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.

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