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I sacrificed a lot, stayed away from school events — AUN best graduating student, Grace Ofili

Grace Nwabunwanne Ofili is the Valedictorian and overall Best Graduating Student of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in the class of 2023 and from…

Grace Nwabunwanne Ofili is the Valedictorian and overall Best Graduating Student of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in the class of 2023 and from the School of Law. She speaks on her feat and experience in the varsity and more.

How do you feel about emerging as the overall best students?

 

I feel excited and happy to be the valedictorian. It just shows that hard work pays. Being the first just shows that we law students are there as this is the first time a law student is emerging over all best because I feel we are not being recognised. So emerging as the valedictorian is like a big representation for the law students and it makes me so happy.

How easy or hard is it to become a valedictorian?

It was a lot of hard work. I know that I sacrificed a lot, especially my social life in AUN because I spent my afternoons reading, going back to my bunk in the evening, so it was a lot of hard work. It was not only my law courses I had to contend with. I had to do my GNS courses. I did biology and maths. I had to put extra hard work so that I could get good grades regardless of it not being my major courses.

When you came into AUN, did you have this dream of emerging the overall best?

No, actually I didn’t even think I would do very well because looking at my past, I would say I was an average student. Coming to AUN, I felt like it would be hard. The first thing that changed my mind set was that they usually put pictures of valedictorians and class speakers at the commencement hall, it motivated me to say if these people can do it I might as well strive to be there and have my picture hung there.

Was there anything you think you did differently?

Sacrifice. I feel like that’s the main thing. One thing people know me for is that I’m always in the School of Law. I’m always in the library. So, it’s just a sacrifice. I feel like I sacrificed a lot. I did not go to any school events. I only went to law students’ events, because I was an executive at one time.

What other extracurricular activities were you involved with?

I am a member of the Honour Society and we do our retreats, community service. Aside from HS, I also did community service. Then being part of the law students society. We did events like lawyers got talent and law dinner. In church, I was part of the drama club, so I acted in drama for the church but no sports.

Let’s talk about your upbringing. Did you always win academic laurels in your primary, secondary school?

I won in my primary school but my secondary school, No. I was not just comfortable in secondary school. I was insecure. I had a lot of issues with myself and was an average student. I was just managing to move to the next class but AUN just changed that mindset that I can actually be better and be on the wall of AUN.

Tell us about AUN School of Law?

I love my faculty. I feel like they are very dedicated to our success. They were more involved in our lives, apart from our academics. Teaching us in class and when you go meet them, they have office hours, so they have our time. When I go there to request for extra books, I get it. Private life too, they check on you when you are not okay and unable to attend classes. And also, if there is a competition outside school, they motivate us to participate in it. They were very involved in our lives and all round and my classmates are wonderful people.

What’s the remarkable thing about being an honour society member?

To be part of the Honour Society, you must have a high GPA from 3.5 and above. It just means that the brightest minds are in the Honour Society. Apart from that, we also help the AUN community at large. Also, where our fellow classmates had issues, they can come to us for assistance. When I came to AUN, it was one of the societies that helped me. Like I said, I did biology, I was taught by someone and I came out my best.

Can you speak more on community service?

It just made me understand and love community service. I thought it was not possible but coming to AUN, I saw that community service is very possible and students being involved, just giving back to the community.  Seeing that we are in a privileged position, so why not use that position where you are to bless people around. The last time we did it for widows, we went to a secondary school and just basically helped people that we believed needed help because at the end of the day they are the future of tomorrow, like the children. So, community service is a plus one for me at AUN. It opened my eyes to see that in my slightest way I could actually give back to society.

How do you raise what you use in reaching out to these people?

Sometimes we send messages to faculties and students and some ask their parents and donate money.

The last one we did, we didn’t need money, we just needed clothes, so students brought the clothes they are no longer using for us to donate it to them. Sometimes, we partner with other foundations to carry out community services.

There was a time AUN said law students do go to courts for some activity. Can you tell me about that?

Yes, we do go to court to help some detained people, it is called pretrial detainees they are in prison before they are being committed and waiting for trail, the law allows for bail in some situations, especially when the accused is not a flight risk, so some people are not able to pay for bail because they don’t have the money for legal representatives, so what we did last year was that we went there, paid their bail and got them released, and some we even got them out free.

Like I said, some of them can’t employ lawyers. We got a woman released and some men released from prison, so basically, it was just to decongest the prison. The last time I went to prison, the amount of people there was much and in a way, it’s a human right violation because I looked at the condition some of them live in and It’s not good. It’s just because they don’t have money to get legal representative or money to pay their bail

Now you are a lawyer in making, what would you love to change when you start practising?

I think it’s about time our courts got automated because the system is slow because judges write; they take notes. That’s one of the reasons court processes usually take a long time, so I think it’s about time they get it automated so that they do this when lawyers send in their arguments, but how efficient is that?. It’s about time for automation and we also need some laws scrapped because I feel some of our laws are duplicate of others and they are ineffective, so it’s about time we cut off some of them.

We need some areas of laws to develop, for instance, cyber law, artificial intelligence, that is our society today. So we need more laws and the laws regulating that sector are very slow. Like the recent one we had is 2015 and we have been using computers and phones since 2001 in Nigeria. We just finally made a law in 2015. So, I just feel like there is a lot to be developed in the tech industry.

What are your challenges as a student of AUN?

Food,  like this semester, the food was so small and I needed a lot of food and when you ask for more, they will be looking at you like ‘that’s the ration’ and it’s so annoying because by the time I’m done eating it, one hour later, I would start feeling hungry again. And I don’t think that’s the life a student should live. Network issues; maybe it’s my fault because of the network I use. Sometimes the internet will be down and I can’t even call my parents back home.

Academically, whenever I do, I always go back to ask my classmates and if none of my classmates can do it, I will just book a tutorial with an HS member to put me through. And when I don’t see anybody, I usually meet my instructor and they are always willing to assist.

What role did your parents play in making you who you are today?

They both stand for excellence but my mum basically told me that I can do it. She said other people are getting first class, I can do it also. A former staff member at AUN also encouraged me. Also, the law students’ advisor told me in my first semester that I have to continue and should not drop. But my parents did a great job. Whenever I come home with good results they are always happy. Their happiness is my happiness. They are here today and very excited.

What will you miss most here?

I will miss Yola. I think I will miss my roommate because she is graduating next year. I will miss my friends because AUN was bringing us together. Some of them are in Jos, I am in Lagos, so I will definitely miss being in the same space with them. I will miss AUN WiFi because it saved me from buying data.

Would you recommend AUN to somebody?

Definitely, there is a lot of dedication, especially from the faculty members and the school in general towards students’ success, so I would recommend AUN to people outside.

What’s your advice to students who want to be a first class student like you?

Work hard, read and research widely. Just read and don’t sacrifice your social life totally. Enjoy small but watch yourself so it doesn’t encroach into your time.