In our first Law Student feature of the year, we get to engage Olufolajimi, a final year law student at the University of Lagos. He takes us through his journey marked by excellence, balance and determination. Read the full interview below:
Kindly introduce yourself.
I am Olufolajimi Otitoola, a final year Law student at the University of Lagos. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of the UNILAG Law Review and the Deputy Secretary-General of Lagos Model United Nations (LMUN).
What inspired your decision to study Law?
To be honest, I still do not know what exactly inspired my decision to study Law, because I aced all my junior secondary school subjects and I liked maths. I did not see myself being a lawyer. I just think my dad kept saying that I argue too much and I should be a lawyer. He said it a lot, so I just went for it.
How well will you describe your engagement in extracurricular activities, particularly student leadership?
I think I do well enough. As the saying goes, “good work leads to more work”. If I have not been done well in the past, I don’t think I will be able to participate in extracurricular activities or be entrusted with leadership positions.
How do you effectively balance them with your academics?
I am asked this question a lot, and my answer usually is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of balancing academics with extracurricular activities. You have to know yourself. For me, I am not a big fan of attending classes for hours. I am very restless. So, I prefer to spend more of my time learning it myself. Where I can’t learn myself, I ask questions from my peers. I don’t feel too big to reach out for help. The same goes for my extracurricular activities. Most importantly, academics take priority. Sometimes I get carried away by the number of things I have to do, so I develop a schedule. The schedule is for both academics and cocurricular activities. It keeps me on track. I have also learnt to take strategic breaks to improve productivity. They are really important. It gives me the opportunity to look back on and learn from mistakes, as well as celebrate the wins.
Can you tell us about your internship/moot competition experiences?
I recently finished interning at Banwo & Ighodalo, and I don’t think I can overemphasise how much I enjoyed it. I learnt so much in a wonderful working environment. Before this, a year ago, I interned at Tokunbo Orimobi LP.
For my moot experiences, my first came when I was in 200 level. I tried out for the African Moot Court Competition and got selected to represent the University of Lagos. Unfortunately, despite high hopes, I was unable to go for the competition because of lack of funding and logistics issues. Few months later, I led my school in participating at the Amnesty International Human Rights Moot Competition held in Abuja. We won. After this, I participated and won (or made top three) about two moot competitions in the University of Lagos. Then I got selected to represent my school at the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition. I was the second best oralist at the National Rounds in Abuja, but my team did not qualify for the international rounds. Shortly before this, I represented my school at the LAWSAN Moot Competition in 2018. I was the best oralist at that competition. Going forward, I participated in the Phillip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition again. This time, I was the best oralist at the National rounds and my school qualified for the international rounds. Unfortunately, again, I was unable to go for the competition because of funding. However, my team’s Respondent brief was made top 20 in the competition. Thereafter, I represented my school at the 2019 African Moot Court Competition in Botswana, where my team ranked Best West African team and 6th Best English-Speaking team. I was also the 10th best oralist at the competition.
All these competitions have helped broaden my reasoning and analytical skills. They provided an opportunity to learn. The knowledge from each and every competition, even the ones I did not end up going for, are invaluable. They have also provided me with an opportunity to meet and network with students from diverse backgrounds, both Nationally and Regionally.
How important do you consider Model United Nations programmes to Law Students?
Model United Nations are very important. Not just for Law Students. They are important for everybody in fact. It enables you discover and nurture a wide range of skills and talents which can serve multifaceted purposes. From developing your confidence through public speaking, to testing your ability to research expertly, building your social interaction capability, being a policy and change maker, and improving your social network. They help you know when to argue or negotiate, improve your writing skills. Honestly, it is a vital experience to have.
Can you describe your experiences as an organizer and participant in several MUNs?
Amazing! Being a delegate, I got to work with great minds in coming up with innovative solutions to global problems. As a staff, I was able to help supervise these delegates in making sure their solutions were realistic.
Are there any challenges you have faced as a law student? How have you overcome them?
Yeah, a lot. The major ones are school workload and grades and pressure from different places. For pressure, I keep reminding myself that I am the one who has to set the standard for myself. So, I can only put myself under pressure. For school work, I try to be organised by having a schedule and trying not to be overwhelmed when everything becomes too much to handle.
What will you regard as your greatest achievement as a law student?
Personally, I would say “coming out of my shell” early in my undergraduate years to engage in extracurricular activities. This is because I have always had (and still have) confidence issues. It has not been easy because whenever anything goes wrong, it is almost like I am back in square one. But I thank God for friends and mentors who are always there to help, support and motivate me. “Extracurricularly”, my greatest achievement is winning the Professor Babatunde Osotimehin National Essay Competition and being the best oralist at the Justice Idowu Conrad LAWSAN Moot Competition, both in 2018.
What area of law do you intend to specialise in and why?
I still have not decided this, because I have had little experiences in some and I have a bit of interest in others.
Do you have a role model in the legal profession?
Unfortunately, I do not have a role model. Although, once in a while, I appreciate and seek to emulate the works of some people in specific areas of law.
It has been 50 years since the Biafran War ended, how would you assess Nigeria’s peace and unity?
I think the peace and unity we tend to parade is only a façade. From a distant or broad perspective, this might not be noticed, because we have friends from various tribes or background. But having a closer view, there are still secessionist movements, tribalism in our day-to-day activities, both consciously and subconsciously, for example, every election period always ends in violence. In fact, the last election, in Lagos, we saw how violence was used to prevent Igbo people from voting. Our conversations with one another also shows this. We still hear and see things like inter-ethnic marriages being a taboo, and the present youths are still scared to take a positive stand on issues like these. This situation is made worse by government actions, policies and appointments that seem like they are influenced by tribal motives. Despite all of these, truth be told, I still believe things can be better. We all have a role to play in achieving this, especially our generation.
If you were to do any other thing than study/practice Law, what would that be?
A politician or an investment banker.
Any final words?
“Live, Love, Laugh, Eat” – Show Dem Camp (2017)