Onakoya Oludare , 25 , could not make first class as an undergraduate at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye , Ogun State , where he studied Law, but he made it in Law School in 2016 and that was a milestone for him. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA , he speaks on the things he did differently
Did you have any specific target when you were an undergraduate ?
I didn ’ t really plan to have first class in the university . I just wanted to give it my all and satisfy myself that I had given my all, and if that was good enough to have a first class , then good , but if not , then I would still be content knowing that I had given my best . So , I didn ’ t feel bad , I was satisfied I had given my best and I still finished as one of the best students in my class . So that was sufficient consolation. However , in Law School , I planned to do everything I could possibly do to have first class .
How easy or challenging was it to graduate with a first class from the Law school ?
Even though it ’ s easier to have first class in the Law School than in the university, it didn ’ t come easy either . Law school was a sprint , while university was a marathon , and you would agree with me that it’ s a lot easier to get tired and give up in a marathon than it is in a sprint . However , the workload was much and we were required to really put in a lot of hours if we wished to be at the top of our game . But I knew it wasn ’ t impossible , so I saw the challenge as one that could be surmounted , and by God ’ s grace , it was . I became more focused, more so that law school was for a year . So , I was completely focused in my academics for that year , with little time for extra -curricular activities. In my early days in the university , I made it a principle to speak to only those who had excelled in their academics and not people who would tell me all the reasons it was impossible to pass a course . And that helped me greatly.
Is Law what you have always wanted to study?
Initially, I wished to be a pastor, though I can ’ t remember why . However , I got scared because I felt I wasn ’ t ready to be in a profession where I would be fighting witches and wizards all the time. No thanks to the Nigerian movies we used to watch then . My elder siblings were both in the sciences and so it was presumed I would also join them. It wasn ’ t until JSS3 when I discovered I was terrible at Chemistry and Physics that I decided it was possible my talent was elsewhere . I then joined the Art class and the next logical step was to start working towards being a lawyer as I had always been good at logical reasoning and argument , so law just seemed like the perfect choice . Also , I was attracted to the legal profession because of the challenge it presents. I wasn ’ t ready to settle down for a job where I would be doing the same tasks every day . I wanted a profession that would keep me engaged and challenged , and law seemed to fit in rightly.
Would you tie your success to how many hours you read or there was more to it ?
The only thing I can say I did differently was that I read with understanding . I ’ m sure there are people that read more than I did and put in more hours than I did , but success at the bar finals isn’ t necessarily about how many hours you read , but how much you understand. Therefore , I didn ’ t try cramming anything . I was aware that law school could be very tricky with questions , so I read and ensured that I understood everything I was reading . I also made sure I read during my peak periods , to ensure that I gained most with less time wasted .
Given your target in Law School , were there things you were used to that you left behind ?
I like playing computer games a lot , it’ s one of my hobbies, but while in law school , I left my game controller at home to allow me to focus more. I also deleted a lot of movies on my laptop and I made sure I didn ’ t download any new movie to avoid temptation . I kept reminding myself that law school was just for a year and I could afford to starve myself of these things to aid myself in getting my desired result. Then , there was lesser distraction in law school ; nobody had time for frivolous pursuits . We all knew what was at stake and so there was no time to waste .
Would you say you improved on your performance in your previous schools?
In primary and secondary schools , I was just above average . I was one of those who used to follow the brilliant students for competitions , to serve as backup (laughs ). I think I hadn’ t yet figured out what I was really doing . In my first Unified Matriculation Examination , I scored 234 , which could not get me Law in UNILAG . I was offered English . After that , I was admitted for Diploma in Law in OOU which I didn ’ t complete , but the knowledge gained from my brief stay was invaluable because I took the exam again the following year and I had 275. That combined with my Post -UME result made me the candidate with the highest mark in my set of admission in OOU .
What was your typical day like in the Law School ?
I made sure I read about the topic we were to treat that day before going to class . After the day ’ s activities , I would retire back to the hostel to read the topic we covered that day , and then relax either with my friends or see a short movie before going to bed . I believe in reading when my brain is at its best , because I don ’ t have much stamina for reading . So , I was reading for maximum of three hours daily . I also ensured I got not less than eight hours sleep every night to ensure that I was mentally alert in class the next day . I never subscribed to the idea of reading all through the night and then sleeping in class . I believe most of the work was done in class , so I always ensured I had a good night sleep. Also , I wasn ’ t the type to use the library often . I only visited the library once during my stay there. I thank God for my roommate who was a really understanding guy , so I did most of my reading in my room . My reading pattern was quite simple, I would read a page , and then explain it to myself in the mirror to ensure I had understood it. Also , explaining to other people really helped me grasp the course contents . A lot of the time , people just read and assume they have understood , meanwhile they haven ’ t. And like I have mentioned earlier , understanding is key . I also wasn ’ t much of a fan of forming notes, but I had a sort of key points which I formed during the externship period ( court attachment and chambers attachment ) which was of great help to me when I was revising for the exams .
These days, a number of students fail in the Law School and have to retake some exams . From observation , why do students fail , more so that they have reduced workload and it ’s just a one – year programme ?
The workload isn ’ t reduced at all. There ’ s so much more to do within so little time . I would attribute the reason for failure to fear . Fear is what makes people panic and start running helter – skelter looking for materials , attending needless tutorials and basically wasting time that isn’ t enough in the first place. And once you start being panicky, your ability to pass the bar exams is greatly affected. I must also thank my parents for making sure that I was comfortable . Their assured support helped greatly . They encouraged me and they were a major source of inspiration to me. I owe everything I am to them and God .
Would you like to practise law or you have interest in other things?
I would like to practise law .
Which area would you like to specialise in ?
My initial area of interest was dispute resolution; litigation and arbitration , but now that I ’ m being exposed to the corporate /commercial field , let me just say I ’ m still undecided. But overall , the complexity and diversity of law really interests me always. Law is multifaceted, complex , voluminous and technical . I agree with that description , but that ’ s what I find interesting about it. And I like the fact that law isn ’ t predictable .
What were your most memorable moments ?
My happiest moments in school and law school would be when I was called out of the crowd for awards with my mum in the audience . My most embarrassing moment in the law school was when I asked a question in class once and my lecturer basically said it was a stupid question . I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me . Imagine being told your question is stupid in front of 1 , 700 people. But everything happens for a reason , so I didn ’ t let that deter me ; rather it gave me more incentive as I felt I had something to prove to that lecturer.
Where would you like to work ?
I ’ m currently a corps member in one of the top law firms in Nigeria . It’ s a firm I won’ t mind staying on with if they would have me . It’ s a great place to be . In the immediate future , I wish to explore the world of legal practice to determine the area I would like to do my Master ’ s in and probably specialise in . My preferred schools for Master ’ s would be either Harvard or Oxford .
For the benefit of those who see Law School as a difficult phase to go through, what would you say are the basic ingredients of success in academics ?
I would point to four ingredients . God , interest, discipline and determination .
Was there anything you did as regards your academics that you would never forget ?
Without a doubt, the most extreme thing I did in the law school was when I read Ogbuanya ’ s Corporate Law Practice textbook from cover to cover in less than 24 hours . I had been having issues with Corporate Law and Practice , so , one Saturday, I decided that one way or the other , I would crack the course . And I started and didn ’ t stop till I finished . My roommate just kept looking at me like I was crazy .
Knowing that you have to cite cases while answering questions during your exams , were there methods you deployed to help you remember things ?
For remembering cases, what I usually did was to take the names of the parties and link them with people I know who also bear those names. So , when I had to remember those cases, all I had to do was remember the person, and I would remember his / her name , and automatically remember the case .
Were there people who saw you as being too serious?
On the contrary , I believe there would have been quite a number of people who were surprised that I made a first class as I wasn ’ t one of those who used to answer questions or make serious contributions in class , I just did my own thing quietly , I wasn ’ t always in the library or leading grand discussions on how to pass the bar finals , so I doubt I really came across as being too serious .
Were there times you almost gave up on having first class ?
I kept on believing that it was possible , so I never gave up on having first class .
Do you believe in having mentors , and did you have one ?
I had a guide during my law school days , Mrs. Opeyemi Awolesi , who finished a few years ahead of me in the university and had a first class from the law school . I do believe in having mentors as it’ s easier to see farther when you stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you .
Thousands of lawyers are released into the system yearly. Are you sometimes bothered about the issues of the country ’ s unemployment rate , especially as it concerns first class graduates ?
I ’ m not as concerned about unemployment rate as most lawyers usually find one way or the other to get engaged , but I ’ m really disturbed by the remuneration packages most firms offer young lawyers , with some even going to the extent of saying that they don ’ t pay new wigs . This has always been the case , but I would really hope something could be done about it. We aren ’ t complaining about the work load , just that the pay should be commensurate .