Forever in our hearts: Professor Jadesola Akande (15-11-1940 to 29-4-2008)
… First Female LASU Vice-Chancellor, Gender Rights Advocate
The Women Law and Development Centre, Nigeria, as usual on April 29, joined the family and friends of late Professor Jadesola Debo-Akande in prayerful remembrance of the 14th year of her passing unto glory.
At least three generations have passed (counting by five yearly) since her death, who may not know what a great icon she was in the field of Constitutional Reform and Human Rights, particularly women’s rights movement in Nigeria.
Professor Jadesola Akande was the founder/Executive Director of the Women Law and Development Centre Nigeria (WLDCN) from 1993-2008. A colossus and trail-blazer in the area of University Administration, Education, particularly Female Education and Constitutional Development, which she not only taught at the University, but also published widely on the subject matter including a simplified version, “Constitution Made Easy plus Gender Rights Advocacy Points” for grassroots education. It is on record that she built up the Law Faculty at the Lagos State University (LASU) to an enviable level as the first Dean of Law before she became the first female Vice-Chancellor of the University.
At a time like this in Nigeria when the National Assembly (NASS) is debating aspects of the Constitution for amendment, she would have been at the forefront of enlightening the NASS and also protesting their voting out the Gender Bill on the 1st March, 2022. Indeed, many of the widely-publicised protesters who converged in Abuja to protest the vote against Gender Bill, are her proteges.
Significantly, some of the women groups went to court and got a favourable landmark judgement affirming that government must uphold the 35per cent female participation in the Affirmative Action Bill.
The call for more women in Parliament had been her mantra since the advent of democracy in 1999. As earlier mentioned many of the gender and social development activists today and some female legal luminaries including Professor Ayo Atsenuwa, Dr Joy Ezeilo, Dr Abiola Akiode-Afolabi are her protégés. Kudos to them for keeping the flag flying.
The WLDCN led by her, not only trained all the new National Assembly members led by Senator Stella Omu and later Senator Hairat Abdul Razak-Gwadabe, WLDCN also trained the new women parliamentary caucus including State Assembly members in the art of parliamentary proceedings in the area of lobbying, and aspects of the constitution, annual budgets and poverty alleviation issues.
These training included the coordination of their travel to Southern Africa to observe parliamentary procedure in other climes. Significantly with collaboration of these female members, the trainings took place in the Committee Rooms of the NASS. The women were few but quite effective.The program was supported by the Freidrich Ebert Foundation.
Late Professor Jadesola Akande strongly believed that more women in parliament would move Nigeria a long way up in the socio-economic development of the Nation.
This is a big legacy that we at the WLDCN, together with other women groups and generations, are committed to promote and achieve. May Professor Jadesola Akande’s soul continue to rest in peace.
Dr. Keziah Awosika is the Executive Director, WLDCN.