Joe Okei Odumakin: Celebrating My Big Sister’s Birthday, By Dare Lasisi

Joe Okei-Odumakin

Where can I start my tribute for this fearless African woman with the heart of gold? How best to weave “revolutionary” words into my “trademark” elegant prose and serenade Dr Joe on her birthday?
Let me control my prolific pen as usual! Clear road for the one and only authentic Egunmogaji of Nigerian Bloggers worldwide.

She calls me “Gani Radical or Gani Junior” and I call her “Aunty mi Joe.”

How did I meet this champion of human rights in Nigeria? I met her by accident of history as an undergraduate at the University of Ilorin in the 1990s. She also attended the same university for all her degrees. I knew her parents and siblings. She also met my mother three times or more in Ilorin.

On one particular day as a 100 level student, I went to the hostel room of one campus Big Bros (Umaru Jabata, Ilorin man) just to say hello.

Egbon Jabata was a final year student at the Department of Social Administration and also a student activist. I cannot even locate him right now.

We started to discuss general topics and we switched to politics and human rights. IBB was in power then.

“Dare, I can see you have a strong interest in human rights and activism as a young man. You still need to calm down, finish your university education.”

“Yes Sir, I hate injustice, violations of human rights, and abuse of power.” I replied to Egbon Jabata.

“Okay, I will introduce you to one lady, Josephine Okei is her name, she speaks Yoruba very well because she grew up in Ilorin. She is into human rights wahala but also constantly wanted by SSS and police. I wish you good luck together in your activism.”

“I am ready to meet this Josephine Okei, I swear to God”. I said.

“She lives in Agbo-Oba, get ready tomorrow afternoon around 2.30pm. We shall trace Joe and I will hand you over to her for mentorship. If SSS officers and police arrest you with Joe during pro-democracy protests, not my business! I have warned you to be careful with Joe.”

Chai….which kain wahala be dis? So dis Auntie Joe fit put me into wahala if I dey follow her do human rights wahala in Ilorin? I come dey ask myself. Na books dem say make I go read for Unilorin, na human rights wahala I carry for head like Agege bread or Oyo Alaafin bread wey get tribal marks.

Auntie Joe was very happy to meet me and so delighted when I told her my name is “Gani”, and from that moment, she started calling me “Gani Junior” in reference to Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

Auntie Joe gave me some “revolutionary” books to read which finally “scatter” my brain to dedicate my entire life to activism and human rights protection. Aye mojuba ooo!

I became a member (student) of Campaign for Democracy (CD) and Committee for the Defence of Human rights (CDHR). I was given ID cards. I also distributed pro-democracy leaflets and posters. But I knew if police officers see the ID cards in my pocket during arrest, na big wahala oooo!!!
Auntie Joe sent me to Lagos several times to “secretly” deliver letters to Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti and Femi Falana and others in the 1990s.

Auntie Joe was humiliated, persecuted, tortured and detained many times during the military dictatorships in Nigeria but she refused to go into exile despite many opportunities. But why?
Auntie Joe just dey suffer herself dat time!

Judit Polgar, Hungarian chess grandmaster is generally considered as the strongest female chess player alive today. Judit also met Uncle Bobby Fischer in Europe around 1995, the greatest Chess Champion in the world, my own mentor and Boss!
It is not out of point to say Dr Joe Okei Odumakin is unquestionably the most popular and “strongest” female champion of human rights in Nigeria, if not in Africa. Argue with Google!

This brave African woman grabbed a brush and a bucket of paint and wrote “IBB MUST GO” on the walls of a police station in Ilorin in the middle of the night.(Se Ogun laye ni?)

Anytime wey I no get money or wetin to chop on campus, I go take style visit Auntie Joe house to collect money and food. God no go vex!

My late mother told me, this your Auntie Joe is either a “witch” or with one “spiritual” power!

When my mother visited me in Ilorin, I dragged her to Auntie Joe’s house in Agbo-Oba to greet her. They discussed my issues “woman-to-woman”, witch-to-witch”. Wetin I know sef?

Auntie Joe once advised me that SSS can also arrest me as a student activist and I must be prepared to go to prison for activism. As my Christian friends go say, “I reject it in Jesus name, Awusubilahi”.

Anyway, I later “escaped” to Ogbomoso from Ilorin to prevent SSS and police arrest wahala. I no go talk too much on this matter because walls get ears. Aye o ni mu gbogbo wa ooo. I used to call SSS as Sickle Cell Police. If dem catch me dat time….I go smell pepper!

Anytime I see Auntie Joe on television, I always tell my children and wife, “That’s my Big Sister who trained me to fall in love with activism and human rights protection. May God bless her and family members.”

To cut the long story short, last year August in Nigeria when I visited to check my sick father in Abeokuta. I knew I must surely visit Auntie Joe “by fire, by force” in her Lagos office despite my limited time in Nigeria.

I gave Auntie Joe one condition and she followed my instructions because we are comrades from the 1990s.

“Auntie mi Joe….. prepare jollof rice with fresh fish stew plus goat head pepper soup. I am visiting you with my two friends.”

“Gani Rad….kosi wahala….just tell me the time you’re coming. We are happy to host you.”

I visited the office with my 2 friends and we enjoyed the food. I even collected take-away! Wetin concern anybody? Auntie Joe na your comrade since 1990s? Second base jare!

Auntie mi Joe was ready to provide me with a car and a driver to take me anywhere in Lagos and any part of Nigeria but I told her not to worry. I just dey “suffer” myself to enter public transport up and down, just to listen to people daily struggles. Ki n se oju lasan oooo.
Anyway, next time in Nigeria, I will not turn down this offer. I must enjoy my life!

Let me drop this one here, I recently recommended some people in financial difficulty and Auntie Joe assisted them with money. She did not say NO to my requests! (Chai….she fit vex say I basket-mouth dis help!)

One day, Auntie mi Joe must win a Nobel peace prize or one “ijinle” international award. Amen!

Happy birthday to a living Legend, a global icon, Eniyan mi, champion of democracy, human rights and crusader for a better society, Auntie mi Joe, wa dagba wa darugbo ni Ase Edumare. Solidarity till we die!

P.S: I will celebrate Auntie mi Joe’s birthday this evening in Glasgow with my wife and children.(I typed this long story with my phone, not with my laptop computer)

Dare Lasisi, a former Commonwealth journalist writes from the UK University of the year, University of Strathclyde, Faculty of Science, Dept of Computer & Information Sciences, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.
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