one look at Jumoke pedro, and you can see a certain calmness in her composure. But don’t let it fool you into thinking she lives a life of carefree luxury—Jumoke is arguably one of the most brilliant and accomplished female lawyers in Nigeria today. The wife of Former deputy governor of lagos state, otunba Femi pedro, she has over the past 37 years, steadily climbed the legal ladder and currently sits atop it as a Judge of the high court of lagos state.at the age of 60, she is not thinking of slowing down. instead, she hopes to continue to use her varied experiences to try to improve the Nigerian legal system. From serving the lagos state judiciary, to empowering the girl-child, and raising awareness about women issues and their health to being an author and a grandmother, Jumoke is a woman worth her weight in gold. in this interview with Konyechelsea Nwabogor, she talks about her journey to the bench and her favourite part of turning 60. What was your path to the bench like? and what was the most unexpected aspect of being a judge, once you were appointed?
My path to the bench was very adventurous but also challenging. It required a lot of hard work, dedication and diligence. after my a-levels, I gained admission to study law at the University of lagos and graduated in 1980. after being called to the Bar in 1981, and my nysC service, I worked briefly as a legal Practitioner at akin olugbade & Co- a firm of solicitors in lagos, before taking up employment in the lagos state Judiciary as a Magistrate in 1984.
I must add that I was fortunate to have joined the lower bench at that time because it was what paved the way for me to become a high Court Judge.
My 16 years as a Magistrate in the busy and eventful lower bench of lagos state was a very unforgettable learning experience. I worked in virtually all the Magistrate divisions and courts within lagos state- from Igbosere, surulere and Ikeja. I worked at ajegunle, apapa and several other Courts. I was also able to rise through the bench to become a Chief Magistrate. In 1996 I was later appointed as the registrar of Titles. I became the Chief registrar of the high Court of lagos state in 1999- a post I held for two years before my appointment as a Judge of the high Court of lagos state in august 2001.
The most unexpected aspect of being a judge is that it dawned on me how much of an impact our judicial decisions have on the lives of those who come to court. The courts remain the last hope for any litigant who feels aggrieved and seeks a remedy. I believe that - ‘To whom much is given much is to be expected’’ - luke 12:48.
Who or what influenced your career path?
several people have influenced me over the years. Firstly, I was inspired to pursue a career in law by my parents. My father – late Chief James adebayo oduwole was a strict disciplinarian. he wanted the best for me and was my cheerleader while my mother, Madam layode oduwole encouraged me throughout my years in school and in the legal field. My elder sister Mrs ronke adeseye a retired lecturer, also influenced me.
when I worked briefly at Polygram nig ltd, (a music recording company and a subsidiary of Phillips nig. ltd) immediately after my secondary school, there was a young and trendy female general Manager Chief Mrs Keji okunowo who was also an inspiration to me.
as a magistrate, I was fortunate to have been mentored by the likes of Chief Magistrates Mrs. Marian onafowokan and C.o Denton - both of blessed memory. I was also mentored and trained by late Chief Magistrate ade adeniran - who served as registrar of Titles whilst I served as his deputy. as the Chief registrar, I was privileged to serve meritoriously under four amazing Chief Judges notably, hon Justices samuel Ilori, sikiru adagun, Christopher segun and Ibilola sotuminu.
I must sincerely thank my husband of over 35 years, Femi Pedro, for being a pillar of support and encouragement throughout the journey thus far. I cannot imagine where I would be today, were it not for his support and understanding for over three decades of my professional career path.
What has been the most significant change to the legal profession since you started out?
The most significant change to the legal profession has to be the broad areas of specialization that lawyers have currently adopted. Today, we have lawyers who are specializing in areas like Maritime law, oil and gas, etc, and this is a welcome development in my opinion. some of the lawyers are also into arbitration and Mediation.
you turn 60 in a few days, what does this milestone age mean to you?
It means a lot to me, because it is only by the grace of god that I am where I am today. I am indeed blessed. I consider it a privilege and an honor to be called to serve my country in this capacity. I cannot take it for granted. I thank god for keeping me alive and healthy to this age.
I pray for many more healthy, glorious and eventful years ahead in my service to god and humanity.
going forward, do you see your new age reflecting on your day-to-day life and decisions?
we all grow old over time, and our perspective on life always changes. Certainly, as you grow older, you appreciate the little things in life, you learn to be more patient and you become wiser. now I am even more determined to continue to serve my country in the capacity for which I have been called without fear or favour. I am able to appreciate more the gift that god has given to me and to draw closer to him. It makes me appreciate my husband more and my children and grandchildren. Family has always been an important aspect of my life. without the support of the beautiful family that god has given me I could not have made it this far. My children and my husband are my greatest cheerleaders.
The family is the bedrock of nation building and where everything begins as god has ordained it to be and it will continue to remain at the forefront of all my decisions.
What major life lessons have you learnt so far?
I have learnt a lot of major life lessons but the most important of them is that you cannot rely on anyone but god. I have come to realise that men will sometime fail you but I have a god who never fails. I have learnt that patience is a virtue in order for us to be able to live a life of purpose. I believe that patience coupled with time, brings about the desired change we want in our lives. a life of contentment keeps one’s mind at peace and it is one of the attributes that will take you far in life. In order for the overarching vision of god to manifest in our lives, we must persevere. all these and more are contained in my book ‘grace For The race’. without courage, living a life of purpose may not be easy. above all, each and everyone of us will eventually have our wow moment in life. we must seize that moment and not allow it pass by, or else we will be like the servant in the bible who was said to have hidden the talent his master gave him in the ground. Matthew25; 14-26
What’s your favourite part of growing older?
The most pleasurable part of growing older is getting to see my children and my grandchildren grow! It is truly a joy to watch my grandchildren grow right before my eyes, and brings back fond memories of when my children were toddlers as well.
Why do you think society conditions women to fear the ageing process, and how have you avoided falling into that mentality?
There is the perception that you have to be young to be beautiful. we have women who are in their 70s and they are still looking beautiful. I think the ageing process for women naturally throws its own share of challenges at each and every woman. no matter how highly placed a woman is, the reality is that she is bound to go through similar evolutions of biology, body, and mind. Child bearing, for example, comes with its own share of uniqueness, as thus other aspects of a woman’s metamorphosis.
For me, I have tried to simply embrace these changes. of course, health issues are of paramount importance, but I believe that the best thing women can do is to try not to get bogged down by this evolution of body and mind. It is important to channel one’s thoughts towards how one can be more impactful in society, be it professionally, religiously or within the family construct.
let’s talk about your personal life. how were you able to juggle a successful career with being a mother and a wife to a politician?
It is not easy being a career woman and also a mother. It is particularly tasking for women who want to tow a professional path and also remain in control at the home front. I have been blessed with a strong support structure, and my husband has been tremendously accommodating. likewise, he also towed the career line for over two decades, before his foray into politics. The transition was difficult in the beginning, but smoothened out over time, particularly when our children grew older.
Do you believe in a work/life balance? could you share some tips ?
having a strong work/life balance is the key to
The role of the court is to be impartial and to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to have been done. This has continued to motivate me to tow the path of fairness in all matters before me.
success in whatever venture/career path you decide to pursue. It goes without saying that working hard is important. For me, serving in the church, writing books, spending time with my family, setting sail to as many travel destinations, and exercising as often as possible are the most critical ingredients to maintaining my own work/life balance, and I would encourage others to try and find the things they are most passionate about (outside of their careers) and continue to pursue them alongside their professional commitments.
how much of a politician has being a politician’s wife made you?
not even remotely close! I stay as far away as possible from engaging in anything political, but continue to support my husband whenever he has political decisions to make. It is even more difficult to involve oneself in politics when you are on your professional career path as a judicial officer.
nigerian politics is seen to many as a murky and dirty game, not suitable for women. but that’s changing lately as more women are decidedly taking a dive in. What’s your take on this?
My opinion is that the more women involved in politics, the more beneficial it would be to our country. nigeria is blessed with many women who have the capacity and competence to contribute immensely to the development of our great nation, and we have to continue to encourage as many women as possible to put themselves forward for leadership positions, be it at the local government level, all the way to the Federal level.
have you ever had any political interests?
no, and I am very content at it remaining this way!
if you could change something about the
Be bold, be courageous, and be willing to take professional risks, but always make sure your plan is designed with multiple options. you have to be prepared for some of the roadblocks you are bound to face as a female lawyer, but your strength and resolve will certainly see you through.
court system, what would it be?
The court system continues to evolve. like I mentioned earlier, it is now technology driven. My desire is for us to move towards a paperless court.
What issues are you most passionate about?
aside from general family issues, I am most passionate about the empowerment of the girl-child and our women, and raising awareness about women and their health.
What is your greatest challenge? your greatest reward? What are your plans for the future?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a greatest challenge per se, because in truth we are all faced with several obstacles and roadblocks from time to time. what is most pleasurable to me is about being able to overcome many of these challenges, no matter how difficult it may have been.
My greatest reward has to be my family. I am tremendously blessed to have them all. as far as future plans, my immediate commitment is to continue to serve the lagos state judiciary meritoriously, and hopefully continue to publish books. I have published two books at the moment namely – “grace for the race”, “The living law” and l hope to publish many more books soon.
What advice would you give to a female lawyer?
The best advice I can give to a female lawyer is to plan. ask yourself where you want to be in the next ten years. If your desire is to be a senior advocate of nigeria, plan towards it. If your desire is to be a member of the bench as a Justice of the high Court, or even the supreme Court of nigeria, plan towards it. of course, you need to pray about your plans, and quite certainly you would need mentors and pillars of support. It is important that you find people who believe in you, and who are willing to help you along the way.