Her passion for human rights activism made her one of the targets of the Babangida administration; she was arrested and detained about 17 times at different locations in the country.  However, Dr. (Mrs.) Joe Okei -Odumakin refused to be deterred. She later became the assistant general secretary of the Campaign for Democracy in 1994 when the battle against the annulment of June 12 became so fierce.

She was the head of the organization’s secretariat from 1995-1996 when the then chairman, late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti and the general secretary, Comrade Odion Akhaine, were put in jail. She eventually became president of the organization on July 29, 2006 at a convention held in Akure, Ondo State.

Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin...we've not developed ourselves
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin...we've not developed ourselves

Dr.Joe Odumakin is also the executive director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies, president of ‘Women Arise’, the chairman of Task Force of the Citizens Forum and spokesperson of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations. She recently spoke with Vista Woman on the state of the nation. Her words:

INSTABILITY, retrogression and decay are some of the words which could best describe the shakiness that have since independence pervaded Nigeria’s socio-economic and political landscapes.

What we have in Nigeria today is not democracy but civil rule; a situation where our votes don’t count, where people are not there to represent us, where you’re labeled as anti-government the moment you air your view, etc.  All these things cannot give room for democracy to thrive.

Since we operate a system that neither encourages good work nor rewards honesty, having a thriving nation has become too tasking. Out of the country’s 49 years of independent nationhood, dictatorship has taken the better part of it as ‘warlords and power mongers’ posing as politicians and military officers have without recourse to decency, continued to assume the mantle of leadership solely for the enrichment of themselves and their families.

That Nigeria has refused to grow should not be a surprise to right-thinking people since we have criminally-minded individuals in most strategic positions in the government.

Political space

Again, while the last ten years could better be described as a period of transition to civil rule, Nigeria ’s political firmament still remains under the firm grip of retired military officers. After all, it is they who have the wherewithal to ‘confront’ an infinitely monetized political space like Nigeria’s. Corruption remains unabated. With a particular reference to this government, while the Yar’Adua-led leadership has as its focal point the idea of taking corruption to the cleaners, so far, it has been motion without movement.

Again, while former President Obasanjo seemed to have taken some steps at nipping the menace in the bud, two years of the Yar’Adua government have successfully reversed the country’s initial gains. Two years on, those already accused of corruptly enriching themselves are now walking our streets as free men or remain unprosecuted. And, since we have at the helm of affairs an unwilling and, as such, an unconcerned president, corruption has continued to be a feast day for Nigeria ’s dubious beings.

When on ascension of leadership President Yar’adua promised to reform the electoral system, Nigerians were of the hope that if at least we could get our electoral process right, before long, all other things would fall in place. When there’s an improvement in terms of livelihood, physical development, and even in the lives of the citizens, we can then say there’s development.

It is really very sad that 49 years after independence, we’ve not developed ourselves. It is just like one having a child who is supposed to be a full grown man but is still developing clay feet at 49. You find out that in terms of education, people in Nigeria even take their wards to study in Benin Republic and Accra because of the fact that our institutions have not been developed.

Imagine what is happening to the Benin-Ore road! That was the same road Anenih was given billions of naira to fix! There is no security of life and property in this country; people drop dead now and then, and you’re even not sure of going to a bank and coming out safely.

We’re talking about the amount that is being paid in LASU now; who is that poor parent that can afford it? As the president of Women Arise, ladies I have counseled have mentioned that they go into prostitution because they need to pay their school fees. I schooled here in Nigeria, and I want to say that in those days, one knew what would be needed for a school session. But now you never dare predict the financial cost of a session.

However, if we are not to deceive ourselves, we’ll agree that Nigeria’s problems cannot be isolated from family values. After all, the family is said to be a microcosm of the larger Nigerian space. Further to this is that the collective, as we all know, begins with the personal.

Admitted! It is the inability of successive leadership to bring the country up out of the valley of beggar-nation that its inhabitants have taken to menial jobs and allied criminalities. However, well-trained youth can still make positive impacts, even in the face of daunting tribulations.

So far, so unrealized of a dream of nationhood. However, since it seems as if successive leaders have learnt nothing and are therefore unwilling to put in nothing towards making Nigeria great, it may not be out of place to ask Nigerians to take their destiny in their hands and fight for their rights. It has happened in the Philippines and it has happened in East Timor. It was the South Africa populace, the masses, who fought racism.

Examples abound everywhere. I also want to advise our youths against mortgaging their future during elections. They should know that they’re not only selling their future but the future of generations after them. It is important they understand that all these people using them as thugs will not dare to use their own children.

In as much as we know there is unemployment, people can still be self-employed.  In rounding off, it is high time the International Community came to our rescue as a nation. This way, they will see reasons to develop our nation.’


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