The press club, University of Lagos met with Supreme Unukegwo – the president of the Law Student’s Society, for the 2016/2017 session. Correspondents of the club Adedayo Adebiyi, Mahuemolen Odibo and Ariyo Ayodele interviewed him and he had this to say.
You are the president of the law student society, tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Supreme Unukegwo, a 500-level law student and I’m the president of the law student society. I hail from Delta state. I come from a family of five, my dad is an engineer and my mum is a business woman, I am the last child.
What prompted you to contest for the LSS presidency?
I saw certain things going on in the society and I felt they were not right. I grew up to believe that if you really need to do something then you should do it yourself, you can’t just expect things to come. In Nigeria, we are always waiting for things to come and no one is doing anything positive to actually make that thing happen, so I felt if I can’t tackle the issues that affects Nigeria as a whole, I can at least start with my immediate society which is the law society. So I decided that I was going to run for the position of the president.
How does it feel being the president of the society? How was the campaign and election process?
The election process was scary. At a point I lost hope that I was going to win. I was just praying the margin would not be too large, because I know how the faculty is. If you lose you’ll just become a laughing stock. But immediately I won I knew it was going to be the beginning of everything. It is not just about the pre-elections, it is about when you finally get into that position. That’s when everything starts, and people start to look up to you.
What are your achievements so far?
When we started our tenure we intended to do certain things differently. I’m not saying we’ve been 100 percent successful, we’ve had our successes and failures, but some of the things we have been able to do first of all is the UNILAG law review. That’s an initiative that has never been in this faculty and various universities have law reviews. The initiative has given law students the opportunity to start writing on law topics, criticising laws and giving basis for improvement of those laws. The reason for this is, if everyone cannot help the society, everyone can be a member of the law society, so the law review is one of the ways in which the law society gives back to the general society. Also, one of my key plans when coming into office was to sustain. That’s what SWD stands for: Sustainability, Welfarism and Difference, so we have been able to sustain all the programs introduced by previous administrations.
During your manifesto, you promised the students, as part of student welfarism, a complaint system where students could make complaints. Have you been able to fulfil this?
Yes, that was the LSS congress. We held one in the first semester. After the inauguration of the senate members, we had a conference with the students and some faculty representatives like the sub dean, where complaints were made by students. And I also spoke on owning up to responsibilities and also advised them not to run away from failure or mistakes. Nobody expects everything to be perfect. We should be able to own up to those mistakes and find a way to correct them in other for subsequent administrations not to make the same mistake they made. There are plans for another congress to take place this semester.
Challenges of the office?
Apart from the challenges we have faced in respect to raising funds, which is common not to only the law society but also other societies on campus particularly with the current state of the economy, the major challenge faced is tutorials. I had beautiful ideas for tutorials. I had a plan which I really wanted to work but could not implement, not due to the fault of the executives of the law society, but due to the way the faculty is currently organized. Students have classes from 8am to 5pm and we have Masters students come in for lectures in the evenings so there is a major problem of venues to have this tutorials. But what we have decided to do is have mop up tutorials during the lecture-free week to make up for the time lost during the semesters, as classes would have been suspended by then, and can be substituted with tutorials.
Do you think this inability to have effective tutorials is a cause for mass failure in the faculty?
I don’t think so, there are several reasons that could lead to failures in the exams. If we are having mass failure every year in a particular course you can’t blame the students alone, you also look at the people teaching the course. And without any form of disrespect to the lecturers, I’m not saying they are not good in what they are doing. I’m saying maybe there is a stereotype that makes students afraid to walk up to their lecturers and ask relevant questions.
Do you think the standard is too high?
Yes.. that’s also something. I won’t say the standard is too high, but I know we have a very high standard because when my friends from other law faculties in Nigeria see my exam question they are amazed. And it also shows in the law school, that’s why we have one of the best results in the law school particularly last year. So I think we have a very high standard but not too high.
What is your opinion on some policies and development on campus, like the closing of hostels by 10pm, insecurity etc.?
By reason of being the president of the law students society I’m also by default a member of the council of faculty presidents, a subcommittee of all faculty presidents, not like ULSU but something similar to it. We’ve had issues with the 10pm policy and we have spoken to the school management through the dean of student affairs. They told us that hostels would not be closed by 10pm, but movement in and out of the hostel would be restricted and shops would close by 10pm. The reason given by the DSA was insecurity particularly with the cases of kidnaps on campus , and they have the responsibility to keep students safe on campus as they stand in place of our parents. But then the council have suggested ways by which this could be resolved, so the council has tried to set up a student task force whereby we assist the school security management in maintaining security. Unfortunately it has not kicked off because we do not have the approval of the university management yet but volunteers for the force have been gotten.
Does the task force have anything to do with the suicide walk?
No, the suicide walk is also an initiative of the council of faculty presidents, because suicide is a prevalent issues on campus at the moment so the council bringing up this initiative is for the university to speak with one voice against suicide, the walk is going to be centred on different contemporary issues like sexual harassment, poor academic performance and some other things that lead students into depression. The aim of the walk is to enlighten students on better ways to deal with these issues other than taking their lives.
There is the recent case of year 3 law students and a certain comedian that supposedly lead to the shutdown of a program in which the comedian was to perform, how true is this ?
I have to be careful on what I’ll say about this because it’s still an ongoing issue in school, but I can tell you now that some faculty executives are facing a panel in school and its related to this issue, but about that(the video) it happened sometime in April, and one of the first steps I took was to reach out to the person who interviewed the comedian. He said they had a privilege to make these type of statements in the entertainment industry particularly in comedy and apologised for the remark made about law students, but it was not due to the remarks made about law student that the program was shut down.
As per finals, how are you joggling school work with your position?
Well…ironically the first semester that I assumed office was the semester I had the highest G.P.A. I don’t have a major plan, but I believe in God and he has been helping me. Secondly, I delegate assignments to other members of the executive so I don’t burden myself with too much work. For instance, I’m currently on leave because my final exams are coming soon, so I have written a letter to the senate handing over power to the vice president till I resume office after exams.
What is your most memorable day in the university?
That would be the day I got into the faculty, because I came through diploma. That marked the beginning of a lot of things.
Most embarrassing moment?
During diploma I was the class rep and one day a lecturer scolded me in front of the class. That would be my most embarrassing day.
Law dinner is the most anticipated event on campus, so what’s your plan for this year’s dinner or are we going to be having a repeat of last year’s scenario?
Well… I think the problem with last year’s dinner was that they were not really organised and had shortage of funds, but I can assure you that this year we will not be having a repeat of last year’s scenario, because this year we have enough funds for the event. There is a committee already in place to prepare for the dinner so the date is set and it is still the 18th of August.
Any collaborating event with other faculty or school?
Yes, like the suicide walk on the 5th of July it’s a university program and the LSS is involved with other faculties in making sure the program is a success. I enjoin students to participate in it. Also, we are still talking about certain programs, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about it yet.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I’ll probably still be schooling because I need to have a masters in business administration(MBA). For where I want to school, I have to have at least two years working experience before I can apply for my masters, so yes…I’ll probably be schooling or married by then.
Any school sweetheart?
(laughs) this question usually puts me in trouble…. yes, there is someone.
What’s your social life like?
Well… most people think am a nerd, but on the contrary I’m someone that loves to go out. I don’t go out much at night but when I do I am the life of the party and I do have a good social life.
Advise to law students?
For law students, I think you should not believe in stereotypes particularly about some law courses like Land Law and Equity that many students believe you can’t have an A or trying to get a 5.0 C.G.P.A. My advice to them is to always strive for the best in all they do and not to be discouraged by hearsays.
Philosophy about life?
Nothing is going to be handed over to you on a platter of gold. All my life I have never wanted anything free. I have always worked for it, so I believe anything you need you work for it and you get it.