Twenty-five-year-old Opeyemi Longe is used to blazing the trail in the academic world. For 13 years, many students had tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to bag a first class Bachelor’s degree in the Faculty of Law of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State.
But, in 2012, the native of Omuooke-Ekiti broke the jinx and emerged the first student to graduate with a first class degree from the faculty.
Not done with this feat that has earned him accolades and admiration, Longe, who was admitted to the Abuja campus of the Nigerian Law School in October 2013 for the one-year mandatory vocational legal training for aspiring lawyers in the country, pledged to keep the flag of excellence flying.
See also: Nigerian Law School Bar Final Exam Result Statistics – 2014
Apart from being one of the four students that shined at the 2014 Part II Final Bar Examination of the NLS, Longe has also emerged as the first law graduate of the AAUA to obtain a first class degree from the 51-year-old institution.
The other successful students who obtained a first class degree at the NLS this year are Ikechukwu Uzoma from the Lagos campus of the NLS who graduated from the Abia State University, Uturu; Anita Omonuwa (Abuja Campus), a graduate of the University of Reading, United Kingdom; and another student from the Bayelsa campus of the school.
The mass failure recorded at the law school this year has remained a subject of discourse among legal luminaries and educationists. According to the summary of the result posted on the NLS website, mynls.com, only 3,418 out of the 7,176 registered students passed the examination.
About 527 students had conditional passes, while 3,100 failed. Some of the students were said to have abstained from the examination.
The PUNCH sought to speak with the outstanding graduates produced this year at the Law School on the secret of their success in the examination.
Longe, who had eight distinctions — including four A1s — in all the subjects that he offered at the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination in 2005, said he set out from the beginning to graduate with a first class degree.
Having performed the same feat as an undergraduate of a relatively new state university, he said, the development had placed on him a burden to defend the result at the Law School.
Longe added that it was imperative for him to prove that the result he obtained at the AAUA was not a fluke and that he would have bagged the same class in any university in the country.
He said, “When I finished from the university, I became the first person to graduate with a first class degree in a faculty that had existed for 13 years and this placed on me a burden to defend this result at the Law School.
“I knew that I was expected to prove that the first class I got was not a mere fluke and that I could not afford to have anything less.
“Besides, I had always believed that I could be the best student in any school I attended. For this reason, I have been the best student in all the schools that I have attended, starting from primary school.
“Therefore, I saw no reason why the Nigerian Law School should be any different. What I needed to do was to make myself realise I could do it and so it became my drive to make a first class.”
He noted that his attendance at social outings and programmes were very minimal, adding that he did it on purpose with a view to achieving his academic goals.
Describing the mass failure as unprecedented, Longe stated that he did not employ any special reading strategy to post an exemplary academic performance.
The third child in a family of six, however, explained that he studied “very hard” from the beginning of the one-year programme, adding that he bought at least two recommended text-books for each of the five courses offered at the NLS.
He said he never toyed with group discussions organised by the school management, adding that the special arrangement gave him the opportunity to learn from his colleagues.
He said, “In each of the five courses offered at the Law School, I have at least two textbooks recommended by the school and I did not just purchase them for the fun of it. I took my time to study each and every one of them and you will be amazed what effect they had on me.
“They gave me the privilege of having a good grasp of those courses, perhaps far above what I was expected to know. There may actually not be a special reading strategy, but I know I was disciplined in my studies.
“I worked very closely with the lesson plan made available to all of us. So I ensured that I studied for each lesson before the class and carried out the pre-class assignments and this is where the issue of disciplined study comes in.
“I told myself, ‘You must not do anything else unless you are ready for tomorrow’s class.’ In this wise, every other thing I needed to do came after I was satisfied of being prepared for the class of the following day.”
Although Aba-born Uzoma, who hails from the Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo State, graduated from ABSU with a Bachelor’s degree in the second-class upper division, he etched his name in gold this year as the first ABSU Law graduate to obtain a first class degree at the law school.
The 2007 alumnus of Dority International Secondary School, Abayi, Aba, Abia State, whose childhood dream was to be a legal practitioner, stated that he had always nurtured the ambition of having an excellent result to aid his “future educational and career goals.”
Going down memory lane, Uzoma said, “My childhood dream was to study law. I grew up saying I would be a lawyer for no particular reason. As I approached my decision years, I realised that my dream had moulded me into a frame that could only accommodate the studying of law.”
Noting that there were many distractions at the Lagos campus of the Law School, Uzoma stated that he withdrew from social functions organised by his colleagues, adding that he mostly participated in academic and religious activities.
“Wisdom directed my affairs while in the law school. I withdrew from several responsibilities I had outside school and my church, Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, besides, I adopted a regimented sleeping schedule, especially towards the exams. I did not join my family for the last Christmas and Easter holidays. I used those periods to rest and study Besides, I put in extra efforts to redeem any lost time.
“Cardinally, I had a way of keeping my focus strong and getting very involved in the curricular activities in school. As a group leader in the Lagos campus, I ensured that I was personally involved in all the assignments and I found some time to study. My constant dissatisfaction with my inability to meet some personal targets spurred me on to stretch and do more. I also kept a small circle of friends with whom I studied,” the 25-year-old stated.
Noting that academic studies at the law school were quite demanding, the young lawyer, born to a pharmacist father, explained that the challenging “new learning environment” toughened his resolve to “succeed irrespective of my condition.”
Stating that he refrained from “memorising or cramming a lot,” at the law school, Uzoma said he sought to “understand how the law works and I applied every principle to everyday life.”
Just as the Deputy Director-General and Head of Lagos campus of the NLS, Mrs. Toun Adebiyi, alleged that many of the students who failed were preoccupied with social media rather than their studies, Longe and Uzoma said they withdrew from social networking during the academic programme.
“Throughout my period at the Law School, I was significantly away from the social media such that some of my friends accused me of avoiding them, Longe said.
Uzoma also stated, “I stopped contributing to discussions online and my degree of online activity greatly reduced.”
Acknowledging the commitment of the law school management in ensuring that students pass the examination, Longe and Uzoma noted that not all the unsuccessful candidates were unserious, as alleged by the authorities.
Longe said, “Depending on the way you want to look at it, the management may be right to an extent because some students were just too unserious to pass. That is not to say that the majority of the student population were unserious.
“There are students who took pleasure in coming late to class, pinging, chatting and holding separate discussions when lectures were going on.
“But the sudden reduction of the time for the multiple choice questions from one hour to 50 minutes without adequate notice affected some students because they prepared for the exam on the assumption that they had one hour for the exams.”
Uzoma, who noted that the Final Bar Part II Examination had a “peculiar grading structure,” unlike other regular professional examinations, argued that it would be difficult to prove that the majority of his colleagues failed because they were unserious.
“I cannot say that the majority of my colleagues failed because they were unserious. I do not know how that can be proved. There may have been some unserious folks in my set but I cannot say that the majority of my colleagues were unserious,” Uzoma stated.
The two Law school graduates, who are waiting to be called up for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme in November, have already received offers to join the academic staff of the Law Faculty of their respective alma maters.
But they have said they would love to practise law, as well as pursue postgraduate degrees up to the doctoral level before considering to take up the offer.
Noting that they both seek to take advantage of available scholarship opportunities, Longe and Uzoma indicated interest in obtaining master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Birmingham, UK and Harvard University, United States respectively after undergoing the NYSC programme. (Punch)