Her Life

A Life Well Lived

Our beloved mother, Princess Dr. Irene Ododo Odaro (nee Lawal-Osula) was born on the 15th day of March 1951, at Specialist Hospital in Benin City. She was born into the Benin Royal Family, being a direct descendent of Oba Osemwende and was the first child of the Honourable Chief Usman Mofeyintioluwa Lawal-Osula (the Arala of Benin) and Chief Dr. Lydia Modupe Lawal-Osula JP (nee Imona-Russel), also a Princess of the Ozalla Royal Family. It is told that Ododo was a very beautiful baby with much hair, lovely pointed nose, and long legs! Upon her arrival, news of her birth was sent to His Royal Majesty, Omo'N'Oba N'Edo UkuAkpolokpolo, Oba Akenzua II who then asked that she be named "Ododo". Mummy became the very first person to bear this name which means scarlet and is a royal symbol in Benin culture.

Irene was a philomath who loved learning and throughout her life she continually sought to expand her knowledge. She was educated at St. James Anglican Primary School, and Anglican Girls Primary School in Benin City, Fiwasiaye Girls Grammar School in Akure, Ondo State and then Anglican Girls' Grammar School. She was an alumna of Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Lagos and the Nigerian Law School. She was called to Bar as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1978. Later in her career, she obtained a M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) Degree, the from Ondo State University in 2004.

Ododo had fulfilling career in the Ministry of Justice where she began as a state counsel in 1978 and worked until she retired as the Permanent Secretary in 2011. She loved her field of work often bringing legal philosophy into conversations. In 2017, Irene was made an Honourable Commissioner for the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission where she served until her demise in March 2021.

She was calm in personality, yet a vibrant storyteller with a passion for the arts, music, history, and sharing knowledge. In 1992, His Majesty the Oba Joseph A. Adetuwo II, J.P., the Abodi of Ikale-Iand in Ondo State, bestowed on her the chieftaincy title of "Otun Yeye-Oba" of I kale-land. Shortly afterwards in 1992, the United Republic of Tanzania awarded her the National Merit Award of Grand Commander Order of Merit, G.C.O.M. She worked tirelessly in support of various causes and services to humanity for which she was bestowed several accolades in recognition of her efforts. Ododo was awarded Honoris Causa degrees from St. John's University, Northgate University and the American University in Nigeria.

Everyone who knew Ododo noted her love for culture. She was a faithful benefactor of the Benin National Museum where she made several donations. She worked passionately on the preservation of the Benin Moat and campaigns to put on the World Heritage list. In 2005, the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments presented her a Certificate of Honour for being the ‘Most Outstanding Benin City Walls/Moat Preserver’ and the commission conferred her the Worthy Leadership Award for her support to the National Museum Development in Edo State. That same year, she received the "The Symbol of African Pride" award from Zagaza Art Foundation. A few years later, in 2007, Ododo was awarded a Certificate of Honour as a ‘Benin Achiever’ by His Royal Majesty Omo N'Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin. In 2008, the Institute of Benin Studies, named her a Fellow for her contributions to culture. She was also made a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria later in 2010.

Ododo was a sought-after public speaker, active in several community and professional associations. One of her iconic lectures "Ending the Discrimination Against Women", was organized by the Nigeria Bar Association to mark the International Human Rights Day in December 2005. She was a proud sponsor of the campaigns against women trafficking, circumcision of women, and inhuman treatment of widows through the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Edo State for which she served as President for over a decade. Irene was also president of the International Inner Wheel Club (District 914) for many years and in 1996, she was given a Merit Award as Club Pillar. In 2001, the Rotary International (District 9140), honored her with the Selfless Service Award.

Never one to shy away from a leadership opportunity, she was involved in numerous professional and community groups. She was a member of the International Bar Association, Nigeria -Tanzania Friendship Association, Nigeria - Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, the Foundation for the Protection of Benin Heritage and Relics, and the Women Advancement for Economic and Leadership Empowerment in Africa. She held positions ranging from Treasurer to President of the Ahmadu Bello University Alumni Association, Edo State Council, The Nigeria Girls Guides Association. She was also patron, Anti-Corruption Awareness Organization of Nigeria, board member, Helping Hand Group of Schools, Oghogho Youth Club, and chairman of the board of the Institute of Management, Accountancy and Vocational Studies.

An avid reader and bibliophile, Ododo was also a published author of children’s books, poetry and essays including Impressions: An Anthology of Poems thatInspire; This is Me, Qabala, The Bowl of Rice and the Three Children, Abusalam and his Beautiful Wife and Esoteric Essays. Her book ‘A Handbook on the Essentials of Legal Drafting’ is awaiting publication. Ever with a book in her hand or a cup of tea, she enjoyed reading crime and philosophical fiction. She was partial to real estate television shows, always excited about the results of the renovations and families finding the right ‘Place in the Sun’. Her sense of humour always brought cheer to conversations.

She is and will always be missed.

We love you eternally!