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These Young People Don't Want An Age Limit To Run For President

The push for the #NotTooYoungToRun bill comes as Nigeria’s ailing 74-year-old leader is publicly pictured for the first time in almost 80 days.

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Around 2,000 young Nigerians braved the rain on Tuesday to march to the parliament in Abuja, the country's capital, demanding that lawmakers lower the minimum age for candidates running for presidency.

According to the Nigerian constitution, you have to be at least 40 to run as a candidate for president. Activists are now pushing a bill — “Not Too Young to Run” — that, if passed, would allow citizens to run for president once they’re 30. The amendment also seeks to lower the age limit to 30 for governors and lawmakers and 25 for state lawmakers.

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Some Nigerians who came out to protest on Tuesday said they plan to sleep in front of the parliament building until lawmakers listen to their demands.

Small show of force by the police... They rolled up in this truck/tank/whatever driving very rough. Scared me a lit… https://t.co/Y7LqoXw2eU

“The plan is to be here till we hear from the Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives. We've sent for our mattresses,” Chioma Agwuegbo, one of the organizers and cofounder of a tech company designed to empower women, told BuzzFeed News. “We hope our legislators stand on the right side of history.”

We are proud of young Nigerians who defied the rain to make their voices heard on the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill.

The protests took place as President Muhammadu Buhari was seen — or at least photographed — for the first time in almost 80 days. The ailing 74-year-old has been in London since May, receiving treatment for an unspecified illness. It’s the latest of a series of extended medical leaves of absence Buhari has taken since coming to power two years ago.

Nigeria State House via AP

A photo released by the Nigeria State House showing Buhari during a meeting with Nigeria's ruling party's governors in London.

Buhari swept to power two years ago on a sea of youth support after promising to “change” the kleptocratic political scene. Since then, many of his young backers have been disappointed. The average age of Nigeria’s cabinet is 52, many of whom have been in power for several decades. And the president’s age and ill-health means he has spent much of the past year receiving treatment abroad rather than running the country.

Following the protests, the hashtag #NotTooYoungToRun has been trending online.

If an 18 year old person can be enlisted into the army to defend & die for the country, why not recruit him for leadership?#NotTooYoungToRun

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They told us we were of leaders of tomorrow oya, tomorrow has come. Let us lead. We are #NotTooYoungToRun

Fully in support of #NotTooYoungToRun @ebirimobinna @YaliAbuja @YaliNetwork @yiaga

Some people have pointed out that the bill also promotes active participation from older politicians.

"Old people" are one of the most important allies to #NotTooYoungToRun. The success or failure of the bill is squar… https://t.co/F5FUTKIYyi

Some were skeptical.

I 👍 #NotTooYoungToRun But the real enemy of the Youth is the Youth! Majority ain't interested. I've seen this attitude in all fronts sadly!

While others warned that political apathy may be the problem more than age.

While I support #NotTooYoungToRun my observations are that young people are really no better and no worse than us o… https://t.co/eLVhujVo9n

#NotTooYoungToRun how many 30yo has run for HoR or 35 for Senate. We haven't used current provisions yet ask for reduction. Diversion!!!

Some 70% of Nigeria's population — roughly 120 million people — are aged between 18 to 35. But Africa’s most populous nation is also home to an army of unemployed youth, many of whom see few prospects amid staggering corruption and a stalling economy.

Africa as a whole proportionately has more young people than any other continent — but it's also home to most of world’s oldest and longest-serving leaders. The median age on the continent is 19.7 years, yet the average age of the 10 oldest African leaders is 78.5.

The poster boy for the graying political elite in the continent is Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who, at 93, is the world’s oldest leader — he is routinely seen falling asleep in parliament. On the opposite end of the continent, Algeria's 80-year-old Abdel Aziz Bouteflika is so rarely seen in the public that critics call him "the living dead."

Monica Mark is the West Africa Correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Dakar, Senegal.

Contact Monica Mark at monica.mark@buzzfeed.com.

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