Ikenna Ukpai was inspired to study Law by the life of his grandfather – a king, who was not even a lawyer. The 2017 University of Nigeria (UNN) alumn tells ROBERT EGBE how he intends to impact lives through Law.
I am Ikenna Chris Ukpai; a legal practitioner, leader, author, writer, poet, piano enthusiast and the founder of Sky-Set Impacts, a mentoring initiative which runs summits to spur future leaders and the youth to understand their responsibility in the society and live up to same
I was born to the family of Mr. and Mrs. F.N. Ukpai in Agba community of Ishielu Local Government Area (LGA), Ebonyi State. My family is quite a large one and of royal ancestry. Thus, as our custom demanded in the days of their youth, dad is a polygamist.
Motivated by teachers
I started my primary education at Community Council School, Akwurakwu Agba, Ebonyi State but completed same at Otumoye Primary School 1, Onitsha, Anambra State.
Secondary education was at the revered Federal Government College, Enugu. My flair for school was one tightly strung on a northern wind.
Perchance, because I was blessed with loving teachers who at all times material, motivated me till I learnt to push for no less than the very best.
I also sipped real big from the pleasure of serving my classmates in various capacities. I began as a class monitor from Primary 1 to 6, continued as a Class Prefect from Junior Secondary School (JSS) 2 to Senior Secondary (SS) 2, and while in SS3, I served as Labour Prefect, Chapel Prefect, as well as the Attorney-General of the College’s “Reading Club”.
Most disciplined prefect, national quiz winner
I won eight prizes from the College including an award for “the Most Disciplined Prefect”. I was also privileged to represent the College in a couple of Essay Writing, Debating and Quiz Competitions.
Worth the mention is “the 3rd National Quiz Competition on Capital Market” organised in Abuja by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In retrospect, it gives me much pleasure, not just because my team and I decorated the College with yet another Gold Cup, but more because it exposed me to the opportunities in Corporate and Capital Market Practice – an area of law I deeply cherish today.
I got my LL.B degree from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) – graduated in 2017 and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus where I was crowned with a B.L. Accordingly, I was called to the Nigerian Bar on November 27, 2018.
Called to Bar same day as elder brother
One of my elder brothers is a lawyer but we were called to Bar on same day. I didn’t have the privilege of being mentored by a family member in this respect.
Inspired by a king
I was largely inspired (to study Law) by the legacies of my grandfather during his reign as the king of my town. History is still replete with his unmixed commitment towards the cause of justice and in same respect, I look forward to finding myself in a position where injustice would always hear my name and ashamedly take the back seat.
There was however a time I thought of pursuing a career in Accounting but, thankfully, I am here today and I have no modicum of regrets.
Law School was brutish
Law school was a bit brutish, but I won’t complain because I consciously chose the path I toe. I was unrepentantly soaked in my pursuit of First Class such that I commenced deep night studies from the very first night at school.
As you would guess, I spared no time for recreation. Unfortunately, I fell ill during the exams and ended up graduating with a “2.1” (Upper Second Class Division).
Howbeit, I find much solace in the fact that I, in my usual principle, approached the system with all the passion and energy I could afford at the time.
Challenges in law practice
Law practice is sui generis, learning its ropes truly begins the day one is called to the Bar. Basic challenge is that I’m almost turning a social misfit – there’s little or no time for friends, sometimes, family inclusive. The satisfaction however is that I’m growing at my desired pace.
Appearing against a SAN
I could build a diary of notable court memories, but I easily remember with great amusement the 19th day of June, 2019. It was an Election Petition slated for hearing and I appeared against a learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The greasy part was when at the conclusion, the Learned Trial Tribunal commended my budding efforts as the youngest lawyer as at then to handle a trial proper in an Election Petition. My confidence has from that day, grown even fatter.
Areas of passion
Corporate Law Practice is quite close to becoming a hobby for me. However, carving out my niche in litigation is the next big target.
What I would change about Law practice
Means of notifying lawyers when for any reason, the court is not going to sit. We sometimes travel long distances for a matter only to arrive at court to the news that the court wouldn’t be sitting for the day.
Some 24 hours’ notice by way of email or even bulk SMS won’t be out of place.
Judge, SAN or Professor?
A Judge, probably. I always perceive myself as being more collected when exerting my expertise as a neutral arbiter. Howbeit, my tendril is still very virgin and flexible enough to grow whichever way the stake may direct.
Marrying a lawyer?
I may not marry a professional colleague. Not because of the unfounded cliché that our gentlemen on skirt have less regard for the sanctity of marriage but because I have an existing equitable interest in someone of the medical background. Soon as the Governor’s Consent is obtained, we shall make haste to perfect the legal interest therein.
The goal is to impact lives, and do so in an aesthetically irresistible manner. It could just be by the practice of law, leadership, story-telling, poetry or music; everyone who comes my way just has to look forward to meeting me a second time.
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