In the month of April, Legal Pages had the opportunity to speak to Lotachukwu Udenta, a penultimate law student at the University of Nigeria. He speaks to us about personal branding, advocacy, and trending socio-political issues. Read the full interview below.

  1. Can we meet you, Lotachukwu?

Hello, my name is Lotachukwu Joshua Udenta. A 400 Level student of Law at the University of Nigeria. I have a keen interest in Taxation and similar matters and a flair for advocacy and leadership.

  1. As a law student, how would you describe your personal brand, and what factors have shaped your “brand”?

Personally, I believe in value creation and the excellent delivery. This extends to making an impact in whatever space I find myself in. So, as a law student, my personal brand revolves around the above.

As to factors that have helped shape this brand, I’d outline a few;

  • Discipline
  • Hard work and smart work.
  • Networking
  • Attention to people and to details.
  • A certain attitude towards perfection
  • The God factor

Generally, my brand is captured by the word “Kwechiri” which I like to translate as “Persist. Go again. Become”.

Representing UNN-LAW at the 2019 L’Avocat Moot & Brief Writing Competition organized by Justice Kayode Esso Chambers, UNILAG

  1. You have quite some experience with student-based organizations. From your relationship with other students, what general problems do you think needs attention if students must be sharpened for the workplace of the future?

A tendency to be content with that which is convenient. This is something that most persons don’t perceive to be a problem. However, the attitude of students in student-based and/or student-led organizations, to be satisfied by doing that which has already been done or that which is seemingly “okay”, is saddening. There is a fear among students in such organizations to take risks and do that which has not been done before, to do something new or intricately creative.

This fear, or inability to look beyond the convenient is one of the obstacles we face as students today. In the world we live in today, in its rapidly evolving and technologically invested state, for one to be established in the workplace and in the competitive labor market or in whatever sphere of life one wishes to go into, one must be willing to take risks and do away with settling for what is convenient.

  1. Having been involved in several advocacy competitions as a law student, do they significantly contribute to academic excellence? Would you make a case for a compulsory inclusion of moots, debates and writing contests into the curriculum of law students?

Yes, I would.

I believe that participation in advocacy competitions significantly contribute to academic excellence. Personally, I can testify to that.

In advocacy competitions, you are posed with questions and issues which enable you to, on the one hand, think and adopt a practical approach to legal principles and issues. In doing this, you extend the capacity of your brain to understand these principles and to digest them. When you do this repeatedly, unconsciously, you’ll find yourself adopting the same approach to your studies and general academic work. Accordingly, problem questions in exams appear as moot facts to you and essay questions appear as debate topics. This way, your approach to the question changes; your sentences become more refined, your submissions become more analytical and carefully spelt out. Generally you become more critical and careful in your approach to the questions because you do not want to lose whatever is at stake which in this case are your marks.

On the other hand, participation in these competitions enable you to work on issues which may fall outside your current course work or on issues which allow you to dig deeper into your course work.

This has two effects, one it helps you understand better what you’ve been taught in class and also to appreciate topics that are meant for higher classes in some instances. Two, the practical approach to these competitions to a large extent prepares you for life after school. It gives you a taste of life beyond internal school walls.

Courtesy visit to Prof. G. Elias as Human Resources Manager, University of Nigeria Students’ Judiciary

  1. In your opinion, do you think Nigeria churns out “too many” legal practitioners? If so, what policies or measures do you think can reduce the saturation of the profession.

I think Nigerian Universities graduate a good number of students into the legal space, annually. However, I do not think the problem is with the number of students being graduated. I believe that the problem is in the fact that the country and its legal industry in entirety both the graduating students and the leadership of the industry has failed to exploit the vast opportunities available to legal practitioners. Currently, there is a high concentration of practitioners in litigation and general dispute resolution. It is believed that if the legal industry and the graduating students were to spread out the interest areas, exploit the world of practice in fintech, taxation, maritime law, finance, Ai, Crypto-currency, and the likes, the issue of the number of practitioners churned into the legal space annually would not arise because to every person, they would be provision for their chosen area of interest.

  1. Quite recently, on social media, a public official was under fire for extremist views he claimed to have held in the past. Do you think Nigerian laws should proscribe extremism on a closely similar scale with terrorism?

The Isa Ali Pantami saga and the alleged extremist statements he made in some of his speeches. I believe that’s the issue you refer to in this question. Delving into the crux of that issue and its attending debates will take a chunk of our time. However, I’ll talk about terrorism and extremism.

Section 2(2) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, defines terrorism to include acts against governments capable of threatening the government, a populace and includes acts which causes injury to or threatens the lives of individuals. It also includes kidnapping and the likes. The maximum punishment for such acts of terrorism under the Act is life imprisonment with a fine.

The English Dictionary on the other hand defines extremism as extreme ideas or actions; an extremist as a person who hold such ideas or involves in such actions, especially one who advocates such extreme views; and extreme, it defines as excessive, drastic, dangerous, far beyond the norm or of great severity.

One consequent danger of extremism is terrorism. Most terrorist groups are built on the foundation of an extremist belief in a particular ideology or religious understanding. It is my belief that if violent extremism is closely checked and proscribed,  as terrorism is, we would have a safer society. We must also understand that violence must not be an act, it can be by words.

This does not displace respect for the freedom of speech, however, such speech capable of inciting violence and/or harm against persons must be checked

Lotachukwu with Taiwo Oyedele — PwC African Tax Leader — at Tax 180 Conference organized by Tax Club, Obafemi Awolowo University

  1. A responsive government is integral to the success of any nation or organization. While this is an obvious fact, several Africa still struggles with electing responsive leaders. Do you think this is a problem with the ignorance of the electorates or with the available crop of leaders? How can this change?

I totally agree with the statement, that a responsive government is integral and is the bedrock, if I may add, for the success of any organization or association and not just nations.

However the problem of electing responsive leaders is common place in Nigeria and in Africa at large. Why? I believe the problem is two-pronged;

One, on the part of the electorates. The high rate of ignorance and illiteracy in most African states is a particularly disturbing contributing factor. However another salient factor is the tribalism, ethnicism and clanship that runs deep in the political and electoral space in African states. In Nigeria for instance, an average Hausa man is most inclined to vote an Hausa person for Presidency on the sole reason that such candidate is Hausa. Same applies to an Igbo, Yoruba or whatever other ethnic identity. In the East, an average Anambrarian will support a fellow Anambra man against one from Enugu in the race for any leadership role. In Enugu, an Udi man will do the same against a man from Nkanu when placed in a similar situation and the cycle continues down to the grassroot level of youth and student leadership. If this is considered on the whole, you will find that the large percentage of support garnered by candidates is not one based on merit but one that runs along the lines of ethnicism or whatever other name such affinity is called.

Now, it must be understood, that a sense of ethnic or tribal affinity or kinship is not bad in and of itself. However, it becomes a problem when this is the sole criterion for judging candidates for leadership roles.

On the other hand, part of the blame should also be borne by elected leaders. It is believed that for whatever reasons for which one is elected into a leadership capacity, one has a responsibility to the persons one serve, to ensure optimum delivery in every regard. To ensure that the welfare of these persons are provided for, their interest and not one’s own interest is paramount. To serve, in the true meaning of the word. However, sadly this is not the case in most African states.

Progressively, how can this change?

We could start at the earliest stage. An overhauling of our approach to the review of candidates for leadership roles. Priority should be accorded to merit over all other forms of inclination. We should consider the person best suited for the office, to ensure optimal leadership. We could start from there. We should, start from the mind. To change our approach to elections and political offices. It must not be your next of kin, so long as there is a better person.

  1. Do you have any final words for fellow students?

Kwechiri. “Persist. Go again. Become.”

Legal Pages Law Student and Lawyer of the Month are programmes that highlight the excellence of individuals in the legal space across Africa. As such, the Legal Pages Team selects a broad range of individuals, who fit into its criteria, to feature on its offering. Unless explicitly stated, this programme is not intended to serve as an endorsement towards any ambition, political or otherwise.