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Name: Geoffrey Chiwetalu Adonu
Campus: Lagos Campus (First Class), Director General’s Prize for First Class Students; Hon. Justice Mohammed Bello G.C.O.N Prize for the 2nd Over-All Best Student; Mallam Yusuf Alli, S.A.N Prize for the Best Male Student; and the Nigerian Bar Association Prize for the Best Male Student
University: Babcock University (First Class )
About: Geoffrey Chiwetalu Adonu, graduated with a First Class from the Nigerian Law School and was the Second Over-All Best graduating Student of the 2015/2016 Academic Session. He won several prizes at the Call to Ceremony held on 30th Novermber, 2016. He also graduated with a First Class from Babcock University Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State.
Dubbed Mr. Genuis by the Dean of Law at Babcock University, Emeritus Professor I.O Agbede, Geoffrey is considered a hardworking and humble lad by his peers. He represented the faculty in many competitions including the 2nd Eyitayo Jegede Moot/Debate Competition held at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State, where the Faculty was placed second.
Choosing a Career in Law
As a young boy, I was not particular about what I wanted to become but I know I admired the prestige that the few Doctors and Lawyers had in the village. However, my motivation to study law came after my mum told me of how my father wanted to be a lawyer but death could not allow him. My father had died after concluding plans to enroll for the law programme at the University of Nigeria. That discussion ignited my interest in Law. I became determined to realize that dream that my Dad was not able to achieve. Finally, when it was time to write JAMB, I naturally filled in Law and here I am today. I know my Dad will be happy and proud wherever he is now.
What was the greatest challenge you faced?
The greatest challenge I faced was paying my way through school. Yes, I had lost my Dad and to the dismay of everybody around me, I decided to go to Babcock University to study law notwithstanding the cost. For some of my relatives and those that were close to me in my Village, it was the most unwise decision anybody could ever make. Thus, they stood by the side waiting for the day I would return to the village as a failure. But I thank God for my mum and her junior brother that believed in my dreams. I was determined to finish my studies at Babcock. I had to beg and do all kinds of menial jobs to raise my school fees. In fact, as student in Babcock, I was a Student-Worker in the Cafeteria, where I served my fellow students food, washed plates and mobbed the floor, just to raise my school fees.
I also worked in construction sites on campus and in the University farm, just to get some money for my fees and upkeep. It came to a point when my fellow students and even my lecturers had to contribute money every semester to keep me in school. Coming to Law School was almost impossible. I was about waiting for next set to go to law school when a firm I had interned with agreed to pay my law school fees. At the law school, feeding was almost impossible, if not for the good friends that God quickly mobilized for me. Despite all these travails, I was determined to traverse. I was determined to rise above my challenges and to the glory of God it paid off. It was a big surprise when I checked my result and saw that I had attained the Red Scroll and even more surprising when I learnt I had finished as the Second Over-All Best graduating Student and the Best Male. I could never had imagined any of these.
Before coming to the Nigerian Law School, what was your opinion about the school?
Prior to this time, I thought of the Nigerian Law School as a place where everybody is a saddist and irrespective of how hard you work, you will be marked down deliberately by the examiners. This came argely from the pictures painted about the Law School and its staff after the abysmal performance of the 2014 set. However, I must say I have a different opinion now, which is positive and optimistic.
From what you know now about the NLS, what would you have told yourself by this time last year?
I would have told myself “go there and enjoy yourself, have fun learning the law”. To be honest I had fun on a daily basis in the Law School, from the Class room, to group meetings, in the study room and the hostel, I had fun all the way. Yes, the environment is tense and serious because of the work load. But I was my normal self and created fun from engaging in the activities at the Law School. I did not allow the pressure to change me, rather I brought the pressure under my control.
What attributes do you think can help a student attain excellent performance in the Bar Exams?
There are no specific attributes that guarantee success at the Bar Part II Exams. However, I will state that with the following attributes, you will not get it wrong. These include determination, commitment, conviction, consistency, humility, patience and prayer. These attributes I have observed in every red scroll holder I have interacted with. Determination, commitment, conviction, consistency, humility and patience all count towards the effort and hard work you must put in while prayer attracts the grace needed to take you to the top. Thus, neither side of the divide is more important than the other. They are two sides of a coin. Faith without work is the passport to failure and vice versa.
From what you know now, what do you think you would have done better?
I think I should have done my studies earlier enough. During externship, I still had backlog of topics to attend to, meanwhile I ought to have been doing my revision then. So, I will advise anybody preparing to write Bar Part II to adopt early preparation. It saves you the burden of cramming and forgoing your sleep very close to the exams.
How would you rate the Bar Part II Exams?
I have heard many commentaries about the Bar Finals. Some have stated that it is overrated but I will state that it is not overrated. The Bar Exams is a serious rather than a difficult exam. It is a serious exam because it is a life defining event which also holds the key to your professional career in Law. That is why many people fear it. I however dare to say that even though it is a serious exam, it is one you can pass with ease. If you attend classes, listen to your teachers and get those few tricks given in classes, the sky is your starting point.
What kind of friends did you keep at the NLS and what impact did they have on your success?
Friends are instrumental to what grade you make at the Law School. They may either drag you to the mud or lift you up. It is better to be a lone ranger in the Law School than to have the wrong set of friends. For me I had a perfect set of friends. The friends I kept were people who equally understood the game of Bar Part II and how to play it. A few of them were already scholars from their Universities having graduated with a First Class but one thing was common among most of my friends, they were all eager to leave a mark in the sands of Bar Part II . Thus, we were a great team. We studied together, shared ideas in group discussions and pushed each other to the limits. We were interested in ensuring that everybody had a red scroll at the end. We succeeded to a great extent because a good number of my friends had a red scroll and others had a 2.1.
What do you think you did right?
I believe there are a lot of things I did right. I prayed right and God’s grace was there to scale up whatever I could not do with my human effort. I also studied right and made the right friends in Law School. These three things were key factors that ensured I came out with a First Class.
What do you know now that you did not know a year ago?
The major thing I know now which I did not know last year and probably would not have believed if any one told me is that Bar Final is not difficult. The Law School Exams is not as difficult as you are made to believe. It is just an exam that comes with a serious atmosphere because of what it portends for the future and career of the students. However, it is passable with ease given the right preparation, God’s grace, right attitude and right frame of mind.
How did you approach your studies?
First I would like to categorically state that Bar Part II is a personal battle and more importantly, it is a walk with the Divine. To that effect, it is not a case if what is good for the goose is good for the gander. One dose cannot be right for everybody. Thus, no method of study would be perfect for every student. I adopted the following method:
- I attended all my and paid rapt attention in classes. I missed classes four times for cogent reasons.
- I did most of my learning in class. Knowing fully well that if I engage in all night reading I will break down, I tried to learn everything while they are being taught in class, so that when I want to read, it will just be refreshing my memory.
- I made notes. I made notes before the class, during the class and after the class. The note after the class is to capture any disparity between the pre-class note and the class note. However, among the three notes, the class note is the King. Never joke with your class notes. It points to the direction of the teacher’s thoughts.
- I solved the tasks given. Many people think that group meetings are a waste of time. I agree to some extent. But the catch is that whether you attend group meetings or not, ensure that you personally solve all the tasks that were given to you. The Exam questions are not far from those tasks.
- I joined study groups. I made use of study groups effectively. I believe in having informed discussions with my colleagues that I believe share the same vision and goals as myself. I had about three study groups. The study group is a great platform for you to make mistakes and get corrected by your pals before the main exam. It is not a forum for arguments or show off. To have a fruitful group study, every member must cloth him or herself with humility. Nobody knows it all.
- I utilized my Christmas and Externship breaks optimally. They are the only periods you have to engage in solemn study.
- Early Preparation: Do not procrastinate. Start today to do your studies. If you wait, you will be overwhelmed by the volume of things to be read. Use every available opportunity to study even if it is 30 minutes, grab the opportunity.
- Find time out of your busy schedule to relax. For me, I relaxed by watching football games in the hostel reception. Find some time to relax and play. It helps your assimilation process.
Did you form your own notes or you read from the textbooks?
I formed my own notes. The work is bulky, thus you cannot be reading from the textbook during revision period. That is why it is imperative for you to write down key points as you read the textbook, so that when it is time to revise, you will just pick up the summary notes and read to remember. Textbook for me was for reading to understand the concept and issues involved in a topic. But if I want to read to memorize and write in an exam, my notes are the best bet.
How did you cope with the stress and pressure?
Managing stress and pressure is not very easy. On stress, I must confess it was the hardest thing I had to deal with. I broke down a number of times due to stress, but it is something that a student must face at the Law School due to the tight nature of the schedule. However, a way to manage the stress is to find a means of relaxing and easing the stress. For me I watched football as a means to relax and take my mind of the workload I had.
On managing pressure, I think I did that quite well. There was a lot of pressure on me to perform having come to the Law School with a first class from Babcock. At Babcock, the whole faculty had us in mind and reminds us at every opportunity of the need to perform and show the world that they had given us what it takes. Back in Law School, there are the pressures from your peers who list you as one of the many first class candidates in waiting. Then, I had a personal mission too. These added together put a lot of pressure on me. But I never let it affect me. I was not there to please anybody. So I conducted my affairs as if I was not gunning for a red scroll. I did my studies the way I did it in my undergraduate days and prayed to God to bless my little input. Which he did in the most amazing manner.
How did you find time to study or how did you manage you time?
There are lots of topics to be studied in preparation for the Bar Finals. Thus, there is little time to go through them. I must confess that finding time to study was a challenge. To solve this issue, I always use any available time to study. I never had a rigid schedule that I will study from this time to this time. Even if it is thirty minutes I can squeeze in before I sleep, I will and that way, I did not have to be struggling to create a special time for studies. Thus, I will advise that every time should be a time for studies provided you do not have any other activity that has priority over your studies at that time, such as your night sleep.
Did you have social activities?
My church activities were the major side activities I engaged in apart from my studies. I also remember playing the inter-group football competition for my group- Group 8. Then, I also usually gist with my friends in their rooms or outside the hostel every time I was not busy in addition to watching football.
How did you deal with your fear?
To be honest, I was afraid of what the outcome of the Bar Finals will be like. This, is because the outcome will have enormous impact on the future I am building for myself and those looking up to me back home. Thus, I was always thinking of what could go wrong in the process. That fear sometime kept me fighting hard. But I must encourage you not to be afraid. Fear is the mother of failure in Bar Finals. I overcame my fear between February and March when I was assisting a student who was resisting the Bar Exams. Then I found out that I could remember some of those things I feared was impossible to remember. That boosted my confidence and I was never afraid again until the Exam week when each day brought Grade A fear as to what the questions will look like. Do not allow fear to overwhelm you. If you do, you are digging a grave for yourself.
How did you plan your externship?
I planned my externship early enough. I decided to stay in Lagos and inside Campus during the externship. So I began on time to plan for accommodation within Campus which made me to join and become an active member of the law clinic as it came with free accommodation on campus during externship. The key to planning for externship is that you must choose a place where you can have a serene environment to engage in solemn studies.
How did you answer questions in the exam?
Conventionally, we are taught to answer questions using IRAC. Thus, we start form the issue and end with a conclusion. However in Bar finals, the issue is given to you most of the time, thus you start from stating the principle of law, apply it and reach a conclusion.
However, I did the reverse. The approach I adopted was to start from the conclusion and end with the conclusion. What that means is that I start my answer with the conclusion I want to reach in respect of the issue, then I will state the legal principle, apply it to the facts and reach the same conclusion again. The rationale for devising that method was that the examiners in Bar Finals have a lot of scripts to mark. Thus, they look out for specific things in your answer. That is why I decided to give the answer to the question (conclusion) and then proceed to show my work (principle of law and application to facts) and give the answer to the question again. This saves you a lot. Should your script fall into the hands of an examiner that hates long story, he would have seen you answer immediately and give you your marks before your long story bores him and for the one than likes you to show your work, you will equally satisfy him at the end.
What would you have done better?
I could have formed all my notes and covered all my topics earlier than I did. It was difficult having to complete my notes and finish up some topics during the externship, during which time I should have been revising. This made me to keep late nights and deprive myself of sleep more than I would have loved to.
What regrets do you have?
I regret nothing about my days in the Nigerian Law School. Yes, I could have done better and the sky is the starting point but I remain eternally grateful to God for using me as instrument to glorify his name.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful to my God about many things as regards my sojourn at the Nigerian Law School. He gave me many things I never envisaged I would be getting from the Law School. I thank God for the many trophies He bestowed on me including enabling me to become a red scroll bearer and the wonderful friends I made.
I also want to appreciate my friends who stayed by me and urged me on despite the travails I had to deal with. I would like to thank Eyitene Iwere, Ngozi Nwanta, Bamise Fatoke, Kehinde Osuyinkanmi, Pamela Opoko, John Chikaelo, Saheed Abiola, Fatai Junior, Rabiu Adagba, Emma Anigwe, Stella Ochulor, Ada Owhorchuku, Amarachi Okonkoh, Tobi Rosiji, Toyin Oladapo, Dami Dawodu, Olisa, Christian Egwuogu, Emiloju Dolapo, Meshak Okezi, Adam Mohammed, Etido David, Praise Ntem, my lecturers in L.S.S. Babcock, my class mates from Babcock, the CALSAN family and a host of others. Thank you all for believing in me and helping me to go through Law School in different ways. I appreciate all of you. I am glad I met you all.
What advise do you have for those coming behind
I will advise any person preparing to sit for Bar Part II exams to kill the spirit of fear. Bar-final-phobia is a serious disease that causes the downfall of many Bar Final candidates. Fear is of the devil and has the ability to make you fail Bar Part II even before you write the first paper. A student in my group deferred the Bar Part II exams out of fear of failure. Even the promise by my friend to help him during the revision could not convince him that he can pass the exam. Dear friends, the Bar Part II exams is a mountain you can and must climb. Remove the fear in you and fill yourself with confidence. Confidence is the first weapon for defeating Bar Part II.
For those aiming to be red scroll bearers, I will advise you not to be proud. Do not make those around you feel like they know nothing by the way you go about showing your scholarly abilities. Be down to earth, share your knowledge and be open to correction. With humility and good preparation guys, you are not far from the red scroll.
Also, the red scroll is for everybody. It is not for those that made first class or second class upper in the University. The red scroll is for everybody who is determined to attain it and puts in the requisite effort and attracts the requisite level of grace to grab it. Do not be fooled by the wisdom of men around you who claim to know it all. They are not the examiners and have no role to play in your Bar Part II story. Only God, you and the Lecturers have a role to play. So, forget your University grade and go for it and you will most likely attain it.
Finally I would advise every student to study and understand him/herself if you have not done that till now. What works for Obi will not work for Ada. Find out what works for you. If you cannot study for six hours, do not attempt suicide by following those that can. Study for the one hour you can and take one hour break and return. It will pay you more than doing six hours because everybody around you is doing it without gaining anything.