Candidate Meet In Abuja, Nigerians fear they may Endorse Buhari

Abuja: Young candidates numbering about 400  of various political parties are converging for a conference aimed at empowering them ahead of the 2019 general elections. The event opens today in Abuja.

Different speakers including young lawmakers from countries in Africa, leaders with inspiring stories, development partners, academics and civil societies would be speaking during the three-day event, which closes Wednesday evening.

The Convergence (LIVE UPDATES): 400 young candidates gather in Abuja

The event tagged ‘The Convergence: Power, Capacity, Politics’ is an initiative of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA Africa), the Not Too Young To Run movement, one of Nigeria’s largest and most successful youth movement in recent times.

It is supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UKAID).

According to organisers, the event which promises twelve talk sessions and six master classes is designed to equip young candidates with necessary tools for running effective political campaigns.

Samson Itodo, the convener of the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ movement, says the conference is a unique platform for young candidates to build their competence, network, share experiences and advocate for greater representation and credible 2019 elections.

“It is the largest gathering of youth candidates who are running for elective offices in the 2019 general election”, Mr Itodo said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES. “These young people have defied all odds to obtain candidature of their parties, we felt it was important to bring them together.”

“The Convergence promises to inspire and empower them with the kind of skill sets they need to navigate this hostile political environment in Nigeria.

Follow this page for PREMIUM TIMES’ live updates from the event.

9:15a.m: Arrival and registration of guests and speakers currently ongoing at the main entrance of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Conference Centre Abuja, the venue of the event.

While journalists and other media outfits are setting up their equipment inside the 400 capacity Atiku Abubakar Hall, young candidates of various political parties are trooping in, getting seated and acquainted with each other. About 400 of them are expected here today.

Chike Ukaegbu, a young presidential candidate in the 2019 general election contesting under the Advanced Allied Party, said he expects to learn how to navigate his campaign strategies from the event.

“I hope to network and meet more young candidates like me who have the courage to step up as well as scale through the rigorous stage of party primaries.”

One of the organisers said the event will start in earnest by 10:00a.m.

10:30a.m: Bella Anne Ndubuisi, the anchor of the event takes the stage.

She apologises for the event starting behind schedule and appeals to everyone to get seated. She directs the procedures and protocols for the event.

The event kicks off with a musical stage performance. Ire Tolu-hi, a vocalist and guitarist takes the stage.

She starts softly but raptly, with a solo performance of Ty Bello’s ‘the future’. Her haunting voice and slow chords captivates the crowd’s attention as she signaled the start of the event.

The slow-changing coloured lights and deep fog on the stage set a dreamy ambience for the show.

Tony Nwulu, member, House of Representatives who sponsored the ‘Not Too Young Run Bill’ takes the stage, to cheers from the crowd.

He asks that the national anthem be recited. He tells the candidates to reflect on the national anthem.

One of the issues dominating national discourse recently is the need for a generational power shift to youth in Nigeria, come 2019 and beyond. Nigerian youth in the vanguard of this campaign believe they have been short changed in the past.

The campaign even became louder after the president, Muhammmadu Buhari signed the “Not Too Young To Run Bill” into law six months ago.

The new law is aimed at relaxing some of the stringent and discriminatory provisions of the constitution.

The bill, passed by the National Assembly last year, seeks to reduce the age qualification for president from 40 to 30; governor from 35 to 30; senator from 35 to 30; House of Representatives membership from 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly membership from 30 to 25.

However, in the assented bill, the age qualification for governor and senate was retained at 35 years.

“With the strength that God has given us, we will bring the desired change,” Mr Nwulu said.

Ibraheem Sanusi, Citizens Engagement Lead, African Governance Architecture, African Union gives a brief remark. He says Nigeria has endured accidental and reluctant leaders in the past.

“It has never been about preparation or willingness to take responsibility.

“If you make the change, you will open doors for many more”, he tells the candidates.

Dabbie Palmer, head of DFID in Nigeria is currently on stage. She starts by giving statistics on misrepresentation of youths in Nigerian political space.

She tells the candidate not only to think about getting elected but to have a solid plan for the country, whether elected or not.

“If you don’t win this time you will run again. This is a learning process for you, you learn your craft. If you not successful, become a volunteer and join advocacy campaigns. I hope for some of you, this will become a profession for you.”

She urges the candidates to remember that women, children and disabled people matter.