Jake Okechukwu Effoduh is a Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, Actor, and Broadcaster. Jake is known to millions of Nigerians nationwide. For about a decade now, he has anchored groundbreaking programmes as a presenter for the BBC Media Action in Nigeria, From 2006 when he began anchoring the programme "Flava" which was dubbed the tastiest Show on Naija Radio.
Jake won the award for the Best Community Radio Presenter at the Nigeria Radio Awards in 2012. In 2014 he received the prestigious Future Africa Award for Community Action in Africa. He has recently been awarded the 2015 Africa Youth Choice Awards in Human Rights and Advocacy. He is currently listed by ventureburn.com as one of the 50 Africans that would transform the continent.
Jake steps on The Platform, and we talked about his advocacy projects, broadcasting, his visit to Vatican City and lots more.
ThankGod: You are one of the busiest enterprising young Nigerians I know, Thanks for making out time to be on The Platform.
Jake: Thank you so much for the privilege to be on the Platform. I am very grateful.
ThankGod: You are involved in a lot of advocacy projects, what inspired this move?
Jake: The bewildering levels of injustice and inequality in Nigeria and indeed many countries across the world are persuasive enough. I didn’t need to wait for a personal experience to become a human rights activist. We don’t have to look too far for examples. Is it not unfounded that we are an oil-dependent economy yet we allocate oil wells to private individuals? How can the principal natural resource that sustains the economy and endowed by nature to the citizens, and thus collectively owned, be put in the hands of a private few. How?
Since the 1980s, the Nigerian governments have betrayed the public trust by systematically selling off or allocating to private individuals the various oil wells that constitute the primary source of the country’s national wealth. This is a human rights violation. It may have been disguised as part of a market-driven agenda of privatization of state-owned enterprises recommended by the country’s international creditors in the 1990s but truly it is robbing the citizens their economic and social rights. On all accounts it is a rotten policy for the country, and for millions of its long-suffering citizens who, on any given day, are deprived of the most basic of entitlements and amenities. This is just one example out of a thousand others.
ThankGod: As a Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, do you think the Nigerian Judicial system has been fair in its judgement especially in cases of abuse?
Jake: Hardly. Our judicial system is obsolescent and dysfunctional. I know research shows that there has been some improvement with our justice delivery and the reliance of the masses on the courts but many of our laws are anachronistic with huge gaps in procedure. How can there be the maintenance of law and order in a system where it has almost become impossible to reach closures in criminal cases. Look at our prisons, there is not a single prison in Nigeria that isn’t overcrowded. Not one! 70% of inmates are awaiting trial. Many of them have even exceeded the term of imprisonment for which they were accused. Is that not crazy? Let’s take Awka prison in Anambra State for example; the building capacity is designed for about 200 inmates but they have more than 500 inmates inside. Only about 28 of them are convicts while 481 of them are awaiting trial. And when you look at the offences they are charged for, you’ll be amazed that they are minor offences like petty theft. You and I know the real people who deserve to be serving jail terms for their massive atrocities, but on the contrary they are chilling in their air conditioned houses and being celebrated on the media. So this system is like a huge cobweb with many defects. And this cobweb may hang small insects like spiders but it definitely cannot hang cows; Sacred cows.
ThankGod: What’s your advice on what can be done?
Jake: We need reforms. This cannot be overemphasized. All three components of the system must be revamped: the judicial process, the corrections and the law enforcements. For example, I see no reason why our policemen should not undertake the kind of legal education and training we get from our law schools. If a man will enforce the law, shouldn’t he at least know in detail, the law he will be enforcing? We have to find a solution to the delay in the dispensation of criminal justice in this county; it is frustrating. We have to decongest the prisons, if for nothing, for the sake of reducing tuberculosis at the very least. We have to do away with our outdated procedures. Punishments should not be restricted to fines and imprisonments only. Our procedural laws should be explicit on time frame for every performance of statutory duty in court. Finally, our system holds little or no protection to victims of violence and there is also a very limited access to justice for the poor. This is one of the reasons why I set up an NGO that provides pro bono legal services to indigent persons.
|Jake at the Annual Curators Meeting in Geneva|
ThankGod: In 2014 you came up with “42 Rules of Engagement for Nigerian House Girls”, what motivated the campaign?
Jake: [Laughs] It wasn’t a campaign actually. They are just a list of rules I came up with; just for fun, and I shared them with some colleagues. They shared it with their friends and it spread like that. However, most of the rules, if not all of them, made reference to certain human rights and freedoms that everybody should be entitled to, whether or not they are domestic servants.
ThankGod: Can you share some of these rules with us?
Jake: Sure. I made reference to some labour and employment issues in domestic service. Like in Rule 30 I said a domestic servant should be entitled to at least one month of leave in a year. In Rule 37 I said, “If you keep her working till late night, please compensate her by allowing her a few hours of morning sleep. Also, you cannot enter cab and ask her to trek.” And then in Rule 42 I talked about the need for house girls to receive their complete remuneration and promptly too. Rule 7 says “She is allowed to look for a better madam even under your employ. You cannot ban or frustrate her from seeking better employment”. Rule 10: Under no circumstance should you barb her hair without her consent.” Rule 12: “Don’t tell her to carry load that you yourself cannot carry.” [Laughs]. They aren’t rules per se, just my way of promoting the good treatment of domestic servants.
|Jake poses with his Future Africa Award 2014|
ThankGod: How does it feel like to be recognized by ventureburn.com as one of the “50 young Africans who could totally transform the Continent”, also for winning the Future Africa Award for Community Action in Africa (2014), and the 2015 Africa Youth Choice Awards in Human Rights and Advocacy?
Jake: It feels great and I am indeed very grateful. When you are doing a thing that takes your time, resources and energy, and even puts your life at risk sometimes, such recognition is highly appreciated. It tells me that my work is valued. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve, and the ability to do the work that I do.
ThankGod: Tell us about the #FreeAndEqualNaija Campaign and what it is about?
Jake: It was for the International Human Rights Day, which we celebrate every 10th of December. For 2014, the United Nations tagged it “celebrating 20 years of changing lives through human rights.” Instead of organizing a celebration amidst our meager human rights achievements, I and a few other human rights defenders decided to do an educative media campaign. Our message was and still is, that all Nigerians are entitled to respect and dignified treatments, no matter who they are. From women and girls; internally displaced persons; persons living with (dis) abilities; LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex Persons); senior citizens; persons living with HIV and every marginalized and vulnerable section of our larger community must be accorded equal rights. We adapted the UN’s Free and Equal Campaign for LGBT Equality because LGBTI persons are one of the most marginalized persons in Nigeria and we wanted to throw more light on LGBT equality, something most human rights activists in Nigeria are scared of doing. So the campaign reached out to millions of Nigerians through radio interviews on 6 radio stations across the country; newspaper publications on national dailies; blog posts and twitter campaigns which reached about 300, 000 persons on twitter alone. The #FreeAndEqualNaija campaign highlighted many human rights violations but promoted the equality of all persons, hoping that one day soon we will all live in a Nigeria that protects all the fundamental human rights of its diverse citizenry equally.
In the second edition this year, the campaign focused majorly on LGBTI equality in Nigeria and the outcomes were 7 rounds of radio interviews, 12 news stories published, 2 twitter chats, a rally and a TV interview with the minister of Information Lai Mohammed as well as a debate with Senator Bala N'allah, the sponsor of the popularly dubbed #AntiSocialMediaBill. On Twitter, participation entreated about 860,000 persons and reaching 4.8 million users.
ThankGod: You anchored Flava, a youth lifestyle and sexual reproductive health magazine programme, for BBC Media Action for almost 7 years and you traveled to all 36 states of Nigeria doing this programme. What Impact did it have on you?
Jake: It has so far been the most valuable experience of my life and it is still one of the biggest projects I ever undertook. Not because of the recognition and popularity it brought me, but because of the magnitude of impact the programme generated. As one of the outputs of the BBC Media Action in Nigeria, the highest level of media professionalism was invested into the programme and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.
Flava inflamed my passion for human rights. And prior to Flava, I had no experience in radio broadcasting, so everything I have learned as a radio presenter started with Flava. But Flava wasn’t just a radio programme, it was a movement: A powerful movement that has shown us how one radio programme can realize the behavioral change of millions of people, especially in a country as diverse as Nigeria. From being aired on 25 stations in its first year, the programme was aired in 115 radio stations in its seventh year. Personally, I cannot compare the experience I gained presenting the programme to anything else because I have seen so much, I have learned so much and I have come to know so many amazing people around the country. For example, Matilda Ogunleye who I mostly presented the programme with is now like a best friend to me.
|Jake during the Meeting at Vatican City|
ThankGod: Pope Francis invited you to Vatican City to draft a new social contract for the world, tell us about it and what you think about the pope and his stance on certain contemporary ethical issues?
Jake: I really love this Pope. He is a progressive non-conformer. My meeting at the Vatican was organized by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the Holy See and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. They called together 80 leaders from around the world, and we all met in Rome to explore ways of overcoming social and economic exclusion. The meeting was inspired by the teachings of Pope Francis contained in his book, “Evangelii Gaudium”. His Holiness posits that, “Business is - in fact - a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life”. With a billion and a half of the world’s population living in slums, the current social inequality has resulted into a global economic dysfunction. Economic and social inequalities are in my opinion the root causes of social evil. This is evidenced by Oxfam’s statistics revealing that more than half of the world’s population owns the same wealth as the richest 85 persons. So we examined the drivers of inequality and explored novelties from the private and public sectors, and civil society that can help build more inclusive, entrepreneurial economies that are based on the principles of love and respect for all people. The outcome of the meeting was the creation of a new social contract for all human progress, which will provide essential resources for economic engagement; ensure well-functioning institutions, rights and responsibilities; and enable all global citizens to lead purposeful lives.
ThankGod: It’s been a refreshing time talking with you Jake, thanks for your time and I wish you greater heights in all your endeavors.
Jake: Thanks for having me, ThankGod.
This interview was conducted by ThankGod Okorisha, All rights reserved, 22nd December, 2015.