More inclusion of women in governance cannot be overemphasized in Nigeria’s economy. Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin, a.k.a Dr. Joe publicly known for her activism and fight for human rights spoke with 1STNEWS’ Olanike Akinrimisi on various issues about women.
In this exclusive interview, she urged women to break the culture of silence in all spheres of life…Excerpts
You are not only an activist, but also a woman of many parts. Would you like to share?
It has always been my passion to support any pro-people action. I am a social crusader and a human right activist. So any activity that will ameliorate or end the suffering of an ordinary Nigerian and the masses in general in whatever area be it health, education, politics, works, housing, agriculture, entrepreneur, economy, government budget, youth, women, and security becomes my interest. That is why you will always see me in so many activities that can bring about a plural society where the right of every Nigerian in all the afore-mentioned sectors is respected.
You once participated in a rally that was scheduled same day as your child delivery, and you were successfully gave birth that same day. As a woman, where did that strength come from?
I was already committed to a rally that was to take place when I was already heavy with pregnancy and my Expected Day of Delivery (EDD) was near. The labour pains came the night before and I was delivered of the baby on the day of the rally. The matron and the doctor on duty cleaned me up and advised that I should be on the bed in order to recuperate.
Why did you insist on participating?
I am one person that is committed to my promise; passionate and an unrepentant optimist, so I don’t allow limitations. More so, I hate giving excuses and I don’t celebrate efforts, I rather celebrate achievements. In the same vein, because I was already committed to the rally, I discharged myself against medical advice and went to participate in the rally. My strength has always been my belief and commitment to the struggle.
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What is your view about the court established by Lagos state government to prosecute sexual offenders?
Great decision! So good and timely at this very critical stage of prevalence of sexual violence such as rape in Lagos State. I am particularly happy that Lagos State Government eventually established this court. My organization, Women Arise and other women and girls’ right advocacy organizations have asked for the establishment of this court repeatedly so that sexual offences such as rape, defilement etc. can be handled in a special court for that purpose and be given accelerated hearing, thereby providing speed and fair judgments without intimidation and prejudice. It is said that justice delayed, is justice denied.
During Jonathan/Buhari campaign, you and your husband were in different parties. Was it politics or individual differences?
I was never in any political party. Neither was my husband, Comrade Yinka Odumakin. Our best moment is when we debate the state of the nation and superior argument will always prevail. I can never join partisan politics.
Dr. Joe, despite all, your marriage is a success. What is the secret?
Growing up, my mother always sounded it as a note of warning that if one fails at the marital front, one has failed in all. Marriage is not competition but to complement each other. Our marriage has worked out because we complete each other and there is no threat of contest. It is always important that no partner suffers low self-esteem or inferiority complex. It should be homes, not boxing rings.
What is your relationship between Women Arise Nigeria and KIND?
KIND and Women Arise are sister organizations. I have been a friend of the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola and I was one of her very close confidantes. In fact, I was with her the day she was shot dead and just dropped off a few minutes before that incident. So when her daughter, Hafsat Abiola-Costello floated KIND, I decided that I will always be there to support, collaborate and network with the organization. So, since then Women Arise and KIND have always had one thing or the other to do together.
What is your view about the inclusion of more women in governance?
We would continue to call for the inclusion of women in both elective and appointive positions because a wide gap still exists between men and women in positions of authority. As we speak, we are yet to achieve the 35% affirmative action of the Beijing Women Conference. We are also still far away from meeting the stipulations of Nigeria’s Gender Policy, several bills that will bring about gender parity in Nigeria are still pending at the Federal and State Houses of Assembly. For instance, the Gender Equal Opportunities Bill has suddenly become controversial, so we must continue to agitate for the inclusion of more women in governance and decision making process.
A good number of women who have been privileged to be in positions of authority either through election or by appointment, most especially at the agencies, state and local government levels have really exemplified themselves and shown to Nigerians that they could be trusted with such positions. Unfortunately, a pocket of them do not live up to expectation but this is not to say that they cannot be trusted with issues of governance and development.
What are the prices have you paid to break the rules?
In a patriarchal society, women have to be assertive. She needs to be bold and courageous to be able to compete. Also, to break the culture of silence; and demand a plural society free of discrimination, injustice and violence against women and girls. To achieve all of these, I have been imprisoned more than 17 times, shot on the leg, tortured, detained, denied freedom of movement etc. several times. But in the face of these, I remained undaunted in my heart and mind. I believe that one day, it shall be Uhuru!
Your final word here?
My advice will be that women should have a clear cut plan. She should know what she wants and how to achieve it. Not to be discouraged; to be focused; think outside the box, ask questions; identify and associate with women who are trailblazers; and be very hard working.