Politics changed my style – Jumoke Akindele


Ms. Jumoke Akindele emerged the first female Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly two weeks ago. In this interview, the ebullient politician talks about her life and career

 How best can you be described?

I am Hon. Jumoke Akindele, Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly. I’m a lawyer by training and I have over 20 years post-call experience. I practised law as a profession before I ventured into politics.

 What led you into politics?

I have always been interested in politics and how things were going on in the society. The turning point was my disenchantment with the government of the day. They failed to deliver on all their promises. If you tell me you are going to give me a good road, you must do it. When you make promises, endeavour to keep them and let me see that you are making efforts to keep them. That is why Governor Mimiko will continue to enjoy my support because I can see he is working. I chose to go into partisan politics in 2006. Then, I was in Lagos and I was invited to Okitipupa. I was a sympathiser, not a card-carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party, particularly during the administration of the late governor Olusegun Agagu. He was my kinsman and he was somebody I respected. I joined the Labour Party and contested in the April 2007 elections for the House of Assembly. I was not particular about winning but we were robbed. We went to the Election Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, but we did not lose hope. Again, another opportunity came in 2011 to re-contest for the Okitipupa State Constituency II seat and I won the election.

 What were the hurdles you crossed before getting to this level?

I have crossed several but I always resolved to find a way of doing things better.

 How have you fared in politics?

At the risk of sounding immodest, I think I have done better in terms of giving quality representation to my people, whose will I came to do in the House. The question can appropriately be answered by those who elected me to be in the House. They should be marking the script and scoring me. But speaking from my angle, I have done the very best that one can do.

 What has happened to your law practice?

Law is a jealous mistress, one that is very difficult to divorce. Once a lawyer, it permeates your being. I am not sure I can ever leave law. I don’t think so.

 Kindly shed light on your background?

I am a princess from Idepe, Okitipupa, and I was born when my father was a king. As a princess, I was privileged and I had a father who believed in the girl child. He loved his daughters and ensured that no comfort was denied us to the best of his ability. We had a home filled with people because my father had four wives. All of us related peacefully together and from there, I learnt how to relate with people. When I came to the House of Assembly, it was easy for me to cope because of the experience I had in my father’s house.

 Was that why you studied law?

My father was very keen on our education. Unfortunately, he fell ill at a time when I was quite young. Even on his sick bed, he was still interested in how we fared in school. I attended St. John’s Primary School, Okitipupa and I was at St. Luke’s Secondary School, Ondo in 1976. I left the school in 1981, but did not go to the university until 1982. I was among the first batch of students taken to study law at the University of Ife in 1982. By the grace of God, I was brilliant, coped very well with my studies and the quality of education was different was what it is now.

 How did you feel when you emerged speaker?

My immediate predecessor was a politician of note and an astute administrator. He did so much to forge unity in the House and for us to have a good working relationship with the executive. It was with trepidation that I accepted to step into his shoes. Not because I have any doubt but I am humbled that God chose me to be the first to make history. I am humbled that my peers have chosen me to lead them. They must have seen something in me to have reposed such confidence in me. I am fully dependent on God and my leaders, particularly Governor Olusegun Mimiko, and members of the House of Assembly, to make a success of this.

 Were you scared of the male politicians you contested with?

It is only a stupid person who undermines his or her opponent. It is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Yes, I was a bit scared, but what that did for me was an impetus to work harder to ensure that I emerged victorious. I want to really appreciate my colleagues, especially those that stood by me and those that opposed me. In their own way, they contributed to this success.

 How did you get the majority of the men in the House to support you?

I also had the advantage of coming from a zone that was slated for the position. Also, I had been loyal to the Labour Party. I had people who encouraged me and I believed I could do it with God on my side.

 How do you juggle your life as a politician, mother and a wife?

If you know how to manage yourself, these things should not cause a conflict. In my life, these are not issues at all but it is my legal profession that suffers more. Although that is only in the practice of it; in living it, law is still very much with me. As a mother, I have done reasonably well. It is easier if you have to put the children in boarding schools but I have a little child and he is coping. Also, I have enjoyed immense support from my family, especially from my brother. Other extended family members are always there to help out too.

 How fashionable is Madam Speaker?

When I was practising law, I loved a lot of dresses, smart skirts, suits and I have lots of jeans. But with politics, I found myself being very comfortable with Ankara especially because of my skin type. I also love to wear jeans, I love dressing appropriately and with the way I dress, my colleagues call me ‘Iya Iyawo, (mother of the bride) in the House.

 How do you unwind in spite of your busy schedule?

I just stay in my room, switch off my phones, enjoy a meal and I recharge. I also pray. I am not too good at that, but I pray, because I have seen God’s hand in my life. I make out time to be with Him, and by that, He recharges me. I also read.

 What is your advice to other women who are trying to break even in politics?

They should look inwards and stay focused. Nothing good comes easy but if you stay focused, chances are high that you will get there. Whatever you do, maintain a level of moral rectitude and when good positions are up for consideration, you can be recommended. It has not been easy for women in politics but we should always support one another. Women should not pull down one another. Let’s shun pettiness and confide in ourselves. Know your onions, train yourself, be conversant with happenings around you, read newspapers, edify yourself and men will see that you have become a light that cannot be put under a bushel.

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  • Wale

    Hon Jumoke Akindele, you’re blessed !

    You’ve always been an honest person who had the interest of the masses at heart.
    God shall continue to bless, guide and protect you.