Source: All Africa
A socio-political pressure group known as Parliamentary Civil Society Partnership Initiative, (PCSPI) has described the recent election of principal officers of the House of Representatives as a blatant display of gender discrimination and

breach of party discipline that could have far reaching implications for NigeriaÂ's democracy.

Addressing a press conference recently in Abuja, Executive Director of the group, Dr. Chijioke Nwandikom, expressed regrets that Nigerian politicians continue to play lip service to the issue of gender mainstreaming in decision making saying that the decision of the members of the House of Representatives to reject a female legislator as speaker is a manifestation of gender bias.

Flanked by other members of the group including the National Secretary and Public Relations Officer, Hilary Onah and Yemisi Asabe respectively, the PCSPI declared that the crucial test of democratic politics goes beyond winning elections but rests squarely on the ability to accommodate diverse interests and the capacity to bring about fundamental changes that meet the contemporary needs of the society.

The group stressed that "limiting the ambition of any social group based on gender factor is inconsistent with the democratic system which Nigeria espouses regretting that since the nationÂ's return to democracy in 1999 men have continued to dominate the leadership of the National Assembly.

Nwandikom noted that the lopsidedness is not because women are incapable or unavailable but rather based on the glass ceiling placed against the womenfolk for decades.

He added: "Considering their contributions to national development in various spheres of their professions, our womenfolk deserve more than what is currently grudgingly given to them. In fact with the promise by President to allocate 35 percent of political appointments to the women, it is contradictory and a negation of this transformational leadership for leadership structure of the National Assembly to continue to be skewed in favour of the men.

"All the levers of political power in the country-from the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, their deputies, the Majority and Minority leaders-are in the hands of men. No public office should be specifically designed for any particular gender to retain in perpetuity, especially in a democratic dispensation that recognizes the right of every citizen to aspire legitimately to hold any position regardless of gender or religious considerations".

The group praised NigeriaÂ's First Lady, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan, for her foresight and tireless effort to advance the cause of gender mainstreaming in development pointing out that "it is a right and also a matter of social justice that the massive support and unprecedented participation of women in the electoral process be recognized and rewarded through not only appointments but occupation of strategic positions like the leadership of the legislature".

While the group urged Dame Patience Jonathan not to abandon the crusade for women participation in policy making, it called on the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) to do all in its power to assert its policy of accommodating women in positions of authority adding that letting the rejection of the partyÂ's candidate to go un-assuaged would amount to a conspiracy against Nigerian women.

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