By: Anushiem Chidera
In a university such as University of Ibadan, standing out is no mean feat. This is for no other reason than the very competitive admission process that welcomes some students into the school premises and turns countless others away. Nearly every student in the school was a topnotch scholar in his or her secondary school, but a different tale is told at the university where excellence is a habit, a domesticated animal and not some white tiger in the wild.
Graduating with a CGPA of 6.3, congratulations are therefore due to Mr Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede, who not only emerged as the 2015/16 Best Graduating Student of the prestigious Faculty of Law but was also selected as the graduating year’s valedictorian for nearly 6,000 students. Mr Ogunmodede is the only male child in a family of six from Ogun state. He is the founder of “The Legal Diary,” a blog that simplifies seemingly complex legal problems so non-lawyers can understand. He is currently a student of the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School.
The Transverse caught up with him for an interview in which he spoke about school generally, social activities, relationship life and challenges. The conversation went along these lines:
The Transverse: What is “The Legal Diary” and what does it entail sir?
Joseph: “The Legal Diary” is an online legal platform which I founded to creatively educate people on their legal rights as ignorance of the law is not an excuse. It can be accessed by visiting www.thelegaldiary.com. It entails posting legal stories or relevant contemporary issues in the society and offering points on the laws governing such circumstances. The Legal Diary also gives room for people to ask questions on grey areas of the law and their legal problems. Basically, it was evolved to meet the legal aspect of the need for public enlightenment.
The Transverse: Thank you for that sir. You recently graduated from the University of Ibadan, becoming her valedictorian for the faculty of law. How do you feel becoming a valedictorian in ‘the first and the best’?
Joseph: I feel very privileged, ecstatic and honoured. I am particularly thankful to God because I am the first Valedictorian from the Faculty of Law of the University of Ibadan (the First and the Best) since the inception of the noble University. More so, I survived an autocrash about five (5) hours before I received the good news that I would have the honour of delivering the Valedictory Speech at my Convocation Ceremony on Monday, the 13th day of November, 2017. In short, I’m fulfilled.
The Transverse: Congratulations once again! What would you say you owe this achievement to? What and what were the catalysts to your achievement? Your reading style? A photographic memory? Friends?
Joseph: In fairness, I owe everything about this achievement to God! Of course, I acknowledge the effort of my parents, Chief & Chief (Mrs.) Benjamin Oludare Ogunmodede, for their total support and firm belief in me as well as other people who believed I could do it. It was indeed a catalyst because I always told myself that “when you become lazy, it’s disrespect to those that believe in your ability”. I’m an average student that needs to read over and over again. However, I tried to be consistent with it and it paid off. I also had good mentors who put me through; the best way to know how a road is or the best manner to tour a path is to ask those that have been there. As a matter of fact, my Academic Mentor from my Fellowship, Ojetayo Victor Daniel, was also the Best Graduating Law Student in the previous set.
The Transverse: Great. So what kind of social activities did you engage in while at school; or were you the ‘triangle’ kind of student?
Joseph: I was never ‘the triangle’ kind of student and I think, to the best of my ability, I lived a balanced life. I engaged in politics; I was an Honourable Member of the Sultan Bello Hall House of Assembly in my first year. I was a member of the Sultan Bello Hall Literary and Debating Society but later stepped down because it was unfavourable to my class schedule as a Direct Entry Student. I also joined the Moot and Mock Society where I rose to the position of the Deputy Head and subsequently the Head. As a member of the Moot and Mock Society, I represented the University at a number of Moot and Mock Competitions notable amongst which are the 2nd Edition of the Bamidele Aturu Moot and Mock Competition organized by the University of Ibadan where I was awarded the “Best Witness”. In April, 2015, I also represented the University at the Maiden Edition of the Olasupo Shashore Moot and Arbitration Competition which was held at the University of Lagos where I was awarded the “Best Counsel”. I devoted my time and attention to Chamber activities, as I was a member of the H.O. Davies Chambers. Also, I volunteered at the Women’s Law Clinic and I represented the Clinic at Abuja for the review session of the Street Law Programme organized by the Nigerian University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) in conjunction with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). I was also active in my Fellowship, the Anglican Students’ Fellowship. Apart from being a member of the Welfare and Academic Units, I was the Welfare Coordinator for the Anglican Freshers’ Forum in my first year and the Welfare Coordinator of the Whole Fellowship in my fourth year. I was also a member of the Christian Law Students’ Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON) and I served as the 300Level Class Pastor/Assistant Prayer Secretary.
The Transverse: What was your regular day like in school?
Joseph: Well, it wasn’t as if I had a regular or fixed schedule considering all the activities I highlighted above. However, when I woke up in the morning, I thanked my Creator, went for classes, attended meetings and Fellowship on designated days. There were also times I had to go for group meetings and tutorials with my reading partner, Opeyemi Adebari. However, at every little time and any opportunity I get, I devoted it to the study of my books. There were times I read all days with breaks in between and I had days I couldn’t open my books at all.
The Transverse: What was your relationship life like? Did you have a girlfriend? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Joseph: My relationship life was interesting; I tried all my best possible to have good relations with everyone I came in contact with. I never had a girlfriend even though I made attempt at some point. However, I have quite a number of female friends that are up to the task, if you understand what I mean. Nonetheless, this should not be taken as implying that having a girlfriend is the beginning of failure. Come to think of it, perhaps, I might have done better if I had a girlfriend because I’m the type of person to spur up my woman and I can’t be with a lady who can’t keep me on my toes.
The Transverse: So, who will Mr. Ogunmodede Jagunmolu Joseph be in five to ten years’ time?
Joseph: I should have obtained my postgraduate degrees by then because I see myself lecturing to pass down the little knowledge I have down to the coming ones and also engaging in the modern practice of Law.
The Transverse: What would you say was the greatest challenge to achieving this feat?
Joseph: I can’t particularly say there was any major challenge. The only thing that could have been a challenge was the workload I had to cope with as a Direct Entry Student. However, the spirit that some people like Mariam Olafuyi have done it before boosted my self-efficacy and kept me going. As a matter of fact, I see most challenges as a stepping stone to success and a pointer to the fact that I’m closer to victory. A supposed path to success without hurdles leads to nowhere.
The Transverse: What are your final words for the up-and-coming ones?
Joseph: My sincere advice to the up-and-coming ones is that they should neither limit themselves nor live in denial. They should set high goals for themselves and work fearlessly towards it with dedication, discipline and determination. Consistency is very important! Just like Wiston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” You can begin from anywhere and still get the applause/ovation of the world.
The Transverse: Thank you so much sir for your time, we really appreciate it. And we hope you can repeat your first class feat at the Law School.
Joseph: Thank you too, sir. It’s an honour. We’ll try our best; God be our helper.