Final year law student Olasubomi, 21, spoke to Kingsley Ugochukwu Ani about studying law and recognising excellence not money.
Could you give your view on the importance of a strong judiciary in a democracy.
I think it’s unnecessary!
You have a court system that’s not working - it is not a judiciary.
You have a court system that is fraught with corruption - it is not a judiciary.
It then fails in its primary duty in that role.
What we need is a REAL judiciary, not a strong judiciary.
If we say a strong judiciary, then we should probably also think of a strong legislature; a strong executive. There is a problem if everybody stands strong. There should be a delicate balance between the three arms where everyone knows their role and works within it. We merely need to strengthen these institutions so they can perform optimally, rather than making them strong.
What is the role of the lawyer in Nigerian society?
There are two angles to the law: the business of law and the practise of law. From my understanding, the business of law is that the lawyer is there to provide professional services, make money and then move on. Then there is the practise of law where the lawyer is concerned with the ethics of the profession - standards, social balance, justice and injustice and everything that goes with that. Every lawyer is faced with these two sides, because there is no way you can do one without the other.
Are there problems with the way the legal community is structured in Nigeria?
Well, I am not qualified to speak on the subject. But, for an unqualified opinion, I think that every system has a way of encouragement. Every system has the value system and merit standard and incentives to further push people to become better…so, as long as the merit system is upheld, there is hope. There is nothing wrong with it provided the merit system is not compromised.
What would you change to make the system better?
The issue of achieving any goals should (focus) on the orientation of the working populace. A lot of students want to practise law only for the pecuniary benefits. We look up to the lecturers with the better cars, we don’t look up to the lecturers bursting out their socks in court but contributing to legal knowledge. And this is not specific to law; it is a general orientation with those of this generation. There is a need for an orientation change in the learning process; they should see excellence before richness.
Much of Nigeria’s legal system reflects the era of colonial rule. What is your view?
Yes, this is true. We only import, we don’t develop. We imported the English system and we failed to domesticate it; we failed to re-engineer it to apply to our own circumstances; we just took it - hook, line and sinker.
Can legal training in Nigeria could be improved?
Yes, of course. I would say, through the methodology. It is gruesome and it kills our cognitive abilities. For example, (look at) the type of questions you’re made to answer in the examinations. You realize that the questions asked don’t actually make you a better lawyer. Once you get out of school, you have to start your real-life training afresh. You then ask yourself: what went down during the years at school?
Can technology play a bigger part in the training of lawyers?
Of course, tech is bound to play a very big part in human life. Tech has already made the training easier. For example, you get to submit your assignments online; other things too. Personally, I think it’s time they adopted computer-based assessment, especially in this country where there are too many students.
How do you find your legal studies?
Well, first year was exciting; second year was still exciting; third year was revealing. My fourth year was more of survival; you struggle to keep your head above water. The fifth year is exciting because there is the silver lining to the dark cloud.
With reference to your course, is there anything you would prefer to be done differently?
Well, here within my school, the grading system is 20 marks continuous assessment; 80 marks examination. I think this is unfair in any system in the world. What if on the examination day I come down with any kind of illness that reduces my performance? And the moment you fail anything in an examination with a score of 80 marks, your chances of passing that examination are very slim. Thankfully, the Nigerian Universities Commission brought in regulations along with our line of thought: 40 marks assessment, 60 marks examination. Our own recommendation is that the 60 marks examination should be split across three questions; that’ll give more time to the students and place less stress on the lecturers. It’s a win-win situation. Also, the continuous assessment shouldn’t be one-off; it should be continuous! This must include attendance, term papers, assignments and quizzes. This will aid students and give them their comparative advantage. I may be good at research but not good at cramming cases; I may be good at brief writing as against other areas. This does not make me a terrible lawyer, it means I’m working within the area of my comparative advantage. So, for the system to rate me based on my ability to cram cases and regurgitate the same in the exam hall, presents a problem.
Which part of Nigeria do you come from?
Why did you study law?
Because it runs in the family.
Is there anyone who inspired you to study law?
My father, Chief Adekunle Alliyu. He was my inspiration. He has this boldness in him, and this further strengthens his knowledge of the law. I mean, when you are a lawyer, you are further emboldened; I saw this in him so I decided to follow in his footsteps.
When you complete your studies, what do you want to do?
As it stands, everything is in God’s hands, and I have been advised to keep a broad and open mind about career prospects.