People mocked me for being too serious – Osun Law graduate with double first-class

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Osun State indigene, Omowumi Omoniyi, who bagged first-class at both Joseph Ayo Babalola University and the Nigerian Law School, tells ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE her motivation and how her parents’ storytelling inspired her to pursue a career in Law

 What does graduating with first-class mean to you?

I’m Omowumi Comfort Omoniyi; I’m 22 years old from the Boluwaduro Local Government Area of Osun State. I graduated from Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Osun State, in 2022 with first-class honours and was the Second Best Graduating Student in the College of Law. After completing my practical training at the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt, I passed my exams in November 2023 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in March 2024. I received the Director-General’s Prize for my academic achievements. This means I have double first-class honours, both at the university and in Law School. Additionally, I work as the Assistant Programme Director at The Vanguard Africa and have a passion for research.

However, graduating with first-class honours holds significant value for me as it represents the culmination of hard work and dedication. Despite the perception that achieving first-class from private universities is easier, I can attest to the challenges and efforts required to achieve this academic milestone. It is common for people to assume that it was a private school based on their reactions. I am proud to have achieved the same academic feat at the Nigerian Law School, which I believe is a result of my determination and hard work.

Would you say you achieved first-class in Law School to convince people who are underestimating the capacity of private universities to produce outstanding results?

Truly it was one of my motivations, but it wasn’t the major reason. I achieved first-class in Law School because it has always been a dream of mine. I also considered it a step towards securing several opportunities.

Can you share some of the key experiences and challenges you encountered during your academic journey?

I faced various challenges during my academic journey, including maintaining a high GPA from my first year to my fourth year at the university. Despite some setbacks, I am grateful for God’s guidance and my perseverance in achieving my goal of obtaining a first-class degree. Obtaining first-class from the Nigerian Law School holds great importance for me. It is known that the final grade is based on the lowest grade earned, making it necessary to achieve an ‘A’ in all five courses for first-class. Starting Law School two weeks after it others had resumed was overwhelming due to the heavy workload and intense coursework. Study hours were long, leaving little time for other activities and leading to moments of self-doubt.

Academic pressure and stress were also challenges, particularly close to bar finals. Law School is best experienced rather than explained; my sojourn there was filled with challenges that required dedication and consistent efforts. One of the most rewarding aspects was being part of a diverse and lively student community. However, interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures enhanced my perspective and enriched my learning experience.

What motivated you to pursue a career in Law?

My motivation to study Law stemmed from a desire to positively impact society. My father often shared stories of influential figures like Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Mr Femi Falana, which inspired me. Learning about Dr Reginald Aziza’s academic achievements in 2017 further fuelled my ambition. This led me to pursue a degree in Law in 2018.

Since not all students in your class graduated with first-class degrees, what valuable lessons can you share with them?

I always credit my academic success to God, who generously provides wisdom to all. Therefore, my advice will be for anyone who wants to succeed academically to have faith in God; that is the starting point. Moving forward, my goal is to maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated. It is important to remind myself that I am responsible for my own motivation. Although there were times when I was tempted by distractions like movies and social media, I always made an effort to keep my goals in sight. I believed that having a strong work ethic and staying dedicated to my goals could greatly impact my academic journey.

Furthermore, I prioritise effective time management and organisation to stay on track with my assignments and responsibilities. Through experience, I have learned the importance of balance and the ability to handle multiple tasks without one negatively affecting the other. In addition, I made it a habit to start studying early. Many people tend to procrastinate and won’t begin studying until a few days to the commencement of examinations, but for me commencing preparations early afforded me the opportunity of superior comprehension of the subject matter as well as improved retention of the knowledge acquired.

How would you have reacted if you had not attained first-class honours upon graduation?

I would have been overcome with profound sadness. I don’t believe I would have accepted such an outcome with equanimity, because academic results serve as a tangible representation of the dedication and arduous effort one has expended on a particular pursuit. Consequently, not attaining the desired outcome to showcase one’s diligent undertakings and commendable work ethic can undoubtedly shatter one’s resolve.

Throughout your time as an undergraduate, were there any notable moments that still stand out in your memory?

One of the most memorable moments was when the results were released, and I achieved the expected performance. Announcing the delightful news to my parents made them to brim with unbridled elation and unrestrained bliss. A noteworthy highlight was when I had the privilege of attending the Annual Law Week organised by the Akure branch of the Nigerian Bar Association in 2019. My alma mater, in a stroke of benevolence, facilitated our attendance at this intellectually stimulating event. The theme for the occasion was, ‘National Interest and the Rule of Law’. This invaluable opportunity not only granted me access to an assemblage of erudite legal practitioners, but also enabled me to engage in meaningful interactions with them, fostering an unparalleled intellectual exchange.

In addition, during my tenure as the head of O. J. Jejelola Chamber at the College of Law, JABU, I spearheaded a series of memorable triumphs that reverberated throughout my tenure. Our unyielding perseverance, dedication, and tenacity propelled us to attain a string of victories, thereby etching an indelible mark on our institution. Lastly, I achieved an extraordinary feat in my final year when I clinched the coveted first position in the Sunday school exam, an accolade that carried a profound significance as it marked my maiden attempt in this intellectual pursuit.

Do you have any cherished aspirations or longings that became unattainable due to the compelling demands of your scholarly pursuits?

I must admit that there were none. As I previously alluded to, I was bestowed with the ability to harmoniously juggle a multitude of responsibilities and endeavours. With an unparalleled aptitude for multitasking, it was within my purview to effortlessly navigate disparate tasks without incurring any harmful consequences on the delicate balance of my scholarly pursuits.

I never found it necessary to delete my social media applications or to forsake my social engagements in favour of dedicating myself entirely to my academic pursuits. Alongside managing my studies, I was involved in a romantic relationship and made it a point to maintain regular communication with my family members.

For the benefit of current students, can you recall what a typical day looked like for you during your time in school?

Throughout my undergraduate years, my post-class routine typically consisted of heading for the library or participating in chapel activities when they were called for. Subsequently, I would grab something to eat, catch up with a few friends, and then get some rest. I usually woke up around 8pm or 9pm, depending on the time I went to bed, and then I would immerse myself in my studies, reading until around 4am.

However, when I attended the Nigerian Law School, I found it impossible to maintain this routine due to the differing schedules. My classes commenced at 9am, and we often concluded around 2.30pm to 3pm, with a brief break of about 30 minutes in between. During these intervals, I would consume a quick meal, indulge in a brief nap, or review the subjects and drafts I studied the previous day. After the day’s lectures, if I hadn’t managed to eat during the breaks, I would eat something and then rest a bit before heading for the reading room in the hostel to carry on with my studies. On particularly overwhelming days, I would take evening strolls or meet with friends to discuss the topics we had covered.

During your undergraduate days, were there ever moments when you felt bored, possibly as a result of the strict regulations and routine activities characteristic of some private universities?

I can’t recall ever feeling bored during my undergraduate days; the established rules and routines served to keep me disciplined. To be honest, the regulations were not excessively stringent. However, there were numerous occasions when I yearned to return home simply to enjoy home-cooked meals.

Did you prioritise socialising or studying during your time at the Nigerian Law School, or was it all academics?

I made sure to strike a balance between my academic responsibilities and my social life, with a focus on consistency in my daily routine. Taking time to relax and have fun with friends, going for walks, and engaging in non-academic conversations helped me maintain this balance. While I dedicated the majority of my time to studying, I also made an effort to enjoy my time with loved ones and activities I enjoyed. I made a conscious effort to be sociable and have a well-rounded experience throughout my academic journey.

Has anyone ever made jest of you because of your dedication to your academic endeavour?

Yes, some individuals used to make jest of me but sometimes I would just laugh it off. I have had a few people tell me that I am way too serious.

Did your parents reward you for good performance?

Yes, my parents always showed great pride in the academic achievements of my siblings and I. They would typically reward us with money, and prayers, or celebrate in a grand way with family members, friends and neighbours.

Of all the issues in Nigeria, which one concerns you the most?

Honestly, I will say insecurity. It is a major problem that impacts the safety and overall well-being of the population. Just two months ago, the escalating incidents of kidnapping and killings, even in people’s homes, were truly concerning. If citizens cannot feel safe in their own country, then there is still a long way to go. Although it might have reduced a bit, it is still very important for the government and society to work together to find a lasting and permanent solution and ensure the security of all Nigerians.

Do you share in the sentiments that the National Youth Service Corps programme should be scrapped?

I believe that the NYSC programme shouldn’t be scrapped entirely. However, given the current state of the country, including concerns about insecurity and the economy, it’s crucial to consider a complete overhaul of the system. With rising inflation and the need for better financial support, the government needs steps to increase pay and address these issues. By making necessary reforms, we can ensure that the programme remains relevant and beneficial to the youth.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future? to take

I aim to pursue my master’s in Law at an Ivy League school and eventually take the New York Bar Exams.

Do you think engaging in relationships is a hindrance for undergraduates?

I believe self-awareness is key in all endeavours. Despite being in a relationship during my time at the university and the Nigerian Law School, I was able to maintain daily communication because I could prioritise my goals without being easily distracted. Ultimately, staying focused on the end goal is crucial, and self-awareness can help determine if a relationship may interfere with achieving success.

What advice would you give to students who are looking up to you?

Here is my advice to all the students looking up to me: Keep believing in yourself. Believe that every dream of yours is achievable. Trust God too, for He is the giver of wisdom and knowledge. Work hard, eat, and sleep well. Take risks and step out of your comfort zone.

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