April 20, 2024

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I had people who didn’t give up on me – Law BGS

By Michael Alabi, Favour Agarry, Olajumoke Taiwo and Iseoluwa Onadipe.

Praise Sanni-Adeniyi, Law BGS.

Having had a GPA of 3.8 at some point in her academic journey, it was more than a pleasant surprise for Praise Sanni-Adeniyi to find herself graduating not just as the best-graduating student of the prestigious Faculty of Law but with a first-class—the only person to graduate with first-class honours in the 2021/2022 set at the Faculty of Law. 

Speaking of the emotions that engulfed her in discovering her results, she said, “I was happy, I was overwhelmed. I was crying, so it was just a lot. I couldn’t believe it, and then I believed it.”

Although she expected to graduate as the best in the faculty, making first class seemed like a long shot. She said, “The trajectory was there for the best-graduating student. In year three my GP was in first class, but at the beginning of year four, it shifted to 2:1. I got 4.4 something, so I wasn’t sure I’d graduate with a first class.”

Despite this, Praise Sanni-Adeniyi pushed against the odds to attain the highest academic honour a student can attain—first-class—when she could have rested on her oars and be content with just being the best among her peers on a 2:1. She proved once again that any determined student can bounce back from a nosedive in grades. But she didn’t do it alone.

The start on the express lane to first class 

Now an artist, writer, published author, and dance enthusiast, alongside being a prospective lawyer, Praise Sanni-Adeniyi had always wanted to study law. She gained admission into the University of Lagos in 2016 to study just that, with a focus on Corporate and Commercial Law. Fortunately for her, the time as an undergraduate in the university helped broaden her horizons in her passions as much as it helped her excel in academics.

At some point in her studies, someone showed her what was possible and how to attain it. “I had somebody that paved the way for me and showed me what I was capable of doing,” she said. “He wasn’t a mentor but he said, ‘This is a path that you can follow and this is something you can achieve.’ ”

As a studious person who wrestled her way through academic mediocrity, she appeared to fellow students as someone who fit the bookworm description and often used the library. But in her interview with Unilag Sun, she dispelled the notion that she spent all her time reading. 

“A lot of people think that I spend most of my time reading, which is not true. I do spend time reading because you have to read, but I’m not a bookworm.”

She also confessed that she had a love-hate relationship with the library and, having realised early on that any comfortable reading spot could be a ‘library’, only used the actual library–the law library–when she saw fit. She says, “Sometimes I was there [at the department], and for about 2 years I didn’t use the library. I read in my room on my bed in the most comfortable position I can. But in year 5 I had to visit the library a lot because I had to report cases and do other things.”

Traffic jams, sharp bends, and near accidents 

Praise’s path to engraving her name on the honour roll came with challenges. And for someone engaged in a handful of activities outside the classroom—one of them being writing her first book, a poetry collection—succeeding at managing time was like that skilful act of weaving through traffic jams.

Combining schooling with writing her book, ‘Of Thoughts and Noughts’, she said, “I just understood what time management meant and what it meant to prioritise things. Two of them are important, but at a time, one becomes more important than the other, so I just had to prioritize the one that is more important than the other.”

She also faced challenges with coursework—nobody told her there were sharp bends at unexpected points in the schooling journey. Giving an example of one such scenario, she says, “Year two was a smooth sail: no contract, no constitutional law, and then boom! You’re faced with criminal law in year three, which is like something so different from what you were doing in year two.”

As a result of the unexpected bumps, her grades tanked. In the first semester of her third year, she had a 3.8. At other times, when she didn’t have grades this bad, she fell short of her expectations for grades—she dropped from first class in 400 level. At other times, she set seemingly impossible academic goals for herself, like making straight As in all her courses in 500 level (which she met in 500 level first semester). All this stressed her out, charged her up, and made her need her cheering crowd. 

The cheering crowd

Whenever she got fed up, her friends and family supported and cheered her on. She said, “My family and friends can bear witness; [at different points] I was telling them that they don’t have a lawyer. I’m a soft girl, so anything that has to do with stress, I don’t like it. So anytime in school, I’ll call my friend and be like, ‘Wo, if you don’t come and pick me up at school today, I’m not going to study again o’”.

Lecturers were also in Praise’s corner. “There are a lot of them, [especially] Mr Yisa, Mrs Adedeji, and Prof. Bolodeoku because these people held my hand when I felt like I couldn’t,” she related. When she felt she couldn’t make the 5.0 in a semester needed to put her back on first class, “They sat me down and said ‘You can,’ and I was crying. I was like, ‘I can’t, I can’t. I can’t do it,’ and they were like, ‘No, you can’”. 

Most of all, she believed God was rooting for her. She prayed. She also said it was God’s will that she had the perfect grades semester that propelled her into the first class zone, and, therefore, advised aspiring law students to look up to God and “stand strong in the face of trials and tribulations at the faculty.”

The finish line

For winning racers, the most memorable point of a typical race is the tail end, when winning is assured. So it was for Praise Sanni-Adeniyi. Her most memorable experiences of her academic race came in 500 level. Aside from the perfect grades in her first semester and the equally impressive second semester, she had a great time doing extracurricular activities like planning content for her class’s social media pages. 

The determined law student who graduated happily says she will pursue a career in law “but … won’t only be recognized as a lawyer.”.

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