She is an amazon, foremost activist and veteran of many progressive battles. She has been in detention at least 17 times. She has thread where others chicken out. She is courageous and consistent in her chosen destiny path. Dr Josephine (popularly called Dr Joe) was born in Zaria on July 4. She grew up in Ilorin and attended St. Barnabas Primary School, Ilorin where she obtained her first school leaving certificate. Her secondary education was at the Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Ilorin, and thereafter, she undertook her A’ levels at the School of Basic Studies, Kwara State Polytechnic. Dr. Josephine earned a BA.Ed in English and Education in 1987 from the University of Ilorin. She earned her M.Ed in Guidance and Counselling and her Ph.D. (History and Policy of Education) from the same institution in 1996.
Dr. Joe is presently the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies, the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative; the Chairman, Task Force of the Citizen Forum, Spokesperson, Coalition of Civil Society Organizations and President, Centre for Change in Community Development and Public Awareness(CDP). The Women Arise for Change Initiative aims to work for the women folk, breaking the culture of silence and finding expression for themselves in the social, political and economic relations in Nigeria. It also encourages women to come together to stand up against misuse and abuse by our male dominated society.
A trail of recognition and awards has followed this brave and fearless crusader for justice. Her most recent, and I daresay most prestigious is the 2013 United State Secretary of State’s International Woman of Courage Award. One of only ten women, Dr. Joe received the award from the U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the Secretary of state, John Kerry at the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the US State Department at a ceremony which coincided with the International Women’s Day, March 8th.
Here is the excerpt of the interview she had with adegboyegailori.com;
In the press, the President was reported to have said the Chibok girls are alive, what is your take on this?
‘’I am an incurable optimist. I am so optimistic that the Chibok girls are alive. I can never contemplate thinking of the worst happening to those girls. They are our today, our tomorrow, our sisters, the people we hold up to, they are our heroine. So, never ever can one even contemplate that they are no more. People have asked me if they have not been hypnotised and used as suicide bombers but I believe that our Chibok girls are alive. They might be scattered here and there, some of them may have been held incommunicado but I believe they are alive.
You have been at the forefront of many progressive battles what kind of country are you looking for?
A country where justice, fairness and equity reigns, a country where true federalism will be practised, a country where equality will be for all, a country where people will be proud of having Nigerian dream, American dream, a country whre people will really want to see as safe, where terrorism will become a thing of the past, where corruption will be hated like any other crime, a country where our institutions will be strenghtened in order for those institutions to thrive. A country where a vibrant judiciary will be put in place so that people do not take laws into their hands. Jungle justice has become a re-occuring decimal. We look forward to a country where truth will always prevail and that can also be done where there is a change of mindset. A mindset that believes nothing will work, that only criminals are the only ones making it. A mindset of people becoming suicide bombers because of indoctrination.
As election approaches, which of the two prominent Presidential candidates is your choice?
‘(Laughs)…. I do not have a preferred candidate or party. As a human right campaigner, I believe that my duty is to engage the people in education, sensitisation and let people know the manifestoe of candidates. To let people know that they have the power in their thumb. That they have power to put people in the right position and to remove them. That is why I am for politics of issues, not politics of thuggery, hate campaign so that our people would have seen the signature on the wall. They would have known the candidate that will deliver the dividends of democracy. So, my role as election approaches is that people must brace up, shine their eyes. They should not let anyone use them or their kids as thugs. They should not trade what they have on a platter of gold!
If you have opportunity of seeking elective position or if your people say they want you in politics what will be your response?
To clear the air because alot of people have been asking me about politics but I can never seek political office. Mine is to always help in ensuring that people know their right and what to do. We have done series of training on this for people. Political office is something I can never contemplate and my people can never want me in politics. They won’t want me in a place where I cannot be able to render service. The local government is the closest to the people but I can never consider joining politics still. When I won the 2013 International women of courage award people produced T-shirts asking me to contest for the Presidency but you see, I am not interested in politics at all. I am only interested in Nigeria that works. And all of us cannot be in government at the same time. My own path that I have chosen is that path of ensuring that things are done right.
On a lighter note; Everytime I see you, you always appear in trousers, do you wear skirts?
The last time I wore skirt was 1992 when I was leading a protest in Kwara state for the committee for the defence of human right, I was the chairperson and also coordinator for the campaign for democracy. So, while leading the protest I was seriously beaten. My skirt was torn, I fell into a gutter very high and with water and I sustained a serious injury and the gutter was not flowing. I was in a mess. So, when the mobile police eventually brought me out, I was just lucky to see the carf of one of the women selling something that was also running, so I picked up the scarf and tied it. That incident happened on a Thursday. So from Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, till I was taken to court I tied the scarf until my parents brought clothes for me. When I came out of detention, I gave out all my skirts to the orpahanges and since then I have not worn skirts.
Your husband endorsed one of the prominent presidential candidates, though he is not a human right campaigner like you but that is contrary to your position right now.
Yes, that is the beauty of democracy. People should be free to express their choice and their choice should be respected. Right from the time we came together, it has always been like that.
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Adegboyega ILORI is an author and a life coach. You can follow Adegboyega ILORI on twitter @gboyegailori and facebook @ www.facebook.com/adegboyega.ilori