I have been to the Capital City, Abuja on only two occasions. My second visit was just two weeks ago, for my Call to Bar ceremony, and I had to put up with an in-law of mine, who is married with two lovely children. I had a tough time keeping Ezinne, the three-year old child away from my room. She would run in and insist on ransacking and inspecting every belonging of mine. During one of such occasions, she stumbled on my wig and gown, and as soon as I informed her what they were for, she declared emphatically that she wanted to be a lawyer. Ebube, her elder sister, laughed and informed me that only some days ago, Ezinne had made a lot of noise about wanting to become a pilot. I had a good laugh at that revelation. But it was not only humor that was sparked up in me, as that incident took my thought down the long path of memory.
I did not always want to be a lawyer. In fact, there existed a time when I was totally clueless and confused as little Ezinne. Being the best Biology student in secondary school, my parents concluded that I would be a surgeon, and frowned when I eventually went to the Arts class. My decision stemmed from my flair for the Art subjects, and more importantly, it was, for me, a chance of becoming an economist like my favourite sister, Ify.
At that time, I believed that if I followed my sister’s steps, I would become like Okonjo Iweala of the World Bank, Charles Soludo of the Central Bank, and Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke of the stock exchange. And so my sister became my greatest model and mentor. Then, it was not so much about what I really wanted to be in future, but who I wanted to imitate and eventually become like. I was blinded by my desire to become like other folks that I never looked deep down.
Time went by and I found myself in the Economics department. I later got wiser, and discovered a brand new path which I should follow if I desired career fulfillment – the path that led to the legal profession.
The legal profession held vast promises for me. It was an opportunity to be a true advocate of justice, especially in a nation like Nigeria, which has repeated instances of social injustice. I was also desirous of defending the rights of the vulnerable persons in the society, and the profession provided the most suitable platform.
Switching was not an easy task as I had to re-sit the JAMB exam and aptitude test, while also dedicating adequate study time to my courses. I sought counsel from few persons before I finally decided, and of all the pieces of advice I got, the one offered by a certain Chioma, a final year student still stands out in my mind. She berated me for not considering my friends in the Economics department. Being the assistant course representative at that time, she reminded me that I owed my friends and fellow students the great duty to remain with them in the career journey we had already begun. According to her, my decision to switch courses was most incongruous with my obligation to the class. I was to stand by my friends, she maintained, and any contrary decision will be tantamount to disloyalty and gross unfaithfulness to friendship.
There was a certain doctor who also stands prominent in my mind. I had a small medical challenge in school – one that I cannot remember now – and I visited the school clinic. When he inquired my discipline, I told him of my intention to switch, and he immediately launched into a litany of warning. He considered my decision thoughtless, and warned me to re-think. According to him, entrance into the legal profession would usher me into a world of endless poverty. He made reference to several relatives of his who were lawyers with a long history of impecuniosity. ‘You may end up as a charge-and-bail lawyer, so you better stay in Economics’, were his last words to me.
I really consider Economics an amazing course, which presents its graduates with wide prospects of employment. My decision to switch from it was driven by a far deeper conviction, a nagging yearning, whose end I could not yet fathom. I was satisfied in the knowledge that I would derive eternal glee in the very act of following the path that I was rightly convinced was meant for me. I neither followed Chioma’s advice nor that of the doctor, and so far, especially on the day I was called to the Nigeria Bar, looking back in time, I have found endless contentment in the path I treaded.
Experience, they say, is the best of teachers. So, from my career mistake, I learned a lot of lessons. I am now convinced that each person must follow his/her own dreams, and strive to thread that unique way that is most suited for his/her destiny. I have also learned that role models and mentors are there to inspire us to be the best we can be. They are not persons to be followed sheepishly or blindly, for we all are made with our own unique abilities and destinies.
Again, I have learned that in life, there will always be dream killers, and discouragers. Focus and determination is the only solution to overcoming them. And for me, they were personified in Chioma, and the medical doctor. Chioma was wrong. I concede that there is nothing compared to faithful friendship. But any sort of friendship which becomes a barricade between a person and his/her dream, is at best, useless. It is almost seven years now, the wind of life has blown me and those erstwhile course mates of mine to different directions, and naturally, I have lost touch with most of them.
The doctor was also grossly wrong. Fear is the seed of failure, and there is nothing as bitter as pessimism, and an abject lack of hope. His words were channeled to ignite fear in me, which if conceded to, will only distance me from my ambitions. Any man who prepares for poverty, will certainly find it at his doorpost. I did not set my eyes on poverty, never did, never will.
Having only been called to the Nigerian Bar, and currently in the NYSC orientation camp, I already have three letters of employment from very reputable law firms in Victoria Island/ Ikoyi, Lagos State. Surely, the doctor was very wrong.
Finally, and most importantly, the past incident has enhanced my appreciation of the concept of time. It remains true, the old saying that no time is ever too late. Upon the discovery of a mistaken path already taken, one must be quick enough to make the necessary amends, or forever, live in regret, and wishful thinking.
By Uche Anichebe
Uche Anichebe was called up to the bar on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 alongside over three thousand Nigerian law graduates.