Prominent Nigerian activist Yinka Odumakin dies of COVID-19. His wife received U.S. government’s International Women of Courage Award in 2013

Yinka Odumakin, a prominent Nigerian activist and husband of another leading activist, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, who received the U.S. government’s International Women of Courage Award during the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2013 has died of complications from COVID-19. He was 59.

Standing from left to right, Mrs. Teresa Heinz Kerry, First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman pose for a photo with the 2013 International Women of Courage Award Winners, including left to right, Second Lieutenant Malalai Bahaduri of Afghanistan, Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin of Nigeria, Elena Milashina of Russia, Fartuun Adan of Somalia, and Julieta Castellanos of Honduras, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2013. 
Standing from left to right, Mrs. Teresa Heinz Kerry, First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman pose for a photo with the 2013 International Women of Courage Award Winners, including left to right, Second Lieutenant Malalai Bahaduri of Afghanistan, Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin of Nigeria, Elena Milashina of Russia, Fartuun Adan of Somalia, and Julieta Castellanos of Honduras, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2013.

Mr. Odumakin passed away on Saturday morning at the intensive care unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in the commercial city of Lagos, his wife, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said in a press statement.

Odumakin was the spokesman of Pan-Yoruba group, a Nigerian movement that protects and defends the rights of the Yoruba people in Nigeria and the world.

Yinka Odumakin 
Yinka Odumakin

“Part of me is gone!” Dr. Odumakin wrote, thanking Nigerians for the “outpouring of grief and sympathy from home and abroad.”

She wrote: “With gratitude to the Supreme Being for a life well spent, I announce the passing on of my beloved husband, Comrade Yinka Odumakin to the great beyond after a brief illness.  The sad event happened this morning (Saturday, 3/4/2021) at the intensive care unit of LASUTH where he was being managed for respiratory issues due to complications from COVID-19 which he had recovered from about a week ago. 

“I appreciate the outpouring of grief and sympathy from home and abroad as I mourn my irreplaceable soulmate. I urge us all to remain steadfast in the cause of the masses to which he dedicated his life. 

“Burial arrangement will be made public in due course.”

Odumakin played a key role in the National democratic Coalition (NADECO) that fought the regime for General Sani Abacha after the annulment of June 12, 1993 election won by MKO Abiola.

He was also one of the spokespersons of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), the body representing ethnic nationalities in the South-West, South-South, South-East and the Middle Belt in Nigeria.

Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar mourned him, saying he was patriot and an advocate of good governance.

Atiku Buhari 
Atiku Buhari

He wrote: I received the news of the death of my younger brother and friend, Yinka Odumakin with a rude shock. Odumakin was a patriot and strong believer in the promotion of good governance, democracy and the rule of law.

“I sympathize with all Nigerians who share these same values with Odumakin, especially the Afenifere group of which Yinka was the publicity secretary – a role he played with so much commitment and admiration.

“Much as our heart grieves over this unpleasant development, we must take solace in accepting it as an act of God and acknowledge the fact that Yinka lived a life of purpose in defense of the ordinary people of this country and to enthrone a better Nigeria.

“I condole with his wife, Dr (Mrs) Joe Okei Odumakin and his children and pray that God will grant him eternal rest.”

President Muhammadu Buhari also condoled “with the family, friends and acquaintances of Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere.”

Odumakin was also spokesman to the then Gen Buhari in 2011, when he ran for President on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), now defunct.

“The President recalls Odumakin as dutiful, and a person of conviction, expressing sorrow at his demise, when he had a lot more to contribute to society and the nation at large. President Buhari prays God to grant repose to the soul of the departed activist, and comfort all those who mourn him,” wrote the presidency in Nigeria.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also mourned the passage of Odumakin.

Governor Sanwo-Olu in a statement issued on Saturday and signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, described the late human rights and pro-democracy activist, as a great nationalist, passionate leader and champion of a true Nigeria that would work for every citizen. 

Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu 
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (middle); Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat (left) and Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Dr. Wale Ahmed (right) during a statewide address on the gradual ease of lockdown in the State, at the Lagos House, Marina, on Saturday, May 9, 2020.

He said the Afenifere spokesman lived a selfless life, adding that Yinka Odumakin will not be forgotten in a hurry. 

“It is with deep sense of sorrow but with a heart full of gratitude to God for a good life spent by the late Yinka Odumakin that I write to commiserate with the family, friends and associates of the late Yinka Odumakin. 

“Odumakin was undoubtedly a great nationalist, passionate leader and champion of a true Nigeria that would work for every citizen. 

“Odumakin as civil rights activist was selfless. He spent the greater part of his life in the service of humanity, particularly the emancipation of the Yoruba people, the development of the South West region in particular and the nation in general.” 

Governor Sanwo-Olu also stated that Odumakin “stood firmly behind the attainment of constitutional democracy and fiscal federalism as the basis for sustainable development and lifting the masses out of poverty.” 

“As spokesman for the Afenifere, Odumakin made his mark and became a reference point as major voice for the development of the Yoruba race. He will surely be missed. 

I personally followed the late Odumakin and found his principled position and capacity to speak truth to power as crucial for Nigeria’s political and economic development.” 

The Governor also condoled with wife of the deceased, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Afenifere and the entire Yoruba race over the death of the civil rights activist. 

“On behalf of my family and the good people of Lagos State, I hereby express my heartfelt condolences to his immediate family, particularly his wife, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, the Afenifere and the entire Yoruba race over the loss of Yinka Odumakin. 

“May God grant his departed soul eternal rest and grant the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” Governor Sanwo-Olu prayed.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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