Remembering Prof. Jadesola Akande (OFR)
In a twinkle of an eye, the 10th year has rolled by since our Professor Jadesola Akande, the founding Executive Director of Women Law and Development Centre, Nigeria (WLDCN), an exemplary leader, erudite scholar, astute University administrator, a sage by all its definition left us for the great beyond precisely in the early hours of April 29, 2008.
Like a colossus, she bestrode Nigeria and, indeed, the International scene for about three decades in her specialised areas of Constitutional Law, Human Rights and Gender Rights Advocacy, even to the level of the United Nations.
Armed with distinguished academic laurels and enviable career in the legal profession beginning with first and second degrees and a doctorate, specialising in Constitutional Law from London University in the early 1970s.
She was later admitted in 2006 into the Body of Distinguished Fellows of the same University making her one of the few women in the world to be so honoured. She was a primus inter peres.
The first female Vice Chancellor of a state University, Lagos State University, the first female Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA, 2004-2007).
At the social level, Professor Akande was very active in the Zonta International Club of Lagos1, a Chapter of an International philanthropic organization, becoming the West African District 18 Governor (2001).
She was also active in the Association of Women for Research and Development (AAWORD) an International organisation with headquarters in Dakar, Senegal.
One of the objectives of AAWORD is to decolonise research on women issues and to develop advocacy strategies and tools enabling African women to access political decision-making, claim their rights and bring a meaningful contribution to democratization processes in their countries.
She led the organisation to the Beijing World Women Conference in 1995 after she was elected as the International President (Pretoria South Africa, 1994). Her performance while coordinating Side Events at the African Tent in Hauiriau (Beijing) was legendary.
Post – Beijing, she ensured that our Centre, the Women Law and Development Centre, Nigeria (WLDCN) took the message of Beijing to nooks and crannies especially to the grassroots in at least 14 of the then 19 States of Nigeria. Professor Jadesola Akande ensured the establishment of the Forum for African Women Educationalist Nigeria (FAWEN) in 2004. FAWEN is a high African education policy-focused group with headquarters based in Nairobi, Kenya.
When the democratic dispensation began in Nigeria 1999, the Centre was responsible for training Legislators in the South-West Zone, ranging from Senators, House of Representatives members, States Assembly members, Local government Chairmen and Councillors on modes and principles of democratic governance and administration.
Not forgetting her own natural constituency, the women legislators were encouraged to form a strong parliamentary caucus and were introduced to and trained in lobbying skills, constitution, issues of development, poverty alleviation and gender budgeting.
Through her leadership, the Centre developed a training document on the Nigerian Constitution for schools and semi-literate population titled: Constitution Made Easy with Gender Advocacy Points.
Produced over a decade ago, the document still remains very relevant today even as we are approaching the 2019 general elections.
As a human rights activist, she led and participated in several advocacy campaigns ranging from violence against women, rights of women to participate in politics and governance.
Of note was the celebrated Women’s Rally/March in Lagos led by the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) supported by other women groups to protest the several plane crashes culminating in the ‘’Sosoliso Airplane Crash’’ in which many women and children were killed and many women were suddenly turned to widows. The women demanded the right to be protected by appropriate government policies.
Significantly, police high-handed reaction to the women’s protest attracted public sympathy and outcry against the law enforcement agencies and elicited positive government response.
In the area of constitutional law, her activism was backed by well-researched publications and articulate presentations to review committees on the Nigerian Constitution (Uwais Committee), and electoral reform. She participated as delegate to the Constituent Assembly (1989), the Pro National Conference of Ethnic Nationalities (PRONACO 2005).
By the time she passed on in 2008, shortly after proposing the toast at the 70th birthday of late chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) she was advocating for the appreciation of the male gender in actualising women’s right, a precursor of the current recognition of positive masculinity being advocated by the “purple academy” and those campaigning against Gender Based Violence in domestic and public domain.
No doubt, Professor Jadesola Akande impacted on many lives in the academia and civil societies alike. She also influenced many of government’s positive decisions in the areas of education, constitutionalism, national gender policy and political participation.
In 10 years, quite a lot has changed in the Nigerian society, a new generation of policy makers have cropped up who may not know the antecedents of many of these policies.
They may not even have heard about the various works, times and activities of people like Jadesola Akande. It is, therefore, important to immortalise this sage as a beacon to upcoming generations especially in her multifarious areas of focus.
The Women Law and Development Centre Nigeria (WLDCN) through the Jadesola Akande Interactive Advisory Forum (JAIAF) is planning an event, to immortalise her and keep her areas of focus on the front burners.
Awosika, D.Phil Oxon, is the Executive Director of WLDCN.