Remembering Professor Jadesola Akande (Nov 1940-April 2008)
Professor Jadesola Akande, the founding Executive Director of the Women Law and Development Centre Nigeria (WLDCN), a great scholar, constitutional lawyer, educationalist and an icon of women’s movement in Nigeria and at international levels, through her leadership of the Association of African Forum for Research and Documentation (AAWORD) and the Forum for African Women Educationalist Nigeria (FAWEN) amongst others, suddenly passed away on April 29, 2018, precisely 11year ago. It was a sad day for all in the Academia, the Civil Society Organisations, particularly the Human Rights Activists and the nation in general.
No doubt, it has been difficult to fill the gap our professor left behind, at least two generations have emerged this past 11 years that could not adequately appreciate who Jadesola Akande was, what she stood for and what legacies she left behind. Indeed, many modern young generation lawyers, academia and activists may not even know anything about the life and times of the Icon. In another 10 years, people may not even know about this great professor, the second female Vice Chancellor in Nigeria and the first for a State University (Lagos State University-LASU), the first female Chairman of Council of Federal University of Technology, Akure, a great teacher of teachers. In view of this realisation in 2018, WLDCN/JAIF took the opportunity of her 10th year in memorial to immortalise her life and times through a public lecture and other activities.
At a one-day event that held at the Nigerian Institute of Advance Studies (NIALS) to mark the late sage’s posthumous birthday on November 15, 2018, a spellbound public lecture titled Women Law and Development: Ten Years after Jadesola Akande- Reflections and Projections was delivered by Professor Ayo Atsenuwa, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Unilag.
The occasion was chaired by Hon. Justice Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, president National Association of Women Judges Nigeria (2014-2016) who had served at the International Association of Women Judges.
The objective of the one-day event was to update and relate to contemporary issues in the late Professor’s areas of interest which cut across the academics, development in education, legal education, university administration, constitutional review and development in Human Rights Activism, including the reforms especially in areas of gender based violence, domestication of the CEDAW, Affirmative Action and the need to pass the Gender Equality Opportunities Bill at the national and state assemblies.
Attendees included the academic community particularly her contemporaries (retired and current) at the Faculty of Law and the Institute of Advance Legal Studies, University of Lagos. Faculty of Law, Lagos State University where she not only built the vibrant law faculty as the first Dean, but was also the first female Vice Chancellor of the University (LASU 1988-1992). Members of the Judiciary and legal profession generally-FIDA, NBA, AWLA, Law School, Professional groups, Ministries and Department from the Lagos State government, friends, family members, associates, and Research groups. Young professionals including her mentees NADEV members and members of the Jadesola Akande Advisory (JAIF).
In her presentation, Professor Asinuwa reflected on how huge the impact the late professor had on her career as she was personally her mentor and teacher. She was privileged to present the paper some 17 years ago during the late professor’s 60th birthday titled Women Law and Development in Nigeria: Prospects and the American Elections –Lessons for Nigeria.
Essentially, she reflected on the happenings after 10 years, on how Nigerian women have fared, the gains and projections using some of the indices. Constitutionalism and Women Specific needs which covers protection for women in the work places i.e. looking at how women’s specific needs have been met in the work places, the issue of sex discrimination in work places among related issues is still high as of today.
Crimes committed in the virtual world- these are areas, which were not as prominent a decade ago but currently there are a lot of cyber-related crimes against women. Foremost is the uploading of explicit image of ladies by their ex-fiancés or boyfriend for personal vendetta or related issues. The gains of the virtual world are also noteworthy, as most issues of rape or abuse are easily trending on social media, thereby drawing attention to such issues. The famous OAU sex for marks scandal trended on the Internet and brought the school’s authority attention to it faster than it would have been a decade ago.
Provision on Sexual Harassment- The rate of sexual harassment in our society is more pronounced especially in the academic sphere. A recent example is the case involving a student Monica Osagie and her lecturer Richard Akindele, with the former alleging sex for marks to help her improve her grades -(Premium Times Report -20th June 2018). The gain is that the University has taken further steps to ensure total elimination of sexual harassment in the OAU community, according the vice chancellor, while the school has dismissed the lecturer. Also, schools like UNILAG have policies on Sexual Harassment & Romantic Relationship, which define the scope of student-to-lecturer relationship.
The issue of rape and enlarging the scope of Sexual Assault and Rape- The recent case of Miss Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje, the 13-year-old girl allegedly raped to death by her guardian Andrew Ogbuja and his son Victor in Benue State.(Newspaper report from Punch -12th November , 2018). The incremental gains made by Women Lawyers i.e. the FIDA in ensuring the case is given prominence and totally condemned.
In the area of Legislative Reforms- Strengthening Institutions and positioning for better engagement and effectiveness.
The gains in the area of Gender Policy which is an aspect the late Professor wrote extensively and stood in the gap for women to have a voice through gender inclusive policies. The gains are currently found in INEC and the Nigeria Police Force who both have gender policies.
Equally, Institutional Interventions /Responses are for example – the Lagos State government is taking the lead through the establishment of the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DVSRT) which some other states appear to be towing the line as well. The State also has Support /Trauma Centres modelled on the Mirabel Centre at the Ikeja Teaching Hospital.
While in the aspect of Citizens’ Participation in Governance, especially women, it is quite alarming to note that not much gain have been made as it can be seen that among the six western states, women’s position in the cabinet, both elective and appointive, have reduced geometrically unlike in the last decade.
In concluding, while as aforementioned, some gains have been made, it is quite important to say that women need to do more to raise the bar and ensure that women issues are taking into cognizance in all aspects.
These are the legacies that the late Professor Jadesola Akande (OFR) would have pursued.
May her gentle soul continue to rest in peace.