I didn’t sleep until I’d met my daily study plans
In addition to being a part of the Young African Leaders Initiative as an undergraduate, 23-year-old Iyinoluwa Ajayi graduated with a first-class degree from the Department of Law, University of Ibadan with 6.30/7.00 CGPA. She attained the same feat at the Nigerian Law School. She tells TUNDE AJAJA about her days in school and what stood her out
Would you say you are in your dream profession?
I never planned to study law. I always wanted to be a medical doctor. I loved the idea of wearing white overalls, being called a doctor and hanging a stethoscope on my neck. Somehow along the line, particularly in secondary school, I saw that I did better in Art-related subjects and I decided to go for it. Usually at that time, most people who went to Art classes would choose to study law, so I followed the crowd (laughs). Thankfully, I found my passion right in the midst of the crowd and my parents supported me. I’m blessed with amazing parents and siblings, who stood by me all the way. Aside from my immediate family, I also have amazing friends, male and female, who took my law school journey as theirs. They prayed, sent food, encouraged and prayed for me.
When you gained admission, did you set a target to graduate with a first-class degree?
I did. From my first year, I had a book where I wrote all my courses and my desired scores. In fact, I calculated my CGPA without having written any examination. Setting this target really helped me because occasionally, I would go back to this book to check my goals and it spurred me to study hard.
Did that make the first-class grade easier?
My answer lies somewhere between easy and difficult. Yes, it required intense hard work but it was not difficult. I was fortunate to have been taught by dedicated lecturers who rewarded hard work with good scores. Therefore, I only needed to do my own part – attend classes, do my assignments, listen during lectures, study hard and pray. I sustained this attitude at the Nigerian Law School and it worked for me as well.
Students deploy all kinds of reading schedules, what worked for you?
Law is very voluminous but I found a study pattern that worked for me early and stuck with it for the five years I spent in the university and at the law school. I used to take notes in class, make my personal jottings from textbooks and other materials. I read these personal notes over and over again till I fully understood everything about the courses because I also didn’t like having a backlog of unread notes. That preparation gave me adequate confidence to take my exams. Also, I made good use of my daytime as I could not study at night. I didn’t read merely because everyone was reading; I did what I felt was best for me per time and it paid off, with God’s help. So, I basically found a schedule that was convenient for me and I stuck with it.
Would you term it a smooth journey?
There were times I almost gave up, both at the University of Ibadan and law school. In my third and fourth years in the university, I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. I headed a couple of student organisations and was also involved in church activities. With all those, I had very little time to study as I had in my first and second years. At some point, I felt deeply overwhelmed and felt like giving up on the pursuit of a first-class degree, but my immediate family members and friends made me realise how much they believed in me and that helped. I would say part of what helped was also that I set daily goals, including all the topics I wanted to cover in a particular day and more often than not, I wouldn’t go to bed without meeting those goals. But, despite that, I ensured that I had enough sleep every night, especially while I was at the law school. In fact, most nights, I was in bed between 11pm and 6am. I only made sure I read during the day and reduced the time for things that were not really important.
How often did you use the library?
In the university, I used the library a number of times, for research. At the law school, I never read at the library. I didn’t even know the way to the library until we had to take a mock examination there. I don’t like to read in extremely quiet places, there is a high tendency that I would fall asleep (laughs). I mostly read in my room or at my table, where I could get distracted once in a while and stay alert.
Were you involved in other school activities or it was about your academic work throughout?
In the university, I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. I led my Faculty Press Organisation in my final year; I was vice-president of the Students’ Council on Legal Aids; I was a foundation member of the Tax Club of the university; I was a member of the Literary and Debating Society of both my faculty and hall of residence; I was a member of the Junior Chamber International; I worked in the Electoral Committee of the Students’ Union in my fourth year and headed the electoral committee of my hall of residence in my final year. These are just a few of the activities I was involved in at the university aside from religious engagements. At the law school, however, there were really no extracurricular activities to get involved in apart from religious activities.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for good performance?
I have always been a high-performing student so I guess my parents had become used to it (laughs). I used to get extra pieces of meat during the holidays and some special treatment; nothing extreme though. I didn’t ask for anything, but I probably would have been obliged if I asked. However, the fact that they were happy with my performances was enough reward for me.
Were there awards you won at both institutions?
I didn’t win any award at the university, but at the law school, aside from being the fourth overall best student in a set of over 6,000 students, I also won the Director General’s Prize for First Class Students and the Best Graduating Student in Professional Ethics and Skills.
In terms of professional ethics and skills, what are the major things you notice about law practice today that you think should be improved upon?
The legal profession is a noble profession and it is a privilege to get called to the Nigerian Bar. However, as it is the case with every other profession, there are certain things we can do better. First is what I would call the ‘adjournment culture’. It makes litigation unattractive to new lawyers. While adjournments can be sought and granted to parties in a dispute, it should not be used as a delay tactic to extend the time spent hearing a case. Second issue is the remuneration for new lawyers. While it is believed that new lawyers are gaining experience by working in law firms, they should not be paid peanuts. ‘New Wigs’ deserve to get fair pay for the work they do in these law firms.
What part of law are you interested in?
I’m interested in Corporate Commercial Law Practice, specifically Capital Markets and Project Finance. I also have special interest in Intellectual Property and FinTech.
You are a YALI RLC (Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Centre) alumnus, having taken part in the Cohort 8 of the Initiative in Ghana, how would you describe that experience?
It was in the middle of the second semester in my final year in 2017. I had to participate in the online part of the programme for eight weeks and then proceed for the Onsite part of the programme in Ghana. This lasted for another three weeks.
What did you learn from that forum?
At that forum, I met amazing people making impact in the civic engagement, entrepreneurship and public policy space across West Africa. I learnt from the experiences, successes and failures of these people and how the journey of making impact had been for them. I also participated in series of leadership training sessions where I got exposed to skills that could make me better in any organisation or business enterprise I find myself.
You said you are passionate about civic engagement particularly as it involves education of children, male and female, what are the specific steps you like to take in that regard?
I currently volunteer with Slum2School, an organisation with a mandate to get children from slums across the country into schools for them to be educated. I joined the organisation in 2019 and I look forward to contributing my quota towards achieving the organisation’s aims. I also join campaigns for children’s equal access to education irrespective of their age, gender, religious affiliation or race.
You said you are also a lifestyle blogger, what inspired that?
I love to write for fun and I love to get people engaged through my writings. That was why I picked up lifestyle blogging. I write on issues revolving around law, life, love and faith. Most of the pieces on my platform are my personal musings.
What would be your advice to students?
Read, pray, rest, teach others, learn from others, read again, pray again and repeat this whole process! It’s as easy as it sounds. Academic excellence is not reserved for a set of people. If you can put in the work, you would get the reward.
What were your most memorable moments in schools?
My happy moments in school would include every time I collected my transcript for the previous academic session and saw that my performance either got better or stayed the same. It was better than dropping. It was extremely satisfying to know that despite my many engagements, my studies didn’t suffer. Other happy moments were all the moments I heard people say how inspired they were by how I managed my academic work, in spite of the numerous extracurricular activities I was involved in, and most importantly that I excelled in all. However, my most embarrassing moment in the university was having a ‘C’ in a computer course I took in my second year. Prior to the exam, I taught people that course and when results were released, my performance was shocking. I don’t think I would ever be able to forget that experience