Dr Ogaga Ifowodo is a well-known lawyer, scholar, poet, writer, human rights activist and public commentator. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from the University of Benin and was called to the Bar in 1991. He worked for a decade with the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Nigeria’s premier non-governmental human rights organisation. He defended numerous victims of rights violations, especially university students (he himself having completed his undergraduate law studies only through the successful legal challenge of his expulsion from the University of Benin on account of his activism). He was head of the CLO’s Annual Report project and in that capacity researched and wrote the Annual Reports on Human Rights from 1992-1999, transforming them from their loose-leaf format and inchoate beginnings into the authoritative book-length index of the human rights situation in Nigeria under the military regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha. He also coordinated CLO’s lobbying and advocacy work at the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. In 2001, Ifowodo proceeded to the Ivy-League Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, for postgraduate work in writing and literature and obtained a Master of Fine Art (MFA) and Ph.D. His doctoral thesis was published by the worldwide academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan as History, Trauma, and Healing in Postcolonial Narratives (New York, 2013). He was Assistant Professor of English at Texas State University until 2014 when he returned to Nigeria in order to re-join the effort to deepen the fledgling democracy achieved after prolonged military rule in 1999, the struggle for which had led to his preventive detention for six months by General Abacha, and to start a law firm whose main focus would be intellectual property rights (IPR).
In 2015, Ifowodo led the team of four lawyers who successfully sued MTN Communications Ltd at the Federal High Court in Abuja for the infringement of the copyright of an Abuja-based musician and entertainer, Omenuwoma Okson Dovie, aka Baba 2010, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/895/15. The case was settled out of court but the consent judgement turned the suit into a cause célèbre due to the novelty of the claim and the amount paid by MTN as damages. He remains the lead partner of the team now incorporated as REMEDIUM LAW PARTNERS.
Ifowodo is co-founder (with Mr Rockson Igelige, also of REMEDIUM LAW PARTNERS) and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Friends of the Creator (Artistic) Foundation (FCF)—soon to be renamed Friends of the Artist (FoA) Foundation—as a non-governmental organisation devoted to the promotion of intellectual property rights awareness. In October 2019, FCF became the first Nigerian NGO to be granted permanent observer status at meetings of the Assemblies of Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and of the Unions administered by WIPO.
As a poet, Ifowodo has won numerous awards at home and abroad. In 2015, he failed in his bid to enter the House of Representatives, thereby proving the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley right that poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”!