I am pleased to introduce Onoriode Reginald Aziza. Upon his recommendation as a Young Bar Alpha I conducted my own research and boy was I amazed! He has done amazingly well for himself and after speaking to him I only hope I can show you how inspiring he is.
Reginald comes from Delta State, Nigeria. His Dad is a retired civil servant and his Mom is a Professor of Linguistics at Delta State University. He is a triple first-class lawyer, having made first class law degrees from the Obafemi Awolowo University, the Nigerian Law School and the University of Cambridge.
With over 25 academic awards (including the Faculty of Law Prize for the Best Student in the Faculty of Law OAU, the Mohammed Bello Prize for the Second Best Student at the Nigerian Law School, and the Wolfson College Jennings Prize for a Distinction on the Master of Corporate Law in Cambridge), he is fortunate to be in a rather privileged position in his career.
Called to the Nigerian Bar in 2013, Reginald is our YBA this week. The aim YBA is to showcase young exceptional lawyers who are, or planning to specialize/form a niche for themselves in various areas of Law both in Nigeria and abroad. It will also showcase young Lawyers doing amazing things in and for our country.
It was a pleasure speaking with him and in this interview, we see how he developed his passion for corporate law practice, alongside his natural flair for litigation and how he hopes to nurture it into a full blown legal career in time.
BA: Hi Reginald!
Reginald: Hello. Hope you are well?
BA: Very well thank you, and thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with me.
Reginald: It is my pleasure. Thank you for having me on board, and congratulations on the fantastic job you are doing on this platform. It is deeply refreshing to see people like you who are willing to commend and celebrate the successes of your peers.
BA: First of all I would like to say a big well done on all your achievements, you have really done well for yourself and you must be proud. What has been your driving force in all of this?
Reginald: Thank you for the commendation; although to be fair, I do not see it as a big deal. I believe my single driving force has been an unrepentant commitment to excellence. It is all I have ever wanted to do and be: excellent. As I have said and will always say, I am no genius and I certainly do not consider myself as naturally gifted or smart. I believe I have only been thirstier than most in pursuing excellence. I believe, as did Aristotle, that excellence is not an act but a habit. The pursuit of this habit of excellence has thus been my driving force.
BA: Wow, so that means Law has always been something you wanted to do?
Reginald: Laughs. No it has not. To be frank, my decision to study law was an act of rebellion against my Dad. My early goal was to be a neurosurgeon. I flirted with the idea for a number of years until I was 12, when I took my JSCE examinations. The grades came out exceptionally well, and my Dad told me he wanted me in medicine and went on to name the subjects I will take in my SSCE examinations. The rebel in me sprang up and I resisted(although it was what I wanted). It appeared that the thought of someone naming my subjects for me irked me, because if given the choice myself, I would have picked the exact courses my Dad selected! I still remember the exact words I used in my declaration of rebellion: “In fact, I want to study law”. Grinning joyously at each of my graduations from the Obafemi Awolowo University, the Nigerian Law School, and Cambridge, the look on my Dad’s face shows he is happy I rebelled.
BA: Laughs. So how then, compared to OAU did you find your Law School experience?
Reginald: Unlike most, my law school experience was extremely pleasurable. I deliberately chose to be in the Yenagoa Campus so as to be far away from the large campuses and have the benefit of smaller, more hands-on learning. It worked. We were 306 students in the Campus at the start of the journey (sadly one of us died) and this made for more personalized interactions. The lecturers knew many of us by name, the places we sat in class, and had a fair sense of our abilities. I was privileged to have close relationships with a number of the lecturers who showed me first hand how to navigate through the treacherous seas of the bar exams. I met some thoroughly amazing friends and developed some credible relationships, which I hope will endure a lifetime. In all, I enjoyed the experience and I am saddened it will not happen again.
BA: And hence the end result! Can you please tell us some of your achievements both before and after Law School.
Reginald: Prior to my resumption at the law school, I was privileged to graduate with the only first class and as the best graduating law student from the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University. After the law school, I was privileged to graduate with a first class in the Master of Corporate Law (MCL) Degree from Cambridge, thus completing my third first class degree.
BA: Can you give those who are hoping for equal results in Law school some tips
Reginald: To be fair, I think the main thing is not to demonize the system. That is main problem I see with aspirants to the Bar. Before resumption, they come in with all sorts of misconceptions, all deeply rooted in fear. The system is human! It is built for humans and humans make the most of it! Therefore, do not be fazed by what you hear. Having dispelled the notions you hear, remember that the(un)seen thread and (un)spoken story of everyone who has achieved top grades from the NLS is persistence and discipline. I tell people that the NLS is not a sprint; it is a marathon. You will shoot yourself in the foot if you are sprinting in the initial weeks and months of your NLS journey. Rather than being Usain Bolt, you want to be Kenenisa Bekele: have the discipline to stay in front of the race for kilometers and the persistence to sprint through the final lap (the week of the exams) as though you had not been running all along.
BA: What area of law do you take interest in or hope to specialize in?
Reginald: My masters program in Cambridge was a specialized corporate law course. Within the corporate field, I will look at specializing in competition law. It is a field that currently has very little traction in Nigeria, and one I have a lot of passion for.
BA: How were you able to decide on the area of law to specialize in. Were you inspired by any one in particular or did you do the research?
Reginald: I did a lot of personal research into competition law. Fortunately, one of the partners in the law firm where I did my NYSC is an authority on the field in Nigeria and I have deep respect and admiration for him. One of my competition law lecturers in Cambridge also had Nigerian roots. These were some of the influences, but my research into the field fuelled my eventual resolution.
BA: Who do you consider your role model in the legal profession?
Reginald: I will interpret your question to mean my role model in the legal profession in Nigeria. In Nigeria, my model in the profession is without a doubt Prof. Olukonyinsola Ajayi SAN, the Managing Partner of Olaniwun Ajayi LP. Unmatched in wit, unparalleled in logic, peerless in knowledge, quick in thought, clear in argumentation and unrivalled in poise, he earns my ceaseless respect.
BA: Based on your interests where do you hopefully see yourself in 10 years?
Reginald: To be honest, I deliberately try to keep all my options open. I thus do not have any fixed long-term goals at the moment. For now, the goal will be to remain excellent. I try to keep myself as flexible as possible, and as such,there are a number of set milestones I will need to get to the eventual goal I pick. The direction I will eventually take will be dependent on circumstances I find along the way.
BA: If you don’t mind, can you give me a summary of what you are currently up to, career wise?
Reginald: I just concluded the Master of Corporate Law program in Cambridge. I will hope to work for at least the next two years: whether the work will be in the UK or Nigeria, and if in Nigeria, where in Nigeria, will be determined in the course of time. In the mean time, I may explore options for a PhD. If taken, my research should center around market-defining areas in Securities Law or Competition Law and Policy, using Sub-Saharan Africa as a focal point.I may consider developing my thesis into a book to drive legal scholarship in the field. As you can tell, there are a number of options and the path eventually taken will be determined in time.
BA: Great! Are you a member of any society or group in furtherance of your career?
Reginald: Apart from the NBA, I am not yet a member of any professional bodies in Nigeria. It is something I will decide on in time as my career trajectory becomes clearer and strategic decisions have to be made. Of course, being an alumnus of the University of Cambridge and of Wolfson College cannot hurt my career going forward.
BA: What are your hobbies?
Reginald: I love games. I spend all my time playing Football Manager or Rise of Nations (both computer based strategy games). I just think they greatly enhance my problem solving skills. Besides those, a good hang out with my friends, travelling, watching soccer and thinking are my favourite pastimes. Did I forget to mention I love eating too?
BA: Finally, your favorite book and movie
Reginald: Anything that has the name Robert Greene will be a delight to me (The 48 Laws of Power, the 33 Strategies of War, the Art of Seduction, the 50th Law, and Mastery). My best movie without a doubt is Troy. I still watch it before EVERY examination I write. Yes, you can call me weird!
Laughs! Thank you so much Reginald for taking this time out!
The reception the YBA segment is gaining is superb!
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