Home Women & Child Development The imprints of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu on Ondo’s VAPP Law

The imprints of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu on Ondo’s VAPP Law

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  • Debo Akinbami

For the Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, who wears the sobriquet ‘Arakunrin’ as though a royal bead, the qualm was not that Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, his outspoken wife, had eventually picked the tag of Arabinrin – the semantic equation of his own appellation, after initial reluctance. The worry was rather with the manner Betty was greeted at a recent sombre function they both attended. Arakunrin is a Yoruba word for ‘brother’ which ‘Enire’, the governor’s late cleric father, used to address his son.

Reverend Akeredolu would humorously call the young ‘Rotimi by the byname, but could not have imagined that he would grow up to be so finicky about the label as he does his silverish beard. Governor Akeredolu chose the ordinary prefix of ‘Arakunrin’ above the sassy badges that men of his class prefer.
Betty, at the get-go, felt the cognomen was a near infelicity for gaps in either trend or language, or both. She had to acquiesce when her hubby settled unapologetically for the appellation. At that height, the onus fell on her to answer ‘Arabinrin’ with equal pride.

On arrival, Betty was hailed differently, with coinages which, according to the governor, gave queer suggestions. In his quip, Arakunrin told the cheering enthusiasts that he knew, hitherto, of Mama Rotimi, Mama Teni, and that ‘Mama FOWOSO’, ‘Mama Digital’, ‘Mama Solayo’, ‘Mama BEMORE’, are, for him, new titular additions. The hailers were correct, after all. The nouns heretofore served are complimentary tags weaved around the various initiatives of the First Lady. What the enthusiasts did not add, however, was ‘Mama VAPP’, which, of course, was the latest from her staple.

The Vapp’s bill, which governor Akeredolu, signed into law on Thursday July 15, 2021, is a culmination of the consistent and concerted efforts of Arabirin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu at stopping violence against persons under any guise. Were it not for the industrial action embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the bill could have recorded earlier birth, nonetheless, it is, arguably, one of the best achievements of the Akeredolu administration since it promises to preserve the rights of persons.

The law on Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) actually had its foetus in the long-standing campaign of the First Lady against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the state. The VAPP law, aimed at eliminating violence in private and public life, promote maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders in the state is a profound relief for citizens who daily crave for a decent society, and in fact for the wife of governor who has been a major voice against prevalent bestial behaviours.

Before the birth of VAPP law, Betty had been at the forefront of the fight against sexual and gender-based violence and molestations, expending huge resources to rescue, rehabilitate and restore these victims. Yes, prevalent because with her lies a long list of cases of abuse, those already dealt with and the ones still on the burner. Speaking yet on prevalence, the VAPP Committee’s chair, Mrs Ogunjebi, posited: ‘We have many very clear cases of abuse and violence that do not see the light of day in court because some extant laws have proven inadequate for diligent prosecution.’

But for the frontal intervention of the First Lady, the case of a ten-years old girl who was raped and killed could have been swept under the rug. The girl whose biological father repeatedly raped has since been taken, rehabilitated and admitted to a university because Betty intervened. A beasty, fifty years old ‘old soldier’ had lured five girls of ages 9-10 into his house and raped all, including a nine years old ward of a physically- challenged woman who had the guts to speak up; another sinister incident the first lady has handled. There was also the case a sickly 14 years old girl who impregnated by a mentally-unfit man – in all these Arabinrin made noted interventions.

With the VAPP law’s birth, Ondo State now has legal framework for implementing justice for gender based issues and rape. The law effectively places Ondo in the league of states with sturdy legislation and safeguards against various forms of violence against humanity. The VAPP’s law covers psychological, socio-economic and physical violence. It makes provisions for violence perpetrated by spouses, deprivations by spouses, harmful widowhood practices, female genital mutilation, indecent exposure, incest, abandonment of children, as well as harmful substance attacks, and protecting citizens from violence perpetrated by recognized state institutions or agencies.

Betty is particularly attracted to the fact that the law protects the girl child and women against all forms of violence. She believes that its passage and subsequent assent by the governor will send a strong warning to anyone who intends to perpetrate iniquitous acts. Small wonder the Bill was of especial interest to her to the extent that she gave effective pioneering advocacy and put in invaluable efforts, resources and time to see it through passage at the state House of Assembly.

While the State awaited the making of VAPP law, Arabinrin, in her bid to
curb the increasingly disturbing rate of sexual and gender-based violence among vulnerable girls, had introduced ‘Yellow Card’, specially designed for secondary school girls which confers protection from the risks of sexual and gender-based violence both in and out of school environment. The card holder typically develops a new perception and attitude of seeking help by using the card whenever she is abused or at risk of being abused.

As at the last count, more than five thousand of this special card have been distributed to girls in public secondary schools in the State. It contains emergency toll free SGBV rapid response numbers which the user can call for help. The Yellow card is a protective card, an awareness card, and a reporting card. It helps to identify early warning signs of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in school girls. As in sports parlance, the SGBV Yellow Card functions as a deterrent to all offenders who now stand the risk of being reported by the girls and apprehended by law enforcers.

Shared through public secondary schools counsellors who are trained to appropriately define gender-based violence, identify types of gender-based violence, its causes and perpetuating factors. They understand the principles of human rights and GBV legislations in Nigeria, and ethical issues related GBV. They are also to establish and run successfully Anti-GBV clubs in schools, identify early warning signs of abuse among school girls, report gender based violence and drive girl child protection advocacy.

Thankfully, the VAPP law has been made, largely due to, in the words of Speaker David Bamidele Oleyelogun, ‘the
intervention and support of Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu’. To escape the wrath of this law therefore is to live decently and peaceably. This is how Governor Akeredolu puts it: “We realized that to have a decent society, such laws must be in place and I believe that this will ensure greater peace and harmony in the home and in the public place. Beyond this, it will enable us to live in peace and live like human beings we were created to be, because many times the instincts in man tend to go against the laws of peace.”

***Debo Akinbami is the Special Assistant to the Governor on New & Media Archives.

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