Dr Josephine Obiajulu Okei Odumakin, simply addressed as Joe Odumakin, is the President, Campaign for Democracy and Women Arise for Change Initiative. For all intents and purpose, she is living up to her billings as a foremost female human rights activist right now.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with the brilliant social crusader, on Saturday, May 9, 2015 and she spoke exclusively on issues of national interest and much more.
2015 general elections have come and gone, what’s your candid assessment of the whole exercise?
The 2015 general election was a success and my conclusion is premised on the peace that followed it. It signals a transition from one phase of development to another in the political history of Nigeria.
How would you assess Nigerian politics right now? Would you say our democracy is getting more mature?
When irregularities and other violent practices are reduced, it means they are on their way out of the polity, subsequently.
Again, when elected participants learn responsible celebration of their victories, and the non-elected contestants learn to embrace sportsmanship, what more could mean maturity for Nigeria in the context of politics and democracy? This means Nigeria has progressed, no doubt.
As a social crusader who has seen and said a lot about governance in Nigeria, how would you rate Jonathan’s administration since inception till date?
President Jonathan did what, perhaps, is best in his capacity. But for me and the constituency I represent, the civil society, things could have been better under his administration. If a government claims, forth and back, that it has generated exciting rates of megawatts in electricity transmission, but we only see result in few places for two months and then it deteriorates afterwards, then there is deception somewhere.
Again, if a Government fails to guarantee security of its citizens, what would it rather guarantee… and so on? Overall, if actual outcome is below expected outcome, it will be exactly unfair to say a performer has done so well. So, in my opinion, President Jonathan may have tried his best, but it could have been better.
What’s your reaction to Jonathan’s defeat at the Saturday, March 28, 2015? What do you think contributed to his loss at the keenly contested poll?
Election is usually not about the best merit. It is based on publicities and sentiments. Although there are good sentiments, You and I know there are other candidates and parties apart from PDP, APC and their candidates. As in marketing, there are several products, but buyers only may know of and grow sentiment for the mostly advertised ones.
Then they choose the one whose adverts connect to them more and which they can easily relate with. But that is not necessarily the best. Given this situation, the advertisers of President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t do as better as General Buhari’s counterpart advertisers.
So, I’ll attribute poor advertising of President Goodluck Jonathan by his campaign team as well as the under-rated performance of his administration to the reason voters developed sentiment for any available alternative.
Every vote against President Jonathan wasn’t necessarily to support the opposition, but to oppose President Jonathan because of the sentiments they grew against him in the face of low-rated performance and poor campaign adverts.
What’s your reaction to Buhari’s victory?
When it comes to politics, I don’t seem to have a taste, naturally. My role has always been to ensure fairness of any process and to ensure any government in place treats all citizens with care. Let me quickly recount that when MKO Abiola contested to be President, I wasn’t part of the campaigns.
But when the election was annulled, it became a case of cheating and I perceived injustice against masses of Nigeria and so decided we must push for fairness and allow rationality to reign. So, we supported fair mandate. Similarly, when Comrade Yinka Odumakin was spokesperson for General Muhammadu Buhari, I didn’t let my spousal relationship influence my role as an activist. I wasn’t ever with him in their campaigns.
Later also, when he changed to support President Goodluck Jonathan, it still didn’t change my role. That is me. So, I have no reaction as per whoever wins. I am only concerned about the process. That is why myself and members of the Women Arise offered to be observers just to ensure the process was fair, and that’s all.
What do you think should be pursued by Buhari for him to succeed in his ambition to turn around the country for the benefit of all?
The major reason people voted him was the anti-corruption stance that drove his campaign. For him to succeed therefore, he would be rated based on how he tackles the issue that gave the electorate the sentiment to vote for him, which is to end corruption.
He would have succeeded therefore, if he remains true to the cause against corruption. But most important, he must start the fight against corruption by first looking around himself.
A lot of people have the impression that you and your husband actually canvassed support for Jonathan during the election. Not only that, you’re also rumoured to have benefitted from his campaign largesse. What’s the truth about this?
I’m glad you admitted it was a rumor. But of course, there’s about nothing on this earth that is done without clear vestiges. The first question to ask is if I was with Comrade Yinka on his movement when he was spokesperson for General Muhammadu Buhari. And the next is whether I joined him on any of the campaign trains for President Goodluck Jonathan.
That way, you will understand that we may be a couple but we may not necessarily be doing same things. Apart from Comrade Yinka, there are other colleagues in the civil society who joined campaigns of different political parties, but that doesn’t automatically mean I am on same train with them or that I should therefore cancel our relationships.
Remember Comrade Yinka is spokesperson for Afenifere, a pan Yoruba group and I am not privy to their projects. I am President of Women Arise and also, President of Campaign for Democracy. So, our activities are different despite our relationship. So when elections are here, all the comrades are free to go any diverse ways and do their tinkering. When it is over, they’ll come back to their constituency.
I have no tinkering to do and I accommodate everyone irrespective of their political leaning. Democracy begins from home. If we cannot tolerate ourselves with differing views at home, how can we then live with one another with variegating interests in the society?
One of the reasons your husband and Yoruba Council of Elders cited for endorsing President Jonathan before the elections was his promise to implement the report of 2014 National Confab. Now that a new government is coming in, do you think that exercise won’t be a waste?
Apart from Comrade Yinka, in case he’s the reason the new government would want to dump the confab report, there were other persons in the confab who worked assiduously for the document that was eventually produced.
My leader, Pastor Tunde Bakare, erudite Prof. Akin Oyebode, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, clerics, ethnic leaders and many more citizens were part of the confab to produce the document. So, this is not about Yoruba or Afenifere. Ask everyone at the confab if they would like their efforts and sacrifices of three months to be deleted just like that.
I know some would say there was allowance for delegates after all, but what is that allowance to the value of a document that is capable of turning lives around for Nigerians? I channelled largest chunk of the allowance into humanitarian works and so it didn’t translate to personal wealth for me. But the new government should take up the confab report with sincerity of purpose and it will be found very useful in its bid to take Nigeria to the next level.
Now, on the activities of Boko Haram insurgents which have thrown the entire country into serious and perpetual panic and confusion, what do you recommend to the Federal Government on the way to fight and conquer the battle against insurgency so that the incoming government won’t inherit the menace?
The recent developments in fight against insurgency is hope giving and the Federal Government only needs to simply continue with sincerity of heart. With utmost sincerity, the battle is easy for the Federal Government.
You are one of the frontliners in the Bring Back Our Girls protest, how do you feel that despite the constant military victory over Boko Haram, the Chibok girls are yet to be found and released?
Campaigns for the rescue of Chibok girls have yielded results so far. Part of this is the rescue of 1,000 other abductees that were taken by insurgents but who were not readily known to public. When we asked for rescue of Chibok girls, it didn’t mean the schoolgirls were only people taken by the insurgents, it was just used as symbolic case for all victims of insurgency and all abductees in the incidences associated with it. We have greater hopes now that rescue operations are yielding results, and even when Chibok girls are rescued, it wouldn’t mean all may have ended. We must continue the pressure until all other captives are rescued.
What’s your reaction when you read or heard that the military had secured the release of over 200 women and children from Sambisa Forest, the Boko Haram’s den?
It strengthened my faith in the Nigerian military, and increased my hope that Chibok girls and other captives will be rescued.
What’s your comment on the abuse of womanhood by Boko Haram? What do you recommended as appropriate punishment for the insurgents when and if they’re arrested?
It is a serious crime against womanhood and children. The only response to crime is punishment. There are laws against rape and the punishments are clearly spelt out. But beyond that, the crime of terror attack and mass killing must be punished maximally by law.
– TADE ASIFAT