By Taiye Agbaje
As various interest groups struggle to have a say over who preside over the National Assembly in the next four years, an NGO that has been vociferous in championing the cause of women has demanded that womenfolk deserve a space too.
A civil rights group, Proactive Gender Initiatives (PGI), has thrown its weight behind the idea of having a female as Speaker in the 9th House of Representatives.
Ms. Esther Uzoma, the National Coordinator of PGI, said on Sunday in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that it would be a huge boost to all women in the country.
NAN reports that the 9th assembly would be inaugurated on June 9 as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari issued a proclamation letter to that effect.
Already, intense lobby had commenced at the Senate and the House of Representatives over who becames the senate president and speaker of the lower house, among other positions.
Uzoma, who is also a legal practitioner, said it was high time Nigeria has another female as speaker in line with the Federal Character Commission Act and National Gender Policy of the country.
She argued that presently, a female lawmaker, Rep Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC-Abia) who declared to vie for the position recently, was most qualified to be the number-two person in the National Assembly hierarchy.
”Number one, we are rooting for a female speaker because in the National Assembly, we have one female who is a fourth-term member.
”She is a person of integrity and she has proven legislative experience. She is competent.
”Secondly, she is from the ruling party and so far, the balance of power has not favoured her region.
”If you look at the hierarchy of principal officers as presently proposed, it appears to favour one region in exclusion of the other.
”So it is necessary in the spirit of democracy, in the spirit of inclusivity that persons from her region should also be considered.
”Thirdly, we are supporting her because of her gender. Nigeria is a democratic nation that has passed into law, the Federal Character Commission Act.
”So we want the tenets of the Federal Character to be considered and to also consider, the National Gender Policy that provides that the government in all its appointments should at least concede 35 per cent to women.
”So this is a rule, a policy, a regulation that the Nigerian state has given unto herself,” she remarked.
She noted that though the lower house had once had a speaker in the person of Patricia Etteh (PDP-Osun) between June and Oct.2007, she was sacrificed on the alter of politics.
”Since the history of this country, one female, Mrs Patricia, managed to become speaker.
“We saw what happened. Her time was sensationalised; allegations and counter allegations.
”But at the end of the day, in that hallow chamber, her colleagues exonerated her and even apologised that all that was political.
”So that is what happens when a woman does not have the necessary support. She is usually sacrificed on the alter of politics,” she said.
Uzoma, said Onyejeocha, who represents Isiukwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, had chaired several committees in the House, and “her colleagues know her pedigree and that is why they call her Mrs. Integrity.’
Uzoma, who is also the Alternate Chairperson, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, called on the members-elect, the All Progressive Congress (APC) leadership and President Muhammadu Buhari to support the clamour.
”I urge her colleagues in the House, the leadership of her party and I call on Mr. President, above all, to give her the chance.
”Mr. President has promised us so much. This is the time for Mr President to act.
”We have seen Mr. President do things former presidents shied away from, let it be said of Mr. President that it was in his time that the 35 per cent affirmative action was considered in appointing women,” she said. (NAN)