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Obia Unoji: UI Second Class Upper Graduate who bagged 1st Class at Law School

Life threw lemons at Obia Unoji, so he made lemonade. Buffeted by poverty, Unoji fled Benue for Oyo State in junior secondary school without his mum’s knowledge in search of free education. The University of Ibadan alumnus tells ROBERT EGBE the resourceful schemes he devised to combat absence of parental care, financial lack and poverty and still bag a second class (upper division) at the university and a first class at the Nigerian Law School.

My name is Obia Sunday Unoji but most people call me Obiano because of my political involvement in the university and how articulate I can be while addressing students. I am from Oju Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State.

A trader’s son

I was born to the family of Obia Onwujwu and Elizabeth Onwujwu. I am the last born in a family of five siblings, comprising four boys and one girl. But we are now four as the female who was the eldest is now late. I really didn’t have the opportunity to see my dad work as I was barely two years old when he passed away, but from records, he used to work at the ministry of agriculture, Benue State before his demise. My mum is a petty trader.

Fleeing Benue for Ibadan 

I attended LGEA Primary School, Ebenta Uwokwu in Oju LGA of Benue State. This, I can say, was the best part of my life as I had no idea what taking responsibility was like. I attended several secondary schools actually, due to the circumstances of things. I started from Ebenta Community High School, after a lot of on and off due to my inability to pay school fees. When I finished Junior Secondary School (JSS) Two, I left Benue for Ibadan in Oyo State at the age of 12 because I read in a newspaper that primary and secondary school education was relatively free. I then enrolled with Community Grammar school Gebkuba to take my JSS Three exams which I passed and surprisingly, I got a distinction in most subjects including Yoruba. People were surprised (laughs). I had my senior secondary school at Apata Community Grammar School where I finally did my West African Senior School Certificate (WASSCE) Examination. I didn’t pass at a go, so, I had to attend tutorials at Expert Education to boost my knowledge before taking and passing WASSCE eventually.

Leaving Benue state all by myself for Oyo State (a state I knew next to nothing about) without my mum’s knowledge at the age of 12 in the quest for education wasn’t just an insane move but a statement of intent as to how much love I have for education. The journey has  been an inflow of sorrow, laughter, joy, goose bumps, all punctuated by cataracts of momentary joy. I feel there’s no better way to describe my journey to becoming a lawyer.

Winning a medal at the West African University Games

I graduated from the University of Ibadan (UI) to study law in January 2020 before proceeding to the Nigerian Law School less than a month after. University of Ibadan is filled with a whole lot of memories for me most of which are beautiful. I was known there for so many things. I was an astute sportsman, a volunteer, a public speaker and a politician. I think my most memorable days in UI was when I won the election to the office of the Secretary Of state of the Great Independence Hall (the largest male hall in UI) and the day I won a medal for the University of Ibadan at the West African University Games that held in Port Harcourt.

University challenges

Studying law is a great experience. It is one of the courses in the university that gives you the opportunity to be highly versatile. You get to borrow courses from almost all the other faculties in the university before graduating. This is probably the reason why lawyers are called learned people.

I think my major challenges in the university were finances and family support. I really didn’t get the latter at all. For the former, I worked all through my days in the university, so, it wasn’t that bad. I also got occasional support from people as well. But I believe strongly that I would probably have performed better if I had the basic needs provided by parents. I finally graduated with a Second Class (Upper Division).

First to attempt varsity education

The journey through the university is a whole experience on its own. It is difficult enough being the first person in the family to attempt to gain university education, how much more trying to secure admission to the University of Ibadan to study the most prestigious course, law. I literally had to work round the clock to break this jinx after several failed attempts.

Travelling every weekend to work for upkeep

Studying law is difficult enough, and having to combine it with part-time jobs to keep up made it extremely tough. I remember having to go through 400-Level and 500-Level with weekly travels to Lagos, a routine performed every weekend to take swimming lessons just to get sufficient money ahead of law school. The act in particular had a huge effect on my academic performance but I managed to graduate on a high, missing out on first class in the university eventually. On the day of the University of Ibadan convocation in 2020, I remember crying bitterly at the back of the hall while whispering to myself and my friends that during the call to Bar, I must be among those to be recognised as prize winners.

What I know is, God saw the sincerity of my hustle and gave me a big family in form of friends; people that believe so much in me and my dream.

Mind you, to fund this dream, however, I had to do so many things. The memories of travelling through the deadly Lagos-Ibadan Expressway every weekend to Lagos to work as an instructor is still fresh in my memory. The sleepless nights planning people’s events, rendering of professional ushering just to make enough money for law school etc.

Amidst all these challenges, I still found time to add values to others. I have been an astute volunteer. Even as a law school student, I volunteered to teach my friends and colleagues. After all, I believe that we all have something to give, the magnitude of the giving just differs.

Why I chose law

None of family has ever gained admission to the university talk more of being a lawyer. My first experience of a law court occurred after some years in Ibadan.

Two things inspired me to study law. The first was what people used to tell me when I was a little boy. I was highly articulate and vocal. In fact, at such a young age, I used to deliver speeches at the community gathering on behalf of the whole community; people felt these attributes would be suitable for law. Second one is the fact that my mentor, Pastor Olalekan Alabi is a legal practitioner. He is one person who wanted me to go to school. I think he saw the potential in me then. He has been an amazing support system, believe me. Seeing an amazing person like him inspired me to be a lawyer.

Law School not so difficult

Well, law school was less difficult than I imagined. I think it happened that way because of my close relationship with the previous Best Graduating Student (BGS), Yusuf Olalere Asamu, who has been my academic mentor since 200-level at the University of Ibadan. He explained to me how adequate preparations will determine whether you would enjoy law school or find it difficult. I was not able to find time for recreation as I thought I would, not because I didn’t plan to or because I was reading 24/7 but because of the peculiarity of our set. We had most of the classes online, when we resumed, exams consciousness didn’t allow us to do anything again.

Secret to making first class

Making first class at the law school feels surreal, although I wasn’t expecting anything less because of how much effort I put into it. Nevertheless, the feeling is awesome. After seeing the results, there were nights I had to recheck again to be sure that it was still the same results (Laughs).

Talking about secrets, I feel there are no secrets to success. Success is just a combination of hard work, diligence and proper guidance. Those were my secrets at the law school. Law school gives first class to extraordinary students. The difference between an ordinary student and an extraordinary one is just the extra in front of the ordinary; you have to out-perform others.

Passing excellently is 80 per cent knowledge, 20 per cent confidence

I approached my exams with a high level of confidence. I personally believe that passing an exam excellently is 80 percent knowledge and 20 percent confidence. This doesn’t mean I don’t get scared once in a while but, I always tell myself that you have done all these things before, you can do them again. So, during the exams, I used to stop my reading by 8am even when exams were fixed for 10am. It takes pressure off me. I don’t do last minute reading. Besides, law school exams were back-to-back between Monday through Friday after the MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions), so I felt there was no point putting myself under unnecessary pressure.

How to making law school better

Yes, there are several things actually. Persistent reading is key. You should be able to read daily. Law school syllabus is wide. You can’t sit down and finish it at a go. You take it gradually. Again, you must not wait until the lecturer takes the course. Read it on your own then go to the class to listen and increase your knowledge. Nothing hurts in law school like hearing about a concept for the first time in class. You may not catch up with the lecturer. Again, proper guidance from those who have done well at the law school is key. They can easily tell you what you should focus on in a particular topic. Meaning, you will understand the topic and understand where questions are likely to come from as well.

Judge, SAN or Prof?

I would rather be a Judge. I have been to the court on few occasions. I see how a human decision could affect other people’s lives and livelihood. I believe it is the most effective way to make visible impact. I would like to be a Professor too. I love teaching and imparting knowledge. I do this a whole lot in school. Lastly, SAN. It’s the most coveted position in the legal profession. I love it.

Lawyer vs non-lawyer wife

I believe strongly that marital decisions shouldn’t be based on the profession. I can marry a lawyer; I can as well marry a non-lawyer. My choice of a partner may not be influenced by the person’s profession but rather her personality. If a lawyer has the attributes I look out for in a woman, being a lawyer is just an addendum.

If not law, what else?

Well, if I have a second chance, I may still pick law. I like the course because of the opportunities that abound there. It gives you the opportunity to switch into any other profession of choice. If I didn’t study law, I would have studied Human Kinetics because of my love and involvement in sports.

The future

I may specialise in Corporate/Commercial area of the legal practice someday but definitely not now. Specialising in an area has its advantages and disadvantages. It gives you an identity but it also limits your versatility. I will just ensure that my specialisation doesn’t affect my ability to develop in other areas.

Source: The Nation Online

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