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Promoting Good Governance.

Meet 14 year-old Ethan Sonneborn running for Governor in the US

IN Nigeria, one must be 30 or older to be eligible to contest in a governorship election, but in the State of Vermont in the United States of America, 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn was among the four candidates that contested the Democratic Party’s governorship primary on Tuesday.

Vermont has no minimum age requirement to run for governor; a candidate only has to have lived in the state for four years. Vermont’s secretary of state office said that no other minor in recent history has run for governor.

Sonneborn, though too young to vote and even too young to get a learner’s permit, is thus not too young to run for office. And when the results started coming in early Wednesday, the teenager, as expected, finished last of the four aspirants, polling a handsome 4,681 votes (8.2 percent of the total votes).

Vermont Democratic governorship primary election result. Credit: New York Times

“Just about everywhere I go people think what we’re doing is important,” Sooneborn told ABC News. “We need to have leadership that’s listening to Vermonters instead of having leadership that makes Vermonters listen.

“I’ve been an activist pretty much my whole life. I’ve been active in my community on issues that I’ve cared about.”

Sonneborn ran on a progressive platform, supporting a carbon tax, a higher minimum wage and a worker’s bill of rights. On his campaign website, he calls himself a “proud backer” of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” legislation.

The 14-year-old has been interested in politics for as long as he can remember, recently serving as a legislative page in Vermont’s legislature.

In the course of his campaign, Sonneborn traveled round the state of Vermont, talking to the people. He said that “almost nobody” in the state had told him he’s too young to run for governor, although there have been a few internet hecklers.

Sonneborn’s primary became the latest in what has been described as a surge in youth participation in politics. Last week, a group of 17-year-olds ran in the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial primaries in Kansas.

In Nigeria, even when one meets the constitutional age requirement to run for office, not many young people have pockets deep enough to bankroll the enormous expenses that come with seeking political office. Forms for declaration of interest alone cost millions naira.

The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), one of the civil society groups behind the not-too-young-to-run movement, has begun a campaign to demand that major political parties reduce the cost of nomination forms for young aspirants.

“Any party that seeks the support of the youth in 2019 must do three things,” says Samson Itodo, Convener of the group. “They must take intentional steps to assist young people and women with disability who are seeking to run.

”Political parties party must also reduce the cost for ruining for office and cost for nomination. And finally, Nigerian youth want democratic and direct primaries.

“Nothing says what a sixty-year-old can do an eighteen-year-old can not do better. Nigeria belongs to all of us. Any nation that discards the youth is doing so at is own peril.”

President Buhari signed the age reduction bill into law in May this year, reducing the constitutional age requirement for the office of the President from 40 to 35 years old, while that of a federal or state representative was reduced from 30 to 25 years.

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