Josephine Okeme: The Traffic Control Queen
If you have ever passed the Herbert Macauley way in Yaba axis in Lagos, you will appreciate the sight of Josephine Okeme controlling traffic at St. Agnes bus stop. She appears to be dancing to the Sound of Music in her heart.
Josephine popularly referred to as Iya Ibeji (Mother of twins), a traffic controller with the Nigeria Police Force, has over the years caught the attention of road users and residents of the area.
My first encounter with her was four years ago when I accompanied a friend to an event. We were stuck in a mild traffic but I wasn’t bothered because my eyes were fixed on this neatly dressed female officer who was wiping her sweaty face at intervals with a handkerchief.
It wasn’t the sweat trickling down her face that caught my attention, but the entertaining and energetic way she got the job done.
For a moment, I thought I was seeing a female version of the late Pop star, Michael Jackson doing the breakdance. There was a broad smile on her face each time road users followed her directives and a mild frown when they acted otherwise.
How it all started
Slim, tall and beautiful Josephine has 5 children and a loving husband; she hails from Kwale area in Delta State. She was born in Lagos State and has served as a police officer for 25 years. 7 of these years have been spent thrilling road users in Yaba.
On how she came about her style of controlling traffic she says it is deeply rooted in sports. "I have always been an athlete from Primary school, and I joined the police force through sports. I used to run 400m and 800m for the police force and won a couple of medals doing that. I love controlling the traffic as it helps me keep fit," said Mrs Okeme.
Josephine says her love for the selfless service police officers render in communities inspired her to join the force. Surprisingly, she got the backing of her parents.
“My family didn’t kick against my decision, my father who was a sportsman back then supported me all the way.
“Interestingly my second son is toeing my line, he is looking at joining the Naval Force soon,” she said.
In a male dominated field, it is interesting to know that Josephine has served as an Inspector for 6 years but that has not stopped her from going on the streets to control the traffic.
"It is the junior ranking officers that ought to be controlling the traffic and the senior officers’ sit back to direct them on what to do. I cannot just sit down and be telling someone to do this and that when everywhere is congested. I’m not a lazy person and I don’t like lazy people. I like what I do and that is why I am still doing it," she said.
Asked whether she aspires to become Nigeria’s first female Inspector General of Police, a bright smile covered her face; she said “why not?!” …I have superiors ahead of me but if the opportunity presents itself, I would grab it whole heartedly.”
Her commitment and dedication to her job despite the challenges involved has earned her more respect from her colleagues. Inspector Anthony Odiko and Sergeant Bassey Okon, both officers at Sabo Police Station showered praises on her.
“She is one of the most hardworking female police officers I have seen in a long while, always on time and she never frowns whenever she is on duty” Odiko said.
Saheed Makinwa, an employee of a pizza store located in the area where Mrs Okeme directs traffic could not hide his admiration. “She is a delight to watch, in fact she makes my day as I look forward to watching her do her thing every day”, he said.
Amaka Ngenegbo, a regular road user praised Josephine’s passion and creativity. “I give it to her, it seems a parade song rings in her brain during her work,” she said.
Josephine has about 8 awards in her kitty, one of which is 'Icon of The Community' given to her by Our Lady of Apostles School on March 13th, 2015. She also received an award from Guinness and another from Confraternity of Christians Mothers Yaba Deanery for her outstanding service to the community.
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