Since 2015 the Emerging African Leaders programme has been hosted at the University of Cape Town through the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice.Since it began, 74 changemakers from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia have gathered in Cape Town with the aim of strengthening public leadership on the continent. Participants shared stories, reflected on what it is to be an African leader and drew strength from one another.
This is the first in a series of profiles on some of the participants of that programme. Through this series we aim to expand their network of ideas and inspiration and showcase some of Africa's changemakers.
Meet Jake Okechukwu Effoduh.
Jake has just founded #Law2Go, a mobile app and website that promotes access to legal services in Nigeria. He is the Assistant Director of the Council on African Security and Development (CASADE). CASADE is a non-profit research-driven collective of experts and academics that carries out specific projects, and offers guidance and counsel to African ministries, agencies, universities and international organizations. Effoduh has also been a freelance radio presenter with the BBC Media Action since 2006 and is now anchoring “Talk Your Own Make Naija Better,” Nigeria’s most popular radio programme which is aired on over 150 radio stations with more than 30 million Nigerians tuning in weekly. Taking the format of a 30-minute weekly magazine programme, it features interviews and walkabouts to hold leaders to account, and explores tools people can use to engage the government on the decisions that affect their daily lives.
Jake won the 2014 Future Africa Awards for Community Activism; the 2015 Africa Youth Choice Award for Human Rights and the 2016 African Broadcaster of the Year Award. He holds a Legum Baccalaureus from the University of Abuja and a Masters in Law from the University of Oxford.
What work do you do?
I am a lawyer and a budding academic.
You attended the University of Abuja? What was that like for you?
I gained a high sense of social tutelage and social knowledge from being a student of Uni-Abuja. The school, and the Faculty of Law there fertilized my activist potential and helped me develop my socio-legal and political consciousness. I also enjoyed the robust and hybrid style of legal education practiced in the school, and by being a part of the school’s Law Clinic, I developed skills in professional communication, dispute resolution and non-profit lawyering. Besides the academic aspect of my six years there, the school environment (though emergent at the time) was bustling with so much innovation, student entrepreneurship, and an infectious spirit of ebullience which I experienced almost every day on campus. Located in Nigeria’s capital and at the middle of the country, the school attracted students from various regions and was easily labelled the most diverse and multicultural higher institution in the country. The weather was mostly fiery but there were so many social activities organized by students. University of Abuja equipped me for the world and I have forged lifelong friendships since my time there.
Why do you think the medium of radio is important on the continent?
More than 75% of African households do not own television sets, or even have the privilege of connecting to the internet, yet 75% of African households have radio sets. This makes the radio medium one of the largest platforms for information dissemination. Using radio effectively in Africa is super-powerful because where cars and Twitter cannot reach, radio can. With a transistor radio costing less than a dollar, and needing little or no electricity, many Africans still use their radio sets as their means of connecting to the world and entertaining themselves. You can call it old-fashioned today, but radio is an auspicious medium for transforming lives and connecting people on the continent, especially the majority of people who are cut off from the latest trends of information technology.
What inspired you to study law?
As a teenager, I didn’t like the helplessness I felt in the face of abuse and discrimination. I was tired of just saying “this is not fair” or “this is not right” to every injustice that I witnessed or experienced. I wanted a more satisfying response, but more essentially, I wanted to know what to do, where to go, and what the law provided for. My passion for human rights and social justice led me into studying law. I was already an actor and a performer at age 17 but in deciding what I wanted for a career, I felt a strong sense of calling for the law profession. I got into my first year of law school at 19, the same year I began radio advocacy. Both activities, law education and radio journalism, were mutually reinforcing. Today I find myself integrating both my practice of law and my advocacy on radio, to achieve related outcomes.
What is your biggest wish for Nigeria?
I wish that Nigeria will experience better leadership and preserve what is good and working for Her.
What makes you excited about our continent?
Our peoples, languages, cultures, and cuisines never cease to impress and amaze me. Every day I learn something new. Also, the many opportunities and the unexplored potential, unlike anywhere else in the world, is something that excites me about Africa. I hope and pray that we adequately utilize them and not let them be exploited or deteriorate.
What do you think the biggest challenges of the continent are?
Today, Africa is pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial all at the same time. This tripartite “situation-ship” is the bane of our dear continent, I believe.
Who are your African role models?
Some of my African role models are Professor Obiora Okafor who is Chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (Learn more at: http://www.osgoode.yorku.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Okafor_Obiora.pdf); Professor John Ifediora who is the Director of the Council on African Security and Development (Learn more: http://www.ifediora.com/); Professor Frans Viljoen who is the Director for the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria (Learn more: http://www.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/prof-frans-viljoen.html); Professor Bolaji Owasanoye who is the current chairperson of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission in Nigeria (Learn more: https://www.icirnigeria.org/graduate-at-21-masters-holder-at-24-professor-at-38-meet-owasanoye-the-new-icpc-chairman/) and Paul Kagame who is the current President of Rwanda. (Learn more: http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2859/Kagame-Paul.html) and John Magufuli who is the current President of Tanzania. (Learn more: http://newafricanmagazine.com/john-magufuli-tanzanias-rising-star/).
They have achieved so much for themselves but beyond “self”, they have invested selflessly in so many other people, systems, and institutions in Africa. I am a beneficiary of their exemplary leadership and I am inspired by their common vision for an African renaissance with its unique brand of democracy, human rights and development.
Check out the following links to learn more about Jake and his work:
#Law2Go website: https://law2go.org/
Jake talking about #Law2Go in his capacity as a Library Innovation Lab Fellow at Harvard, and inviting you to play a part in its development: https://vimeo.com/228490242
Listen in to ‘Talk Your Own Make Naija Better’ and check it out on Twitter https://twitter.com/TalkYourOwn