Profile of Josephine Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin

Dr. Josephine Joe Obiajulu Okei-Odumakin was born in Zaria on July 4, 1966. She obtained most of her formal education in Ilorin. She holds a Bachelor of Education [English], Master of education [Guidance & Counseling], Ph.D. [History and Policy of Education].  Rather than tow the path of a comfortable career in academics or administration, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin developed a strong interest in and concern for increasing human rights violations in Nigeria and around the world. Over the last two and a half decades, she has traversed with great courage where most men dread to tread.

Her active involvement in civil society has taken her through critical assignments among which are Assistant General Secretary, General Secretary & President of the Campaign for Democracy [CD] successively since 2006.

She is also the Executive Director, Institute of Human Rights & Democratic Studies; Founding President, Women Arise for Change Initiative; Chairman, Task Force of the Citizen Forum; President, Centre for Change in Community Development & Public Awareness; President, Centre for Participatory Democracy; and Spokesperson for the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria.

A courageous fighter, Dr. Okei-Odumakin’s consistent challenge against human rights abuses has exposed her to harrowing experiences under the most repressive regimes Nigeria has ever witnessed. Among other travails, she has been shot in the leg by security agents and undergone close to 20 detention stints in unsavoury conditions in Lagos, Ilorin and Abuja. In 1994, she was accosted by the police and beaten almost to the point of death and later detained for pasting posters against the then military regime. Later that year, while addressing a rally, she sustained serious injuries as she was seized by soldiers, beaten, kicked several times and thrown into the gutter before being imprisoned. Undaunted and unbowed, she has progressively become a strong voice to be reckoned with and her image engraved on the Nigerian civil rights movement.

Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin’s value-added roles in the pursuit of democracy, good governance, and national development are recognized and acknowledged locally and internationally amongst which are: Recognition for Selfless Service, by the International Institute for Humanitarian & Environmental Law. Kwame Nkrumah Leadership on Humanitarian Services/Icon of Hope — West African Students Union.

The Defender of Women — Human Rights Now. Ambassador of Goodwill for USA State of Arkansas to the people of nations beyond the USA.

According to a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Walter Carrington, “she is  a fearless, fiery champion of democracy and human rights” ; even as our own Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka is right on target as he declared her to be “A tireless fighter whose frail bearing belies an inner strength and resilience … a veteran of affirmative marches, of crude arrests and detentions, baton charges and tear gas who has lent lustre to the struggle for justice and human dignity, who remains an inspiration to men and women, old and young”.

On March 8, 2013, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin put Nigeria on centre stage when she was honoured with the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award, along with nine other recipients across the world. The ceremony was conducted by the US Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry and US First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama. The award is given to phenomenal women who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocacy for human rights and women empowerment — often at great personal risk.

Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin is happily married with children to Dr. Yinka Odumakin whom she met in detention.

She has lived a better part of life as an activist, remained consistent without minding the hazards to her person in a society where critical voices are loathed by an unjust system which rewards the crook and punishes the just. Her consistency and unwavering determination for survival of democracy in Nigeria made Professor Wole Soyinka to describe her as “a tireless fighter whose frail bearing bellies an inner strength and resilience purpose, a veteran of affirmative marches, of crude arrest and detentions, batons, charges and tear gas who has lent luster to the struggle for justice and human dignity, who remain an inspiration of men and women, old and young”


“In Africa, and specifically in Nigeria, the price we pay for silence is great. In addition to rape, molestation, enslavement, denied opportunities and the rest, young girls are being abducted. The price is great, to fight for what is right. It is even greater, more so, fatal, to be silent.”

“Women would handle affairs better if given the opportunity. History is replete with women dynamically changing how the society runs,”

“Organizing women to assert their rights and taking their destiny in their hands rather than being apologetic.


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