Modupe Ojo graduated with a first-class degree from the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, Oyo State with 6.1/7.0 CGPA. The 23-year-old, who also graduated from the Nigerian Law School with a first-class grade, tells TUNDE AJAJA about her accomplishments and plans for the future
It’s Christmas season, what memories of your childhood do you still have, especially during the yuletide?
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My sweet childhood memories revolve around festive periods, particularly Christmas. I loved dressing up for Christmas and receiving gifts from my grandma in Lagos. As a kid, I looked forward to Christmas every year. I still do, but no one gets me Christmas clothes or gifts anymore (laughs).
When you told your parents you would be graduating with a first-class degree, how did they receive the news?
I was raised by my mum; my dad died when I was barely five years old. And I remember the day I checked my final result. I decided to pull her leg by telling her I didn’t graduate with a first-class degree. She told me to give thanks in all things as there were some people in the school who couldn’t graduate for various reasons. When I told her it was a joke and that I graduated with a first-class degree, she jumped, hugged me and began to dance to thank God. It was a delight to see her so excited. She was even more excited than I was. It was some sort of motivation for me to make the same grade from the Nigerian Law School. I love to see my mummy happy always.
You won three awards at your convocation, what were they?
Professor C. S. Ola Prize in Company Law and Taxation for the best student in the final of the LLB degree in Company Law; The Honourable Justice Kayode Esho Annual Prize in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory for the best final year student in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory and The Honourable Mr Justice J. O. Ogunbiyi Prize in Jurisprudence for the best final year student in Jurisprudence.
Would you say you studied your dream course?
Yes, although I wanted to become a teacher when I was much younger, but that changed over time. And I don’t think there was any particular attraction. I was poor in mathematics so I did arts since I felt I wouldn’t need it as an arts student. I chose law when I filled my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination form because it somewhat seemed like the ‘ideal’ course for any arts student.
Did your mum influence that decision in any way?
She never did that directly, but she hinted at it on different occasions. If I had had an offer to study another course in the university, I’m certain she wouldn’t have objected, but she might still hold on to her preference for law.
What inspired the plan to graduate with a first-class degree?
I didn’t plan to graduate with a first-class degree. All I cared about when I gained admission was to graduate at a particular age. So, the desire to graduate with a first-class degree came up along the way. By the end of my first year, I had 5.7/7.0. However, I decided I wanted a first-class grade at the end of my first year and I never went back on that. I didn’t get it in my second and third years, but I could see the improvement in my CGPA. I knew I only needed to intensify my efforts. One of the most impressive things about my university, particularly my faculty, is that no one comes to class to tell you it’s impossible to get an ‘A’ in any course. It made me extremely confident that if I worked hard and was consistent, I would get my desired results.
There were times when reading got tiring, but there was never any point that I told myself I wanted anything less than a first-class grade. Graduating with a first-class degree wasn’t easy because I had to go the extra mile. I had to make my education a priority every step of the way. There were days when all I wanted to do was see movies, but I knew there were some topics I hadn’t read, so the movies had to wait. It affected my commitment to some activities in school, but my studies always had to come first.
You once said you had a conversation with a senior colleague who told you how difficult it could be to move from second class (upper division) to first class, how did that influence you along the line?
I wasn’t discouraged by what he said because I knew he spoke about his own reality and not mine. It only gave me additional inspiration to give my studies the best shot. However, I attribute my excellence to the grace of God. I wasn’t lucky; grace just made the difference. I worked hard and smart, but I had coursemates who worked harder and smarter than I did. So, it had to be God’s grace. However, I studied as hard as I could, asked questions from my friends and had discussions with different people.
You also said you had to explain things to yourself sometimes in your native language, could you expatiate on that?
Well, it is exactly what it is. It is a mental exercise where I simply break down and explain some principles to myself in Yoruba. English is sometimes confusing, but Yoruba never fails me (laughs). It is something I do a lot and not just for my studies. While at university, I tried to read at least two hours per day during the session. However, during exam period, I read every time I wasn’t sleeping or eating. I also made time for discussions with my friends and used the library regularly. In fact, I was one of those called KDL Majors (Kenneth Dike Library Majors). Kenneth Dike Library is the general library of the University of Ibadan.
There are instances where people who graduated with first-class degrees roam the streets, in search of job, what motivated you to go for it anyway?
As an undergraduate, I followed the stories of graduates who got well-paid jobs because they had good grades. The benefits of graduating with a first-class degree are numerous. If you don’t get a good job immediately, you can always further your studies. It is easier to get fully funded scholarships when you have a first-class degree. I also saw a lot of job postings that had first-class degree or second-class (upper division) degree as the basic educational requirement. If I were an employer, I would consider first-class graduates before others. And regardless of what anyone says, having good grades will always be fashionable.
Are you concerned about the rate of unemployment in the country?
The unemployment rate in Nigeria makes me unhappy. I believe it has caused a lot of graduates to settle for what they would never have considered, especially those that didn’t match their skills, and that is saddening. Graduates now take up all kinds of jobs because of the belief that half bread is better than none.
What interests you most about law as a course and in practice?
Law is very dynamic. By extension, any lawyer who intends to be successful has to be dynamic and versatile. That makes the practice of law interesting for me.
You experienced both sides of the divide as an undergraduate; being at a level you didn’t like and making it to your desired grade eventually, why do you think students fail?
Students fail for different reasons. In my opinion, a lot of students fail because of their inability to prioritise. If you make your education a priority, you will never hesitate to do all that is reasonably and legitimately possible to get your desired grades. However, I am aware that some also fail due to circumstances beyond their control, like ill health, refusal to succumb to immoral requests from lecturers, etc.
What is your advice to students who love to also graduate with a first-class degree?
I maintain that my kind of result was more of God’s grace. This isn’t to say I didn’t do my part, because I did. I made education a priority at all times. I wasn’t extremely social but it didn’t mean I focused solely on my studies. I was involved in quite a number of activities as an undergraduate, but my books always came first. At some point, it affected my commitment to a particular organisation, but my studies still had to come first.
You once said one of your strategies was to make your notes, in addition to being more prayerful, what drove those moves?
Making notes helped to delimit the number of things I had to read. In my first year, I didn’t read so much because I still had secondary school mentality. That changed in my second year. I also intensified my prayers because I knew God was, and still is, the only one who gives good success. I didn’t have a defined timetable, but I tried to read for at least two hours daily during the session and during exams. All I did was sleep, eat and read.
What part of law are you interested in, with regard to practice?
I’m interested in corporate finance law. I hope to carve a niche for myself in that field.
You also wrote that you were strategic about your friendship, were you careful with the people you were close to?
Yes, I was. I carefully chose my friends and began to move with those who had impressive grades.
What was your happiest day as an undergraduate?
This is an interesting question. My happiest day was when a script I co-wrote with some colleagues was performed at the theatre arts department. It made people laugh and that made some extremely happy.
Would you like to share some of the activities you were involved in as an undergraduate?
I was involved in some activities from my first year, but I started holding positions in my third year. I was a member of the Moot and Mock Society; Junior Chamber International; Students Council on Legal Aid; Law Press Organisation; Lawliwood and TEDX UI. I became the head of H.O. Davies Chambers in my fourth year. On a scale of 1-10, I would give myself six when it comes to being sociable.
What was your performance like in your previous schools?
I graduated as the best graduating student in arts class from St Louis Girls Grammar School, Akure in 2012. I wasn’t so smart in nursery school because I had difficulty learning new things. I think I got better in primary school.
Did you encounter any challenge as a first year student?
I had issues adapting to the system. The mode of answering questions was different from what we had in secondary school, and as a fresher, there were a number of male students disturbing me and it required wisdom to manage the situation.
Some people see being in a relationship as a distraction for an undergraduate, were you in a relationship or you also saw it as distraction?
Yes, I was but it didn’t distract me. My education was first and I remain focused. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being in a relationship as a student as long as it doesn’t become a distraction. If you have to be in one, it should be with someone who understands the importance of good grades. There is no good being with someone who is only about wasting your time with unnecessary discussions and outings.
Was your mum the type to reward you for good performance?
No, she used to rub my head when I did so well. That was divine, even though I would have wanted material gifts (laughs).
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