23-year-old Aminat Lawal recently graduated from the University of Ibadan (UI) with a First Class. In this interview by SAHEED SALAWU she talks about her life-long passion for law, her future ambition and the need for every Nigerian to know the law.
What inspires you?
Almost everything; If I read a story of somebody doing some amazing things, I will think that could be me as well and if I just work hard, I can do it. Even seeing you here talk about your career as a journalist inspires me because I always believe that everybody can do anything they put their mind to.
Why did you decide to study Law?
I always knew I was going to study Law and there was no other option for me. Even when I got admitted into UI, because I was not 16 years old, I could not resume, so I had to defer my admission. I could have easily gotten admission into another school for another course that is not Law, maybe in a private institution. But I knew that I always wanted to study law. I am an advocate and I always like to fight for people’s rights. So, I knew that I was going to study law; I didn’t have any option.
When did you begin to see yourself as an advocate?
I think I have always been an outspoken person. I think that if I see some things happening or something I don’t believe in, I will speak out or speak against it. Even when I am having conversations with either my dad or my mom, I will always say that ‘this or that cannot be like this. You have to know your rights.’
In essence, Law has been a life ambition for you…
Yes, I think so. I don’t think the ambition is seeing myself standing in the courtroom for the rest of my life, but I think there are different and varied aspects of law. I believe in just the knowledge of law because I believe that law should be the pathway to where I want to go to, which is like being a gender or women rights advocate and I think a degree in law is a good background for that.
You said you were able to make First Class in Law when you least expected. How do you mean?
When I checked my CGPA in my first year, I was on a First Class. I was extremely shocked. I thought if I could put in this little effort (because I didn’t think I put in the maximum effort) to make a First Class in my 100 Level, definitely I can graduate with a First Class. I needed that push and it was just being around people that were pushing me and my friends and I reading.
In my final year, I was so scared that my grade would drop but I knew I could do it and that I would definitely be a First Class graduate.
Is getting a First Class from University of Ibadan a kind of double honour for you?
It is a double honour, indeed. Anytime I mention it to people that I graduated with a First Class, they will ask “how did you do it?”
Did you feel any form of intimidation in your course of study, even as you were aiming for a First Class?
I don’t think it is intimidation. I am not easily intimidated. I could have felt intimidated when others answer questions in class, but I am not the type that answers questions in the class. I need a while to go and read first. Also, I never read into the night; maybe going into the library and seeing people reading into the night could have made feel intimidated, but I know what works for me. I read on my bed; I don’t even go to a chair or table to read.
You speak glowingly about UI, but people generally are beginning to lose hope in public university system across the country and that is why they are embracing private universities. Can you compare and contrast the two?
I didn’t go to a private university, so I may not be able to compare the two. I, however, understand people losing faith in public universities. I am 23 years old; I graduated from secondary school at 14. If I had gone to a private school, I probably would have finished my university education at 19. But now, I don’t think that it is a time lost.
For me, and with all the strike, right now, I tell people that if you can afford to go to a private school, then go ahead. But I was already in the University of Ibadan; I was already doing it. There was nothing I could do. I just had to pull it through.
Maybe right now, I cannot say I will want to go to a public university. I mean they just ended an eight-month strike. I also spent one year at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But for me right now, it’s all worth it because I graduated with a First Class even if it took me seven years.
You said you don’t go to the library to study or read through the night. Can you then describe yourself as a brilliant student?
I think I can. I have realised that it is easier for me to assimilate things than it is for some people.
What do you mean when you say all Nigerians should study Law?
Definitely, I believe that all Nigerians should study Law because many Nigerians don’t know their rights and that is why we have lots of issues. I think one year of studying law and knowing your rights will be okay.
If you go to the police station, you will discover that there are lots of people who are detained there just because they don’t know their rights. Everybody deserves bail, unless it is a capital offence but they can say there is no bail for you. You will just see people; they will be begging the policemen. What exactly was the offence? I always ask, what did you do? Many people don’t even know and they rot away in police cells just because they don’t know their rights. Their families will be begging. But it is not a begging thing. Get your lawyer. Get somebody to advocate for you.
That is why I believe that studying Law for at least, one year will go a long way, especially in Land Rights. Land issues in this country are just ridiculous. People are buying land with Certificate of Occupancy (C of O). If someone has a better title to the land, even if you have paid the full money, the land belongs to that person. Most Nigerians don’t even have C of O. They don’t even know what it entails; they will just say, ‘I bought a piece of land somewhere’, but land issues are just getting worse in Nigeria.
I believe that all Nigerians should study Law because many Nigerians don’t know their rights and that is why we have lots of issues. I think one year of studying law and knowing your rights will be okay.
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