When the story of Nigeria’s most accomplished women, be it in the sphere of politics and governance or entrepreneurship, is written, Mrs. Oyibo Ekwulo Odinamadu, who walked away from mortal earth at 94, on March 30, quietly, largely unsung, will belong right at the top as one of the finest the country has ever produced.
Ada Awkuzu, Ichie Odinamadu, MON, Akwuba, in her day, trodded the country’s political landscape like a true giant, and by the time she retired to quite life in her home state of Anambra on account of advanced age, she had accomplished great feats, as first of many things.
She was, it’s been said, the first female university graduate from the former Eastern Region of Nigeria; the first Igbo woman to get a driving license and drive a car; as well as the first indigenous principal of both Womens’ Training College Enugu (WTC) (1962) and Queens School Enugu (1970).
She was, too, the 1st National Vice-President of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the Second Republic.
Odinamadu had in 1978 called the shots in the party as Awolowo’s confidant and deputy preparatory to the 1979 polls which the UPN lost to the National Party of Nigeria at the Supreme Court in the historic and controversial judgment of 12 2/3 fame argued by the late Chief Richard Akinjide.
In 1979, she became the deputy governorship candidate of the party in Anambra State.
She was elected the first national vice-president of the party, a position she held until the party, among the others, was proscribed by the General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), now president of the country, and Brig. Tunde Idiagbon during their military administration, after their palace coup d’etat of January, 1984.
A statement by her son, Chief Osita Odinamadu, announcing her death, said she was also the first female university graduate from the former Eastern Region of the country, having graduated with the Bachelor of Arts in Education (History/Sociology) from Lincoln University of Missouri in 1952.
She later had Master of Arts in Education (Social and Philosophical Foundations) from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, U.S. in 1953.
Giving a brief on her history, the statement said she was born to Mr. Jacob Ekemezie Akwuba and Mrs. Dinah Mgboye Akwuba of Awkuzu town in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State of Nigeria, on Jan. 2, 1928.
The late Oyibo married Benedict Obidimma Odinamadu in 1957 and they were blessed with four children – two boys and two girls.
A staunch Christian, she was a Knight of St. Christopher of the Church Of Nigeria, (K.S.C) Anglican Communion, and was a retired public servant.
She returned home early in 1954 was employed as the Assistant Secretary with the Eastern Development Corporation the same year up to 1957 and, thereafter, as an Education Officer with the Ministry of Education.
She was appointed to various Government Boards and Parastatals between 1955 and 1999 including: Member of the Film Censorship Board; was a founding member of the Eastern Nigeria Women’s Amateur Athletic Association and served as its first Secretary.
She joined the Festival of the Arts Committee in 1955 on which she served until 1972 after the Nigeria – Biafra War.
In her career she rose to the rank of Inspector of Education and retired voluntarily in 1971.
Pursuing her literary interests, she published a book in 1980 entitled: “The Dilemma of The Igbo Political Elite’’, and was about to finalise the manuscript of a book, on her Igbo Customs Series, entitled: “Women In Igbo Land’’, to be published in two parts.
She was also working on another manuscript entitled: “My Journey Through Life: A Part Of History.”
An Activist for Fundamental Human Rights for Women, she was inducted into the Nigerian National Women’s Hall Of Fame 2004.
She instituted the Oyibo Odinamadu Foundation, which works to:
i. Support programs of Head-Start Kindergarten Education for children aged two to five years in Eastern Nigeria;
ii. Focus attention on issues of the denial of fundamental human rights to women and children, especially to the girl-child and widows, under OMENANA practices of Igbo traditional Native Laws and Customs;
The Foundation works to help sustain the clarion call for attention to be directed to these oppressive and punitive practices, locally, nationally and internationally.
This is in sustained effort to bring pressures to bear continuously on the appropriate authorities for the reformation or abrogation of these laws and practices that oppress women and the girl-child.
iii. Continue with the efforts that focus attention on the societal ills of Nigeria, and towards their amelioration.
The statement said the children had promised to accomplish her No. i Project through donations of materials for instruction and would approach No. ii & iii through writing and publishing of articles and books, as well as by sometimes speaking under the Igbo Customs Series programme