The Leading Woman: Josephine Okei-Odumakin – The Fearless Activist



“Our lives begin to end when we keep silent about things that matter”, these were the words of Martin Luther King that ignited the fire of activism in Joe Odumakin.

Dr. Josephine was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, but grew up and schooled in Ilorin. Her passion for defending people’s rights started way back as a child. Growing up as a teenager, she decided to be a Nun, this decision was influenced by the Catholic educational environment she was groomed in but the fear of her father disowning her took away that zeal.

While schooling, she met with a lecturer who had keen interest in her because she was very intelligent. She was exposed to materials to read about Martin Luther King and other people like Karl Max, Malcom X. Quietly, a fire began to kindle with her very young mind.

In 1985, the position of secretary for Women in Nigeria, Kwara State branch was vacant so she applied alongside other women that had applied for the position. She won the hearts of many when she stepped out to declare her manifesto, after which she was accepted for the position.

Joe’s motivation came from all the books she read while she was in school and other interesting biographies of international activists who gave their lives to struggle for the right of people. It was then she looked within and saw that an opportunity to do the same was wide open in Nigeria, during the military dictatorship of late Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida.

Much later, fate and optimism brought her close to late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, who at that time was the President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights. Her relationship with him, brought her closer to late Chief Gani Fawehinmi and the Afro-juju singer, Fela Kuti. Together they gallantly clamoured for change and democracy. She was always at the forefront of rallies held against military dictatorship, and she was detained severally in prison while she suffered bruises from severe beatings. It was during one of her many detentions that she met with Comrade Yinka Odumakin, and they got married later.

After the military era, she kept on fighting for the rights of minorities in the nation, particularly women who were constantly abused in the society. She also participated in various rallies protesting for free and fair elections in Nigeria, particularly the Save Nigeria Group [SNG] campaign.

With over 25 years experience in human rights work in Nigeria, Dr. Joe Odumakin keeps showing exemplary leadership qualities, undying commitment to grassroots development, and selfless service to humanity. She has been honoured with so many awards both in Nigeria and in other countries.

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One of our favourite quotes at Woman.NG is a line from Emeli Sande’s Read All About It; “If you’ve got the heart of a lion, why let your voice be tamed?” This has inspired us to publish Nigerian women’s take on about everything. From conceiving a child to burying an old loved one and every life experience in between them - Nigerian women’s stories, opinions, issues, debates, advice, news etc. Read More >>

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