It is a popular lie but it is doubtful whether any one really believes it – that all human beings are equal. As far as I know people differ from the word go.
Conceptions can and are indeed unequal. Births are unequal. People came to this world in different ways and circumstances.
While here, they live unequally and when they die, they also die unequally. Even after shedding the mortal garb, they leave behind unequal memories remembrances and even consequences.
The life and times of a former mortal being, Professor Jadesola Olayinka Akande (Mrs.) amply proves thus.
It is not every mortal who has for progenitors, the rich, the famous and the powerful. Jadesola (as Professor Akande was simply known then) came from a renowned parentage. Her father Chief V.A Esan was a high chief in Ibadan, Oyo State while her mother, was a well known woman leader (Iyalode of Ibadan) educationist and a social activist, a contemporary of the legendary Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, the mother of all the famous Kuti brothers of the 1970s - 2006, Koye, Fela and Beko).
When the girl-child ripened to womanhood and heeded the call of matrimony, she did not weld her soul, spirit and body to an “efulefu” man but rather to a man of timer and caliber, the late Adebowale Akande, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a foremost bar activist and leader, who ended up as – chairman of the very prestigious and highly influential Body of Benchers. It was this stylish and debonair Adebowale better known as Debo Akande who by the singular act of capture by marriage replaced Jadesola’s famous surname with his own equally famous name, and which name she bore proudly and wore like a bejeweled crown for forty - five years until her death.
Jadesola trained to be a lawyer and once qualified, in the broad- spectrum of the profession, chose to be a teacher. By dint of hard work, she became a Professor of Law, the very first female Professor of Law, as reports claim, in Nigeria. Jadesola was not just a teacher, but became an administrator. Crossing from the University of Lagos, she joined the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos on 2nd October 1985 to serve as Head of Department of Law. Then in 1987 she became the Foundation Dean of the newly created Faculty of Law, LASU till September 1988 when she became the Acting Vice - Chancellor of the University.
In April 1989 her appointment as substantive Vice – Chancellor was confirmed, a post she held till 31st March 1933.
After leaving her LASU job, which had become too hot, no thanks to restive workers and Students’ Unions, Jadesola did not fade into oblivion as many in her shoes would have done.
And, in the opinion of this magazine, therein lies the diamond’s strongest claim to greatness. She devoted her energies to promoting and protecting women’s rights, thus becoming a leading gender-activist.
Apart from collaborating with other women - interests group like FIDA, COWLSO, Akande founded the Women, Law and Development Centre, WOLDEC and became a consultant to bodies of the United Nations and African Union as a consultant on gender issues.
In 2000, Jadesola was appointed the Pro-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Akure and remained so until 2004.
How Jadesola ever came to be awarded and conferred with the Commander of the Order of the Niger in 1998 was a wonder. Not because the woman of substance did not deserve the award, and even more, but because in Nigeria, it is not in the character of the powers that be to give honour to the likes of Jadesola Akande, men and women of principle and advocates of social justice and liberty.
In December 2005, Jadesola, a Professor of Law, a Former Vice - Chancellor, was at the head of a body of women protesting against the unsafe skies that Nigeria had become, with the rash of plane crashes all over the country. The latest outrage was the Sosoliso plane crash that took away the lives of dozens of travelers including many school children.
The Jadesola Akande led protest was to take the form of a walk from the Opic Plaza along the Mobolaji Bank Anthony Road to the Government Secretariat. The women were armed with nothing more than their head ties and placards but the authorities responded by sending the police to tear-gas the protesters and scatter them.
Jadesola was no stranger to demonstrations. There were plenty of that in her regime as Vice- Chancellor LASU, especially in the last two years, (1991 – 1992) when virtually all the unions on the LASU Campus (LASUSU, ASUU, SATHURAI and NASU) were against her administration.
It is on record that Jadesola, tough and resilient as she was, refused to apply for a second term as Vice-Chancellor which she was entitled to in 1993, in the face of the combined forces of the Doctor, now Professor Dapo Asaju led ASUU-LASU and the Olawale Okuniyi (later Publicity Secretary, PRONACO) led LASUSU. The iron lady, of LASU as she was then known mercifully and narrowly escaped a tragic fate on December 8 1992 in the hands of rioting students who were flabbergasted to hear that Jadesola, who only twelve hours ago had openly come to agreement with ASUU-LASU leaders over car- refurbishment loans, turned round to say defiantly that she would not respect the agreement since it was forced on her under duress!
Not one to be intimidated, Jadesola responded by giving summary expulsion without trial to the leaders of the Students’ rebellion against her authority who were only recalled in October 1993 after prolonged legal and political battles.
Interestingly, long before her death, Mama, as she was popularly called by her students reconciled with virtually all the expelled Students’ Union leaders, who too in the maturity of latter years realised that just like them Jadesola was a kindred activist spirit and not the “Oyiboyi” they had wrongly thought her to be in the past.
At 68, Jadesola’s death came as a rude shock to many, especially when she was known to have participated fully and actively in a five - hour long birthday ceremony for another worthy child of Nigeria Chief Gani Fawehinmi S.A.N, on Monday 28th April 2008. Fawehinmi turned 70 on April 22nd 2008.
According to family sources, the amazon was hale and hearty all through Monday 28th April 2008 and went to bed, without any complaints. That was the last time, she would be seen alive, for by the morrow, the great educationist, administrator, lawyer, gender activist, social activist, and patriot was found dead in her bedroom. The real and true of death is known only possibly to her family, although her sudden death may be connected to the fact that since the death of her beloved husband Debo Akande, in 2004, it was said that she had no special interest in continuing life’s journey.
All said and done, Jadesola had a fortunate earthly existence. She had god parentage, a happy marriage and led a productive and useful life. She had left behind children and estates. But most importantly she left a good name.Blessed are the memories of the Just; so says the Scriptures Rest in Peace, Jadesola Olayinka Akande, great amazon and woman of substance. May the after-life be even more pleasant for your noble soul!