The Nigerian Law School and my Journey to becoming a Lawyer – Ifeoma Onuike Diaspora Connect10 min read
My name is Ifeoma Chinenye Onuike, and this is my story…
After my LLM, I had plans to go for PhD, but I later had a change of mind. I thought it’s wiser to be a professional first in my field and this means I have to attend the Nigerian Law School.
Before I go any further, it’s important to summarize my story from episode one (1) to three (3) for the benefit of those who’ve not read it or are just seeing this for the first time.
I started telling the story of my struggle for knowledge from nowhere with little or no help, and how God saw me through my education abroad. I studied at Grine American University Cyprus to be precise.
This is my forth (4) episode and I have achieved my dream of becoming a lawyer.
In episode one (1), “My Expectation and my Reality”, I shared the story of how I gained admission to study my desired course “Law” in Cyprus after doing my first degree here in Nigeria. You can read the full story by clicking here.
In episode two (2), “My Expectation and my Reality”, I continue my story. Here I wrote about my settling down in Cyprus and how I was appointed, the Ex. Officio of National Association of Nigerian Student Turkish Zone in 2015. You can read the full story by clicking here.
In episode three (3) I wrote on my graduation as the overall best student and valedictorian of Grine American University Cyprus. Please access the full story by clicking here.
Moving on, like I said earlier, after my LLM, I had plans to go for PhD, but later changed my mind.
This new decision I made came in a rush, nonetheless, I knew it was God’s plan for me.
I registered for the bar part 1 program while in Cyprus with no intention of going through the program.
This is because I had heard stories of how students fail the bar final exam and I didn’t think I was ready for such catastrophic shock at that time.
As lines would fall in pleasant places for me, I got accepted into the Nigerian Law School while still in Cyprus. The next hurdle was travelling back to Nigeria, I had financial challenge.
I was a bit perplexed on the right attitude and approach to situations when I return back home. I got my flight itinerary sent to me by my parents, and within the week I was ready to face the next phase of my life.
At Ercan Airport while I wait to board the plane, I started to reflect over the event of my sojourn in Cyprus. My cell phone buzzing with farewell messages from different groups I identified with while in Cyprus.
When it was time, I climbed the stairs, looked back with the feeling of “yes” I have done my best. It may not have been great but I thought I gave it the best shot I could at every given situation.
I arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja Nigeria safely thanks to God, my parents, sister, niece and nephews where all waiting to receive me. The last time I saw them was in 2014.
Within the space of five years a lot of changes had occurred. I had gained more weight that I was standing in front of my family and they couldn’t recognize me. Luckily, my sister recognized me and screamed my name while calling the attention of others. I hugged everyone with so much emotion; I couldn’t hold back the tears.
The next day I hurried down to the Nigerian Law School located at Bwari Abuja to begin my registration. On getting to the institution, it down on me that another reality is about to start. I tried to push the fears I’ve heard from people about the Nigerian Law School.
I started the Bar. 1 program and I became the assistant class representative. In that capacity, I discharged my responsibilities to the best of my ability and it availed me the honour of interacting with the Director General of the Nigerian Law School during a discussion with the Bar. 1 student.
As we prepare for exams, some of my predecessors advised me not to worry about the bar 1 exam, but instead focus more on the final exams. I had to caution myself to take every exam serious.
Thank God I passed the bar 1 examination, the challenge now was on my posting.
While other students rejoiced over their successful application and posting to various campuses, my case was different.
I had to go to the Nigerian Law School headquarters to know why I wasn’t yet posted. Luckily for me, everything was sorted out and I was later on posted to the Abuja (Bwari) campus.
My first day in class (the Nigerian Law School) was different; it felt like I had never been to the auditorium before.
Ironically, this happens to be the same place I received half of my lecture for bar 1.
The hall that day was filled with laughter, hugging and a lot of catching up from classmates. Even at this, I could still feel the tension, anxiety, uncertainty under those laughter and chats.
As classes began, I made sure I always sit at the front row where I can have a clear view of the projector as well as observe the body movement of the lecturers. I learn fast by listening and observing.
Gradually, as days became weeks the topics kept increasing without proper understanding and assimilation on my side.
When I came back to Nigeria, few people that knew I was in the Nigerian Law School already had high expectations from me considering the records I pulled back in Cyprus.
Some also felt I may not be able to succeed as I did in Cyprus, stressing the fact that education is easy abroad compared to Nigeria.
One of my cousins told me that I shouldn’t expect to be very successful in academics as I did in Cyprus. This was around the time my bar part 1 result came out and of cos I excelled.
I started the bar part 2 program with a lot of challenges to handle and big decisions to make. I would say some of the decisions were not the best. However, the outcomes are the dynamics of life.
I had financial constraints. I couldn’t pay the complete tuition fee and there were other expenses (textbooks, up-keeping, clothing) I also needed to handle. I went through my bar 1 program with only one textbook, while the bar 2 program I did not buy any textbooks.
Some people reading this may be surprised but those close to me knew the story. It was a little difficult to ask for assistance because Law Students are seen to be the children of Ministers or top Government officials especially here in Nigeria.
I did not hide my status, I rang it like a town crier to every ear willing to listen that I don’t know for other Law Students, but as for me, I was privileged to study outside Nigeria through scholarship.
My family looked up to me, some family members were schedule for surgery and the bill was also on me. It was a period of financial and emotional draining.
Couple with all this, I had personal challenges, the fears, anxiety and tension already built around the Law School Program was too much. I also had emotional challenges and yes relationship incline.
I could remember a friend once attacked me on why I don’t talk about relationships. He also asked kindly if I was in any relationship lol. Well, that should be story for another day. I think he felt maybe the male folks are scared of talking to me. According to him, a lady like me has got a lot going on for herself. Well, my epic answer will be in the episode where I will share about my relationship, so be on the lookout.
I remember vividly, an incidence that happened in class. It was around week 13 or 14 of Law School.
The Nigerian Law School program is broken into 3 to 20 weeks of lectures. So that day in the class, I didn’t understand the topic; I wasn’t really following at all. Meanwhile, some other students in class were answering questions and making presentation. My heart started racing too fast at a point I couldn’t feel it anymore, I wasn’t breathing properly, I was having a panic attack.
What my mind kept processing was I just have 6 or 7 topics left, and if at this stage I still don’t understand what am doing in the Nigerian Law School, I might as well just quit. I knew two people who left the program. One of them who left last year currently joined my set to continue.
When it was time to go on externship, I had the dilemma of either staying back in school to catch up more on studies at my expense, or go back home and attend the 4 weeks of court attachment and 6 weeks of Law Firm attachment.
I decided to stay back in school, it was a tough decision.
So while, other students on externship talked about how feeding was not a problem for them because they were either at home or with a family relation, I still had to ration between meals apart from the few times I went home.
It paid off, I was able to study more and for the first time I understood most topics.
As more days passes, I was cautious with the fact that the bar final exams was in weeks, I geared up!
When we resumed from externship, we had few weeks to the exam.
Tension was heightening, students started running to where they could get strength and ability to remain sane. The number of Church and Mosque attendance increased, likewise lesson center around the campus.
As for me, the instruction I got from God to help me was while other students were either in study groups, hostel, library reading, I was consistently praying at the Chapel from 7pm to 8pm.
When it was finally time for the exam, the first paper was the Multiple Choice Question (MCQ). It does not only test your knowledge about each subject but also the ability to manage time.
I managed my time poorly; it was 5 courses, 20 questions for each. I finished 3 courses remaining 2 courses and the time was remaining 10 minutes.
What did I do with the time? I panicked and started to sweat everywhere possible. I attempted the questions without reading the scenarios, thank God I finished but I was unsure of the answers I shaded.
I told myself that I need to make up for the inadequacies in the subsequent theory exam. Unfortunately, when I got back to my hostel to eat and start reading for the next day exam, my head started aching. I thought it was the normal headache and if I slept and woke up everything will be fine.
Ironically, after the self-help regimen, the headache didn’t stop, rather it increased, and I could not study as I wanted to. At that point I felt I was failing already. I would open my books, but find it difficult to study, then I would cry and my roommate would console me while encouraging me to sleep maybe it would help. I was only able to flip through my books a couple of times while passing through this stress.
I wrote my exam relying on the study I did during externship. After each exam I would go over the question papers, trying to tell myself its ok that I had done something substantial. Within me, I knew this was never how I planned to write my final exams.
After the exam we had our CLASFON thanksgiving and it was time to say goodbyes.
I went back home, I still had my fears, not knowing if I had done my best.
The only remedy available to me was to pray, which I did. I still, doubted if my prayers were said right.
I was in the NYSC orientation camp in Adamawa State when I heard the rumors of our Law school result. Just to be safe, before I left for Adamawa State I took my login details so I’ll be able to check my result.
That night presumed to be the date for the release of our result, there was a lot of panicking even on our Whatsapp chat group. People even went on vigils just to see what direction the next phase of their lives will take.
I couldn’t stay up late that night to follow up on the outcome of our results online. I had the responsibility of commanding the quarter guard by 6am to raise the Nigeria flag in camp, so I slept off.
I woke up the next morning with heaviness in my heart. I caution myself not to open any Whatapp group chat until I was done with the morning routine in camp, I needed to enjoy those moments in camp.
Standing on the parade ground, I wished time could freeze so I have the opportunity to enjoy myself and forget about my fate on the bar final exam result.
Finally, it was breakfast time, and also a free time to do some personally things, so I have no excuse but to know what was happening. I switched on my phone and messages started buzzing in. Our Whatsapp group had over a thousand messages.
Some people were rejoicing that they made it through, while others remain silently leaving the chat to those who wanted to know the next process as regards screening and Call to Bar ceremony.
I quietly followed the link provided on the group chat, put in my details and immediately my result came out.
My hands were shaking; there was a sharp shiver to my spine.
I proceeded to check if I had any reference, meaning any course I have to re-write, it was blank.
Then I went on to check my grade and then I could breathe properly.
I was walking alongside a friend and I didn’t know when I screamed ‘I passed’.
Confused, she asked pass what?
I replied, “my bar finals exams”!
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