By Tosin Oke
I had heard my lecturers at the law school periodically chant the name ‘Ojukwu’, not always in good light (oversabi somebody things), but the underlining message I got was that there was an exceptional lecturer somewhere at one of the campuses of the law school who stood out and upheld a standard beyond average.
I have availed the opportunity to finally meet this Man in late 2015. I was called by the Faculty Officer to avail the External Examiner the complete questions for Public International Law which I taught that semester. I went to the boardroom to give the External Examiner the questions and tendered apologies for not making the questions available in the envelope after marking.
The External Examiner was impressed at the standard of the questions in contrast to my experience and I had to admit that I was mentored by Dr. Udoka Owie before she proceeded to Canada on research leave and that was my first solo effort at drafting law problem questions.
I was subsequently placed on the hot seat. The questions I answered that day did not make a millionaire in cash, but it availed the opportunity to gain insight into assessment, teaching methodology, and share a few stories from his experience as a teacher. I had introduced myself to the External Examiner but this gesture was not reciprocated as so I asked for his name and he simply replied “Ernest”. Ernest my cheeky self-replied in question, and I got the response Ernest Ojukwu. I became flustered and stammered and realized that truly only fools rush in where the angels fear to tread. I dared to sit with, jest with, question, and even demand an introduction from the man my lecturers in law school spoke of in awe.
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I have had the privilege to co-teach with Professor Ernest Ojukwu since 2016. It has been a love-hate relationship. I call him my ‘TorMentor’ because his standard is beyond average and he will make you conform whether you like it or not. I recall lamenting to some colleagues that teaching with Prof has given me sessions of insomnia because the thought of him sitting out my lectures if I have not prepared materials for the class hunts to sleep from my eyes.
I have gone through fire in the hands of Professor Ojukwu but I am grateful for the opportunity:
- To understand and promote clinical legal education in Nigeria;
- To set up, be a supervisor and subsequently coordinate a law clinic;
- To initiate social justice and public interest law in Nigeria;
- To learn and deploy interactive teaching methods;
- To change the landscape of clinical legal education by being part of the team to review clinical legal education curriculum,
- To co-author the Administration of Criminal Justice Pre-trial Manual for Law Clinics;
- To initiate and supervise various social justice and public interest law projects;
- To become a teacher of teachers by facilitating a teacher’s training session at the African Colloquium of Clinical Legal Education.
Professor Ojukwu cares beyond the classroom. He has conducted training for the Faculty, the law clinic, availed the supervisors at the law clinic opportunities to attend conferences and teacher training at his expenses, and provided moral and financial supports.( We look forward to those cheques). He is an adviser, supporter, and Father.
I had can tell him your challenges and although you might get a few blasting for being silly he will give you sound advice and follow-up to be assured that you are better. I was indisposed for a while and just a few days ago he sent me a message “I am happy U are alive again”
Hardworking, intelligent, highly disciplined, a man of integrity who is not afraid to step on toes. A man who enjoys being challenged and questioned in class; accepts dissenting opinions, by the way, we are still in opposing camps on the debate on whether the Evidential burden of proof shifts or not. A man that will take the fall for you in public but don’t be deceived he will skin you in private. How I dread the caustic side of Prof’s tongue.
Ojukwu is a brand that has changed the landscape of legal education in Nigeria and has not just generated a new breed of lawyers but also birthed a new breed of teachers. At the GAJE conference in Indonesia, one of the presenters made a comment “Ernest is not here today, but a new generation of Ernest is here’.
I am a changemaker because I was ‘TorMentored’ by the cream of the crop in legal education. One life @ 60 that has transformed millions of lives, he has indeed raised leaders and teachers.
Diamonds are forever. Happy birthday to the Father of Clinical Legal Education in Nigeria, former Deputy Director at the Nigerian Law School, President of Network of Universities Legal Aid institutions, Chair of Baze Law Clinic, and my ‘TorMentor’ Professor Ernest Ojukwu.
Tosin Oke is a lecturer, Faculty of Law, Baze University, and Coordinator Baze Law Clinic, wrote in from Abuja.