Destiny Osayi Ogedegbe, popularly known as Mr. possible, has just graduated from the faculty of Law University of Benin (UNIBEN) with a first class. From information gathered, Destiny would become the second student since the history of UNIBEN Law Faculty to achieve such feat.
Prior to becoming the second to graduate with a 1st class in the school, Destiny Ogedegbe who was Head of Chamber and Lord Advocate of the Akinola Aguda Chambers of the Faculty of Law UNIBEN had built for himself through hard work an outstanding profile. He was, some of which are; overall best counsel and winner of the 200 Level Sui Generis Moot Competition, UNIBEN, 2015; overall best counsel and 1st runner –up, 300 Level Sui Generis Mock Trial Competition, UNIBEN, 2016; best orator, Justice Idongesit National Moot and Mock Competition, University of Uyo, 2016; best orator class of 1991 Alumni Moot and Mock Competition, Obafemi Awolowo University, 2016; semi-Finalist, National Tax Trident Debate Competition, University of Lagos, 2016; best orator, Dele Adesina Moot and Mock Competition, Obafemi Awolowo University, 2017; winner UNIBEN- AAU Face Off Moot Competition 2017 amongst others.
In this interview, DNL Legal & Style had a heartwarming chat with Mr. Ogedegbe.
DNL L&S: Can you shed some light on your background prior to your studying of law?
Destiny: When I first saw this question I laughed. I imagine that at this point, any one who asks this question expects a devoted law aspirant who probably did several vigils to see the materialization of a dream to become a lawyer. However before law, I was a simple guy from the suburbs in Benin. I am the first son and second child of five. Life for me was all about playing football, hanging out with guys and reading. I used to be a bookworm back then but it was never because of law. I taught the English Language in several tutorial centres as of then for about three years so all I cared about was excelling in my teachings and earning a name as a top shot English teacher in the vicinity (Trust me where I came from, that was a big deal. Lol) I actually intended studying either English Language or International Studies and Diplomacy. The reason was simple: I needed a course where I would have enough time to play football and other stuff. I wanted it simple and not too serious. Law came as an acquired taste.
DNL L&S: What has been your relationship with the academic staff members of Faculty of Law, UNIBEN, fellow law students and other students of the University?
Destiny: For academic staffers, I barely have personal interactions or contacts. I so did with only a smidgen out of the lot and that was towards my final year. I always maintained a low profile in class and with lecturers except for a few times where one silly grade or the other will exaggerate me. I usually regretted those times even though I was always excited by the grades. For students, I can say I had a good rapport with a handsome number of students in my faculty. I organised some seminars and tutorials from time to time so I got to meet with people a lot and for a guy who grew up in the boondocks, making friends or relating with guys and ladies alike couldn’t have been a problem especially in the same profession. For students outside my faculty, I seized my moments when I had them. I didn’t quite make a lot of friends because most times, people become popular among the generality of students, for political reasons. I was appreciably agnostic to politics so I didn’t make as many friends as I effortlessly made within the precincts of my faculty.
DNL L&S: You quite have an engaging and interesting profile. You were the overall best counsel in different moot competitions in 2015 and 2016. You also emerged the best orator in different moot competitions in 2016 and 2017 respectively. You seem to have made out of yourself a legend in Faculty of Law, UNIBEN? Would you say your ‘legendary’ is limited to the four walls of your Faculty or it cuts across other Faculties in the school?
Destiny: I’m more impressed than I am shocked by the level of research in the above question. However, I cannot call myself a legend in my faculty. This is not humility anyway, I think legends are people who have impacted so much in the lives of others. I can’t say I did that to the extent of being called a legend and definitely not one in the entire University of Benin.
DNL L&S: Have you represented your university, UNIBEN, in any national and international competition(s)?
Destiny: I have, or I did. Quite a handful of them actually. Sometimes, I am inspired by one or two achievements during national competitions as they minister to my passions.
DNL L&S: What prompted you to study law, and has studying law improved your overall welfare in a way?
Destiny: My Uncle was the first person to navigate my mind towards studying law before my jamb. I was prompted to study law the moment I realized I couldn’t run away from it anymore. When I bought my Jamb form, I filled International Studies and Diplomacy. My uncle tore my form and asked me to get a new one for law. I did. In 2013, the jamb examinations were dreary and drastic. I didn’t make a good score so somehow, I was happy because I saw the need to change my course before post jamb, to English and Literature. I made several attempts to so do but it never materialised. I got angry and told myself maybe I’m destined to study law. I usually draw inspiration from failures and disappointments and I did at that moment. It turned out I made law eventually.
I don’t regret law. I say this not because of the first class honours. I say this because in truth, law brought out the best version of myself. It deadened my inferiority complex, it gave me a means of livelihood even before I graduated, it exuded my innate potentials and above all, it presented the toughest challenges that transformed me into my current personality.
DNL L&S: If not law, what other course(s) or vocation would you like to have been identified with?
Destiny: I would have loved to take footballing for a career. But, considering the inclement conditions for potential footballers in this country, I think i would have settled for studying the English Language and becoming a prolific author.
DNL L&S: In your almost five years in the university studying law, what would you say have been your best and worst memories?
Destiny: This is actually a tough one. I’m cudgelling my brains. Well I have a lot of great memories. First, graduating in the manner that I have invited one great memory that will live on. I remember waking onto over 70 missed calls and congratulatory texts. The feeling is exhilarating and consuming. The memories I had during my seminars and night classes with friends, banters in classes, damn, those are great memories. One fond memory I have in the courtroom was derobing my mentor in court when we went against each other in one of the live cases I handled as a student. It was hilarious and I tease him with it every time. My final address in my last mock competition as a student, (The Professor Chianu Mock Trial Competition), was a leveler. I enjoyed it.
My worst memories are the times I had to struggle so much to sustain myself in school. I remember one time I was attending classes and working at night in Car Wash Parks. The tedium usually invited tears. Having a B in the Law of Contract, first semester, is one of the worst memories. That was the only course I read so well and expected an A after the exams. It broke me and since then, I was usually pessimistic about my courses after exams. Another sad memory was my double Bs in the Law of Evidence. I put in all the effort I could muster but I didn’t get an A. It goes down as the only law course I offered as an undergraduate in which I didn’t get at least an A in either sides. But for what it’s worth, my good memories severely outweigh the bad ones because I’m naturally animated and I move on easily by taking things in stride.
DNL L&S: Your profile shows that you have been interested and taking active part (mostly as lead counsel) in moot competitions, debates, legal advocacy and legal advisory since you were in 200 level up till now that you are in 500 level. How have you been able to combine your studies (preparing for lectures, going for lectures, reading, sorting out cases in the library, attending to student chambers engagements among others) with all your busy extra-academic activities?
Destiny: What I do is balancing time. For anyone to graduate with a good grade and do a lot of things in school, truth be told it takes discipline. But even that is not enough. You must be really really hardworking. What I did was balance my time. I often taught at tutorial centres, attended classes, went for competitions and all. It’s all about timing. When it was time to read, I would just tell myself, “This is it. If you don’t read now, you have created the imbalance.” When it’s time for other things I give it the time and I never mixed things up. If I’m desirous of reading by 1: am, there’s hardly any amount of “balling” that will infiltrate that time. It may seem like I make it sound so easy. It’s not. A lot of my friends can attest to how I laboured out most times because of engagements. There was a time in 300 level when I couldn’t use my eyes anymore; I stressed them too much. When I tried to read, they would become so teary. Sometimes I forced them and tears dropped in dribs and trickles all over my note. I went for treatments anyway. Point is, it cannot easy but discipline and industry are the wellsprings of versatility. Nothing else, as far as I’m concerned.
DNL L&S: What is your view generally about the legal profession in Nigeria?
Destiny: The legal profession is often said to be noble. But nobility isn’t what comes to my mind when I think about this profession. In a word of one syllable, law is the instrument of social engineering and for that reason, I see the legal profession as God’s answer to the world’s problems. This is why I don’t buy the tedious conventions in the profession. The profession is an increasingly important profession which has the ability to affect every sector of any nation’s economy. I see the legal profession as the best thing since sliced bread. It is a rich cornucopia of persons who are eclectic enough to navigate the nation’s affair towards a more fecund end. I believe the profession to be the first in the pack of domino cards and that is why at this stage, I am committed to charting plans and stratagems that will enhance its pride of place in the society.
DNL L&S: More than 100,000 lawyers have been enrolled so far to practice law in Nigeria. With this great number and the level of disrespect for the rule of law in Nigeria, would you say lawyers and the Nigerian Bar Association in Nigeria have sufficiently played their role of ‘minister in the temple of justice’?
Destiny: I can’t say that. I’d be lying if I did. The truth is, no less than 60% of the above mentioned statistics, do not do anything with the law and its trappings. Upon graduation, what we have in Nigeria is a sorry situation that presents three sorry indices: Lawyers who are completely indifferent to the legal profession and practice, lawyers who do poorly at it and eventually apply themselves variously in other engagements, then the lawyers who are content with the profession but are unwilling or even unable to chart out ways to enhance legal practice. This is a serious challenge to the Nigerian Bar Association and that is why it is hard to say that lawyers have sufficiently played the role of “Minister in the temple of Justice”.
The bar should be more concerned with the quality of lawyers they produce and not the quantity. Many law undergraduates do not envisage a career in the profession unlike other civilized climes. The average Harvard or Oxford Law undergraduate hardly contemplates anything outside the profession. Tales of inclement conditions, poor remuneration and the general disinterest in the workings of law by the populace usually lead undergraduates into making future plans and decisions that have nothing to do with legal practice. The educational standard for law students must be heightened so that it can filter those who can actually contribute to the profession. Not until the bar enjoys a concatenation of law graduands who have been cultured and trained to be instrumental to the profession, the quantitative statistics above will be merely a tall talk.
DNL L&S: What are your thoughts on the corruption crises involving judges and lawyers in the country?
Destiny: Well, at first blush, it would appear that what is compulsorily expected of and behooving on any judge or servant of the court, is that they must have a high moral rectitude and integrity. However, my thoughts about corruption are not any different simply because judges and lawyers are involved in it. The singular fact that corruption is a cancerous leach that has dented every system or profession involving persons, simply explains my thoughts. Humans are flawed and lawyers are not any different.
However, I think corruption in the bench and bar is more reprehensible not because of the persons but the positions in their own rights. To facilitate the course of justice, those saddled with the engineering responsibilities must refrain from any idea of moral turpitude. That is why I advocate a more severe punishment for judges and lawyers. I once wrote an article on the judges’ corruption and quackery in the bar. I find it despicable not because I’m a bastion; but I believe that if any one takes up a position that promotes justice and the interest of the people, they must live it. It’s a burden that has to be borne by the person sated with the fortune and contravening actions in the bench and bar must be condemned with very stiff measures.
DNL L&S: You have written articles academic articles. You have represented students in certain cases. You have also franked briefs. This goes to show your versatility. So, what preferred path do you plan to follow after graduation? Is it to become an academic, a litigator, a solicitor or is it to just take a non-law related path?
Destiny: My path for now is as clear as it is hazy too. I understand this simile is quite antithetical but it’s the truth. With a first class, more opportunities and options fling themselves on the table. However, since I developed a strong penchant for the law, it has been my dream to be one day addressed as PROF. DESTINY OGEDEGBE, SAN, amongst other things. I want to practise law and chart new frontiers in the legal profession. I want to do this by acquiring vast knowledge of the legal system from other climes. I want to be called to the American Bar after being called to the Nigerian Bar by the special grace of God. I love teaching and that I’ll do for years in the legal academia but I doubt it will be in Nigeria. Afterwards, I’ll settle in Nigeria to practise law. I know my plans are big and seems unrealisable but it’s my dream and I can’t think otherwise. I’m inspired by the likes of Prof. Yemi Osibanjo SAN and J.K Gadzama SAN who was called to the Nigerian, American and English Bar. For now, my focus is on the Nigerian Law School. I allow things play out one step at a time
DNL L&S: What reforms would you suggest are necessary for legal education in the Nigerian Universities and the Nigerian Law School on the one hand and the legal profession on the other hand?
Destiny: I cannot say much about the Nigerian Law School and the legal profession because I’m scarcely aware of all the intricacies and nuances. For a start, I think the law school grading system should be reconsidered. I believe it was tailored towards the reflection that students should be poised to have an all round excellence but then, in a world where so much primacy is placed on grades, it becomes invidious to work with the existing grading system where students are summarily graded in terms of the lowest of all grades made. It’s hard to explain close shave failures that’s why I think it should be revisited.
For undergraduate legal education, I think the curricula for law students should be seriously reviewed. It contains a lot of courses especially borrowed courses that do more harm to the students’ grades and less benefits to their acumen. Conversely and sadly so, it is bereft of certain courses that are more attuned to the current legal environment. Many students have no idea of Arbitration, Maritime Law, Energy Law and a lot others even when the importance of these courses these days can hardly be overemphasized.
Secondly, I think lecturers should be kept on their toes to meet with the demands of research that is incumbent on them by virtue of their profession. The business of law is a constant train on the move therefore, lecturers should fine-tune themselves to the increasing spate of recent decisions, laws and policies that will be beneficial to the students. Again, exposure and visibility is paramount in the legal profession, as I believe. It is good that the curricula should allow for vantage opportunities that will expose students: court room practices should be inculcated and supported, internships should be advised and facilitated if possible and law-related programs should be importunately propagated. I believe much more can be done to obliterate the academic miasma endemic in the system and it has to start with revisiting the curriculum and rules, discarding the unjustifiable or unreasonable ones and replacing them with advantageously recent practices.