By Gabriel Dike
Provost/Dean, School of Law and Security Studies, Babcock University (BU), Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Prof. Pius Oladeji Olanrewaju, has said private universities do not just “dash” out first class grade to students. He insisted that those who get it work hard for it and earn it.
He spoke with The Education Report. Excerpts:
How did you venture into law?
My sojourn in the academia has been uniquely ordered by God. Having acquired experience in the banking and finance sector of the Nigerian economy for some years, I got engaged in Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, in 1996.
I researched, taught and mentored students in banking and finance from remedial status to degree level. I am proud to say today that I have well stable and eminent achievers in the banking and finance sector in Nigeria. Little did I know that OOU experience was just a pacesetter for greater academic career when, by providence, I got engaged in Babcock Business School in 2009.
I was invited to continue the trend of my career. But upon finding that I also had a law degree and the School of Law and Security Studies was being established, the founding fathers of the Law School brought me on board to teach commercial law-related courses and property law. By the grace of God, I rose through the ranks to become a professor and provost/dean of the school.
I am glad and thankful to God that I have turned over 600 students with credible performance in the Nigerian Law School and far beyond. Our products have been outstanding in the legal market. While in the academia, I have had the privilege to continue to interact with the town by serving in the education committee of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria, Institute of Capital Market Registrars and Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.
There have been questions about the quality of law graduates. What is your BU experience?
The quality of law graduates is dependent on several factors, including the teachers and the environment. There is no doubt that the educational environment in terms of public university funding, meagre lecturers’ remuneration and irregularity of academic programmes has negatively impacted on the quality of law graduates in Nigeria.
Fortunately, BU being a God-oriented and based institution, has lived above these barriers to academic excellence. It begins with the God-factor, which imbibed in the lecturers the missionary teachers’ approach.
The first drive is to think of the students’ future above others by ensuring they do not just have the full complement of standard and robust legal education and practice in school but by integrating faith in their curriculum. The heart of the legal scholar must be upright to be able to understand sustainable justice. An unregenerate legal mind is a threat to society.
Law is an instrument in the hand of the holder. Just like a person uses a good instrument as a pen to shape lives and another with unscrupulous mindset uses the same pen to destroy, so it goes with the holder of the law degree.
BU is fully conscious of that and so ensures the values are substantiated in the holistic legal education in the Bible. We are proud to say that our students, apart from the above, are given opportunities to add value to their educational, entrepreneurial skills and resilience. Our students are exposed to professional qualifications and competences in arbitration, chartered secretaries and security studies before graduation.
Generally speaking, the quality of law graduates has improved over the years, especially with the emergence of technological advancements, which made teaching with audio-visuals possible. Clinical legal teaching has further enhanced the ability of students to participate in client interviews competition, mock trials before getting to the Nigerian Law School.
In the last five years, BU law graduates have been making; what is responsible for the trend?
The curriculum at the BU School of Law and Security Studies is designed to ensure excellence among its students. Starting from 100 level, students are given a precise orientation of what it takes to succeed in the discipline. They are prepared to take up challenges to be the best not only within the institution but nationally.
The university encourages interactive methods of teaching and effective course advising to strengthen the weak students and those in need of emotional support.
Additionally, our faculty members are dedicated people and possess the requisite expertise to pass on the requisite knowledge the students need to succeed academically and in the legal profession. Lectures are delivered in such a way that enhances comprehension by each student.
In BU, excellence is our culture. We prioritise it in our methodology and delivery. We expose our students to professional certifications in order to ensure the marketability of our students. Our core values are encapsulated in integrity, which is our promise, accountability, our moral, and servant leadership, and our dignity.
BU’s excellent performance at the Bar examinations of the Nigerian Law School has been meteoric over the years. The university came first in 2016, first in 2017, second in 2018. In 2019, 10 per cent of the candidates prized with first class while one of them, Mayowa Abiru, won 13 prizes as the overall best in the 2019 Bar examinations. It is noteworthy that six of our candidates made first class in the 2022 Bar examination.
Do private universities award first class to their students?
There is an erroneous impression that private universities just dash out marks and first class grades. The available data at our disposal has proved this assertion wrong. The overall best candidate in the Bar examinations made second-class upper division in Babcock. Even five out of the six students who made first class in 2022 made second-class upper division in Babcock.
There are insinuations that law is meant for children of the rich, do you agree with this?
Absolutely not. The discipline of law is open to individuals from any socio-economic background. A critical analysis of the Nigerian situation proves otherwise. Many children of the poor have studied law and excelled in practice even beyond the children of the rich.
Why are law books so expensive?
It should be noted that not all books are costly, especially some of the ones published within the country; they are reasonably affordable. The imported ones are quite costly because of exchange rate. It is instructive that this cuts across other professions.
Should law courses be for fresh students or first-degree holders?
The discipline of law is open to everyone, once an individual has obtained all the required conditions for admission. I am of the opinion that nothing should hinder the pursuit of law.
Which experience in the classroom do you find difficult to forget?
The memorable experience in the classroom would be the day we received the news while in class that one of my students won the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) scholarship. It was very competitive among law faculties in universities in Nigeria.
We could not believe our ears, as we never dreamed of such an achievement. It was a memorable day because I was able to see the happiness radiate in the eyes of my students.
Who then is Professor Pius Oladeji Olanrewaju?
I hail from Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State. To the glory of God, I am a thoroughbred Professor and seasoned academic. An alumnus of University of Ife (now OAU) 1984, University of Lagos (1987) Lagos State University (2004), Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) (2006) and Babcock University (2016).
My career transverses the economy for the past 38 years in banking management, legal consultancy and academics. I am a member of many professional organisations. I am well nurtured in Commercial and Banking Law and have co-authored several books and articles in learned journals.
I have authored and co-authored seven books and have 56 papers in peer-reviewed journals at both national and international levels. In addition, I have been External examiner for PhDs and assessed professorship applications in federal and state universities.
I have served and still serving as the Editor-in-Chief of SocioLegal Journal, Babcock University and I am on the Editorial Boards of Lagos Bankers Journal, Journal of Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN) and Babcock University Essays on Contemporary Legal Issues.
I have participated in several capacity building programmes within the Nigerian financial industry for decades.