People told me it was impossible to make first class in law but I never believed them – Kazeem Abiodun
Kazeem Abiodun is the pioneer first class graduate from the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, Kwara State and the overall best graduating student in the 2012/2013 academic session with a 4.67 CGPA. In this interview, he tells TUNDE AJAJA of PUNCH NG his success story.
How does it feel being the first student to graduate with a first class in law from the University of Ilorin?
It feels great. At times, one is tempted by people’s comments to feel proud of one’s achievement but the feeling must be controlled, especially because there are a lot more things to achieve in life than bragging about being the first to bag a first class in the prestigious Law faculty, more so that the programme was established in UNILORIN since around 1984. But I’m glad I made it.
Since no one had it before you, people could have discouraged you to take your mind off having a first class. Was there any such thing?
So many people discouraged me but I never gave in. I believed in my dream and pursued it with the mindset that even if I would not achieve it, my name would be in the record of those who had made good attempt to have it.
How easy was it to graduate with a first class?
It was not easy. Nothing great ever is. But strong determination keeps one going and hard work pays. My plan was to graduate with first class but I did not know I would be the overall best in my set. I thank God I had something greater than my own plan.
Some people would think you did certain things differently from others to achieve it?
Well, I have always had the zeal to learn. I read for only two to three hours daily and I engaged in research and activities-driven learning. For me, strong determination is the key thing to achieving anything. That is all. The rest was God’s grace and favour.
Some people run away from studying Law because they see it as voluminous and difficult. Is it true?
It is true to the extent that it is voluminous but it is not difficult. Rather, it could be technical. The keys to unlock the technicalities are consistent reading, practical learning and research.
Many law students refer to the long list of cases and voluminous articles associated with law as hurdles to cross at every level, how did you cope?
Consistent reading is the key. You do not have to read for too long (though depending on individual ability) but you must read every day. If you read for just three hours daily, you would have read for about 270 hours in a semester of about three months. That is better than trying to read for 270 hours within two weeks to exam. I feel what law students can do to excel in Law easily is reading consistently, doing research and engaging in some related activities.
Did you ever dream to be a lawyer someday?
No. My dream as a young boy was to be a great man, even though I didn’t have a clear definition of what greatness meant then. My ambition had always been to study Mass Communication. I was a newscaster in my secondary school. At a point in time, I was the head of the press club. Later, I was appointed as the social prefect. In fact, people were accustomed to calling me ‘Mass Communication’. However, my experience as a litigation clerk for two years in a law firm when I couldn’t gain admission to the university made me to study law. The owner of the firm, Alhaji Gbola Adeosun, was a great source of inspiration. Suffice to say he discovered me, inspired me and supported me in all possible ways. So, when I was applying to study law, that was the only course I chose and my parents supported my choice. Even when I changed the choice from mass communication to law, they only wanted to know if I truly wanted law, which was the case.
Did you have any difficulty in securing admission into the university?
Yes. I applied to many institutions and travelled up and down. I had to wait for two years but I never allowed the waiting period to be in vain, so I chose to be a litigation clerk rather than sleeping at home, and that helped me to cope and probably emerge the best. When I got to school, I joined moot court and debate team. We had to research in order to attend moot court and debate competitions both at national and international levels. Later, I was appointed as a Judge in the Students’ Union Council and I rose to the rank of Chief Justice of the Union before I left.
When did you start leading your class?
I led my class throughout my primary school and I was among the best three in my class in secondary school. Then, the teachers tried to create different platforms such as debate society, press club, drama club, sport club, etc. I joined most of the clubs and the experience was fascinating and helpful. I passed my West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination and University Matriculation Examination (now UTME) once but I could not gain admission. So, I sat for UME again and still passed excellently. In the university, I was the second best in my 100L but I started leading the class in 200L second semester.
Would you say you were a genius or was it just hard work?
I wouldn’t think I am a genius nor would I say I was hard working. I just tried to do my best to put my potential into full use and I prayed for favours. However, the little I was able to do was self-driven. I had it rough and tough while growing up but I thank God for the progress I have made so far. My parents also prayed for me and encouraged me with invaluable advice and I am very grateful to them.
What was your typical day like as an undergraduate?
I had very busy schedules because of the activities I was involved in. When I gained admission, I decided to join Moot Court, Chambers and Students’ Union Judiciary. I also participated in debate competitions, tutorials, oratory skill competitions, quiz and even social events, all of which really influenced and helped my performance. Usually, I studied for about two to three hours daily, consistently, and slept for averagely six hours daily.
Why did you choose to combine Common Law and Islamic Law?
I chose the combination in order to know more about my religion without compromising my ambition to be a lawyer. It is a combined honour to study the Nigerian law and the Islamic Law, in addition. We studied several subjects, including the regular law courses with our colleagues in common law department and Islamic law courses in addition.
Which part of your course did you find most interesting and challenging?
I found constitutional law, law of evidence and jurisprudence most interesting. Jurisprudence appeared to be the most challenging too. It was in the final year. However, I studied hard to get it and I found it interesting at the end. One does not have to be extra brilliant to study and excel in Law, but diligence and commitment are key ingredients.
How often did you use the library since there were many things to read?
I only used the library once in a while for research. I used my phone for research on the internet more often and I spent an average of one hour each time. Understanding oneself is key and making good use of what you have. I loved to read in the evening, (not midnight because I had to sleep) or very early in the morning before lectures. During exam period, I still maintained my normal two to three hours of studying daily, and having read consistently like that from the beginning of the semester, I used to attend picnics, dinners and parties even during exams.
Were you very social?
Yes, I was very social. I had friends from other faculties in the university and we used to hang out together. I really like to know places and I watch movies too. You hardly noticed that I read, since I did not read for long hours anyway. In fact, I attended social events more than some average students. On some occasions, I was the master of ceremony occasioned by some flavour of the mass communication stuff still in me. And, I was fully in charge of my relationship matters, so no friend could influence me anyhow.
What about your happiest moment?
The convocation ceremony, particularly the moment when I was called to mount the stage for the prize. I was overwhelmed by happiness. I had only seen something similar to that in movies. I wasn’t too surprised though because leading the class since 200L had always been a green light for me.
What challenge(s) did you face in school?
Financial constraints on some occasions was a challenge but thank God for seeing me through. My parents tried their best. Also, the normal phobia of having to compete with law students from other universities in the Moot Court or debate was almost a challenge on its own.
Where would you like to work?
Any place where I can add value to their quality and improve myself too. Law is a learning process. I hope to continue to learn. Having a first class in Law is just the beginning. I would like to be a great man. I just finished from the Nigerian Law School. I aspire to be a great lawyer soon.
What would you advise students, both the incoming and those already in school, to do to have an excellent result?
They should read consistently. They should do research. Activities and robust interaction also help to widen one’s horizon. I believe that whenever we invest maximum effort with prayers, we never can fail – it is either we succeed or gain experience.(PUNCH)