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SPOTTED: Ayo Obe, Okei-Odumakin missing as Tinubu names only ONE woman among over 30 democracy heroes

President Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, named only one woman in his list of over 30 democratic heroes in Nigeria.

The president mentioned only Kudirat Abiola, wife of Moshood Abiola, presumed winner of the 1993 June 12 election, and excluded a few well-known women from his list.

Kudirat was assassinated in June 1996. She had fought for her husband’s mandate and died in the process.

In his speech marking the annual June 12 Democracy Day, Tinubu named over 30 persons that contributed to the success of the nation’s democratic governance.

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“In this struggle, the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, the most significant symbol of our democratic struggle, his wife, Kudirat, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, and Pa Alfred Rewane amongst other sacrificed their very lives,” Tinubu said.

“Let us honour the memories of Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Frank Kokori, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Ganiyu Dawodu, Chief Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief Olabiyi Durojaiye, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chima Ubani, and others who have transited to the higher realm.

“The sacrifices of General Alani Akinrinade, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Ralph Obioha, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, among many others, should never be forgotten. For at least six years, they bore the pains and difficulties of life in exile.

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“While the exiled pro-democracy activists kept the fire burning, their comrades at home sustained the pressure on the military leadership. Among the latter are Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, Abdul Oroh, Senator Shehu Sani, Governor Uba Sani, Chief Olu Falae, and other National Democratic Coalition leaders such as Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Ayo Opadokun.”

Tinubu said the sacrifices made by the heroes can neither be repaid nor forgotten.

However, there are other outstanding women who have also etched their names in the notable contributions to democracy in Nigeria.

AYO OBE

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As the president of the Civil Liberties Organisation, she was at the forefront of the crusade to actualise the 1993 presidential election success of the late MKO Abiola.

The story of Nigeria’s return to democracy cannot be told without including Ayo Obe, a leading lawyer and human rights activist.

For the past few decades, she has been an important figure in the country’s social, legal, and human rights movements.

As the president of the Civil Liberties Organisation, she was at the forefront of the crusade to actualise the 1993 presidential election success of the late MKO Abiola.

Obe has been in the thick of the fight for democratic reforms in  Nigeria for several years.

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In March 1996, Obe’s passport was seized while she was leaving Nigeria to attend a meeting of the UN Human Rights Committee in New York.

From 1999 to 2001, Obe chaired the Transition Monitoring Group, an election-monitoring and democracy-building coalition of Nigerian non-governmental organisations. She also represented human rights NGOs while at the Police Service Commission (PSC) from November 2001 to 2006.

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Obe is currently a managing partner at Ogunsola Shonibare, a Lagos-based law firm.

JOE OKEI-ODUMAKIN 

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Okei-Odumakin was detained for not less than seventeen times at different locations from Ilorin to Abuja and Lagos during the administration of Babangida

Josephine “Joe” Okei-Odumakin cut her teeth in activism as the secretary of Women in Nigeria (WIN), Kwara state, from 1988 – 1991 and the body’s coordinator from 1991 – 1996. She also served as chairperson, Rethink Nigeria from 1987 – 1992 and chairperson, committee for the defense of human rights in Kwara from 1990 – 1996.

Okei-Odumakin’s foray into human rights activism was at a period when the Babangida dictatorship was baring its fangs and locking up critical voices. She became one of the targets of the administration as she was arrested and detained for not less than seventeen times at different locations from Ilorin to Abuja and Lagos.

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However, her spirit was not daunted as she became the assistant general secretary of the campaign for democracy (CD) in 1994 at a time the battle against the annulment of June 12 had become so fierce

Okei-Odumakin became the body’s president on July 29, 2006. She is also the executive director of the Institute of Human Rights and Democratic Studies; the president of Women Arise for Change Initiative; chairperson, Task Force of the Citizen Forum; spokesperson, Coalition of Civil Society Organizations; and president, Centre for Change in Community Development and Public Awareness(CDP).

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