Legal Pages recently had a chat with Godanointing Aderibigbe, the Chief Judge of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan and he took us through his journey as a law student in one of Nigeria’s foremost Law Faculties. Among other things, Godanointing stressed the importance of keeping excellence driven and likeminded friends as well as highlighting the challenges of being a well-rounded student and the state of the nation’s legal education.
Can we meet you?
I am Godanointing Aderibigbe, a penultimate student of Law at the University of Ibadan. I am currently the Chief Judge of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan.
Mine is a funny story. So, I found the Sciences quite easy, especially calculations. In fact, I did both Mathematics and Further mathematics as an Art student and topped the class. On the other hand, English Language was beyond me, I continuously struggled in it and ended up telling myself, pick Arts or you will never get to improve your English. Well the rest of the story is predictable, having chosen Arts to improve my English, Law was the only logical destination for me.
What are your interests in and out of the legal field?
Honestly, this might come as a surprise but in the legal field, I am still actively searching for my interests. My ability to get almost everything done has made it quite hard to come to terms with what my real interests are. Also, although I thought it was a problem some few weeks back, now I have come to the realization that this wave of needing to find your interest during our undergraduate years might just be mistimed. How do you get to determine what your real interest are when you haven’t even explored a percent of what’s possible in the legal field?
Outside the legal field, business, robotics, sports, sleep, food, movies among others.
How effectively do you balance leadership positions, competitions, and your academics?
Well, not so well, not so well. As I have come to realize, it is almost impossible to be at the very top in all three segments. Usually, one or more has to suffer for the other and Academics being a very jealous wife suffers the most when these mistresses comes calling. However, that iota of possibility is what we try to maximize. With the aid of friends, I believe I’ve been surviving. I have had to read for a whole semester in two weeks while still preparing my guys for a Moot and Mock Competition. Simply, without these friends: Bolade, Deka, Udoh, Moses, Ogo, Swill, Nifemi and co., my GPA would have been non-existent by now. Long story cut short, I think they do the balancing for me and that’s why it seems to be effective.
What has been your most remarkable moment as a Law Student?
I can’t bring myself to pick a moment. However, I have had moments: most recently delivering the Taiwo O. Taiwo Moot and Mock Competition winners’ plaque to A.V.O; getting to work with my Council members, this LIT team I have; getting my first C in a law course; long talks with one Anjola Boluwatife; meeting Akinsola Bolade in my first year, he’s a huge part of my every story; and the IP Advocacy Contest that changed a lot among others.
The face of the Legal Profession is gradually changing. What do you think are the skills/experiences law students need to possess to stay relevant?
First, for me, I cannot overestimate good grades. I mean, good grades are perhaps the most important thing out there, more so given the number of “double first class graduates” out there. You have to have at least ‘one’. However, do not just pass without knowing, as is the trend in recent times — know then pass. That’s the only way you can, in reality, stay relevant to yourself. Believe it, you don’t want to hear ‘but you made a first now.’
Also, like a wise man once said, while good grades will open those doors, they won’t necessarily keep them open. To this end, self-development becomes another necessity. Competitions, leadership positions, online courses, internships, professional certifications all in a bid to develop oneself are advisable. A combination of these with good grades equips every student to stay relevant.
Again, stay informed, the world is fast paced and no matter how good you are, unless you are well abreast of the world you are in, when to and when not to, what to and what not to, how to and how not to; you might just end up falling behind.
Finally, great friends with a similar drive remains the icing to the cake. They determine whether you continue to be determined or not, they drag you up when you get tired, they continue to challenge you to stay relevant. Noteworthy, it is not unknown, it takes a village to raise a child.
Do you believe Litigation as a dispute resolution mechanism can be phased out?
Impossible, definitely not. I, for one, believe litigation is indispensable, whether in its notion or its practice. For instance, the notion of Litigation being time wasting is what has propelled the idea of ADR in recent times. Hence, as people opt for ADR to avoid litigation, credence is lent to Litigation’s existence and importance. Noteworthy, these difficulties inherent in our litigation process are not a natural phenomenon inherent in all litigation process all over the world rather they are peculiar to the Nigerian system where almost everything never seems to work.
Also, even while people opt of ADR, their various resolutions, often times than not, need to be enforced in court. In the same vein, these awards can be challenged in court under exceptional cases. Simply, while litigation may not be the first choice in the coming years, it cannot be totally phased out.
How highly do you rate the quality of Legal Education in Nigeria? What do you feel needs to be changed?
Honestly, not so high I must confess. Just recently, I had the privilege to hear the words of a SAN, albeit by hearsay, lamenting the poor quality of legal education in Nigeria in recent times. According to him, in times past, the best minds went back into the academia. However, reverse is the case now. I share this view, the quality can be better, definitely far better than it is.
As regards what should be done, I believe there is the need to entice the best minds back into the academia, one which can only be done through an offer of better pay, opportunities and increased job security. Creating a system where practicing lawyers can lecture some strategic areas of law is also desirable. Imagine Wole Olanipekun teaching us on Election Petitions; or Femi Olubanwo teaching Banking and Finance; or Olumide Akpata teaching Commercial Transactions. Believe me, when committed, the possibilities are endless. Long will be the days of cram and pass. Our minds will be tasked, dogmatism in learning shunned, while new developments in these areas being at our beck and call.
Donald Trump recently listed Nigeria as a country that may likely face travel restrictions to the US. What is your reaction to this news and why?
Not good news obviously, definitely not good news. The possibility of this restriction arises because Nigeria has a high rate of persons overstaying their visas and this points to our level of integrity in Nigeria. Why ask for a 5 day stay and exceed same, unless of course under exceptional circumstances which I believe would have been catered for by extant rules.
This definitely poses a problem for Nigeria as a whole, from difficulties in Nigerians meeting with investors in the US to Nigerian students being restricted from participating in international competitions. For instance, some friends of mine were denied Visas last year and were unable to participate in an International Competition having qualified and went through the arduous task of getting sponsorship. Such limitations having exuded efforts in preparing memorials, seeking sponsorship, a not so funny task while still being a student looking to maintain good grades is quite painful. I think the least Nigeria can do for us is to exempt us from further limitations to our exposure cum development.
If you were to set a maximum age for the executive office holders in Nigeria, what age would that be?
While it may be necessary, I really believe our problem goes beyond the age of our leaders. I think it’s the more of the culture of our leaders. Take student leaders for example, young yet still in the habit of embezzlement, misappropriation and corrupt practices. I prefer we prioritize changing the culture of bad leadership.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
That’s easy! God willing, 2025, living the Oxbridge dream, Clifford Chance definitely; convening a private national N5 billion trust fund for Nigerian Law students to compete in International Competitions; definitely still with my friends albeit now family; definitely still with my ‘6ft3’.
Any final words?
“Follow excellence and success will chase you, pants down!” – Ranchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad (2009)