Naomi Ekop, an alumnus of the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, scooped 13 awards at the Nigerian Law School emerging as the overall best graduating student. Currently a Legal Research Assistant with the Bayelsa State Judiciary, she spoke with LAOLU HAROLDS.
Looking back, who or what were the influences in your life that steered you in this direction (Law)? Where did the motivation come from?
The first influences on my decision to study law were my parents who are lawyers. Growing up with lawyers, viewing strategically placed portraits of my parents robed and being surrounded by law books definitely sparked an interest in Law. I was also motivated by the versatile nature of the legal profession as law reaches into every aspect of life and lawyers can be seen to function in diverse spheres of life.
What was your experience through the course? What did you find particularly challenging, for instance, and how did you cope?
The entire experience through my course of study could be likened to putting together building blocks. With each new level or class, you find yourself acquiring new knowledge and skills whether practical or theoretical, which must be rightly positioned on previous knowledge in order to achieve a durable structure that can compete favourably in any legal clime.
An aspect that was particularly challenging was having to study the position of the law on any given principle, as contained in statutes and judicial precedents. It is the norm that answers to legal questions ought to be backed by authorities, and a student has to properly apply the authorities to the principles to stand out. Authorities are also constantly evolving through amendments and judicial interpretation but one of the ways I coped was to make use of case law that could be touched on more than one principle of law.
Can you give us a peek into your family background? What influence did this have on your career, and progress?
I am the first of three children – two females and one male, born in a Christian home. My parents are from Akwa Ibom State and both have experience in the fields of academics. Currently, my dad is a legal practitioner while my mum is an academic planning officer. My parents have always wanted the best for us academically, so that we could come out at the top of our chosen fields. They also, by God’s grace, made sure we lacked nothing within their power to provide. Their determination to maintain this state of affairs influenced me to put in my best into my academics as it would always be rewarding to them to see me excel.
What personal discipline did you have to subject yourself to to achieve and sustain that momentum you had?
I constantly reminded myself to always aim for excellence and strive to be the best in all I did. Even when I didn’t meet my goals, I made efforts to learn from the mistakes I made, let go of the past and look forward to the next opportunity to excel. I tried to discipline myself to abide by the rules of institutions I attended to avoid queries, attending classes on time, doing assignments and reading as I should while not letting it overshadow my walk with God. I had to discover what worked for me in terms of reading patterns and schedules and resolutely stick to them even when they were not in tandem with what others were doing or what they approved of.
The social media addiction is a big problem today. Ladies are particularly susceptible to this distraction (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp etc). How did you insulate yourself to achieve the feat you achieved?
Social media addiction is a trait that creeps up on people unknown to them and it took some measure of discipline to avoid its negative effects on my academics. I had to consciously train myself to put down my phone when it was time to study or complete a task. I made a deliberate decision not to be on every social media app that sprang up. There were also times when I would delete a social media app or deactivate my data settings for a couple of days.
There’s this notion about lawyers’ penchant for defending everyone that can pay their bill…often including criminals. Have you ever thought about the ‘morality test’ your chosen profession might bring your way? Where do you plan to stand?
The right to a lawyer or legal representation is a right bestowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, even on persons assumed to be criminals, as everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The thought of the ‘morality test’ has definitely crossed my mind as the thought of what lengths one would go to in the profession is inevitable. I plan to stand on the side of truth and justice and will not compromise my beliefs in any situation as the profession is sorely in need of persons of integrity.