This week, the LR Team got a legal twist to our space. Daniel Ogbegie, a lawyer, a teacher, a public interest activist and regular social commentator on television, print and social media took us on a journey of his uncommon determination and success.
Early is life; the young Daniel wanted to become a Journalist like his dad. However, for some reason, his Journalist Dad believed Daniel was born to be a Doctor. He recollects how he started reading very early, which was not surprising since his mother was also an English and literature graduate. Daniel Ogbegie went on to have his early secondary education at Aibiokunla Secondary School at Abudu, Edo State and Arewele Grammar School now Western Boys’ High School in Benin City. His father’s hopes to see him become a Doctor waned when Daniel could not score above 50 marks in Mathematics, the minimum score that could guarantee his next grade placement into a science class. So effectively, he got his way to focus on what he really wanted – Law!
Daniel made an “F” in Mathematics following his first Secondary School Leaving Examination. He decided he needed to teach the Mathematics a lesson so every day, he sat down with a friend and studied very hard to pass Maths in his next attempt. However, by this time, the young Daniel was certain he was destined to do greater things outside of medicine – and he sure was right.
At 19 years of age when he got admission to study law, his father died. In his words, “ my world collapsed – my mum, myself and my siblings felt a void words can not describe”.
In life, many people wish to find a way out of the unwanted ‘box’ they find themselves in. I decided to tell my story to the LR Team because when others read the stories of how every day persons like me, climbed out of the ‘box’ by sheer resilience, positive consistency and unapologetic faith in God, they will certainly know that they too can climb out of any unwanted ‘box’ life attempts to package them in..
After my father passed on in the same year I got admission to the University, some folks either good naturedly and out of empathy or for any other reason, suggested my Mum relocated to the village with her children because they felt she could not afford the school fees and cost of living in the city. They suggested that I should quit any plan of continuing with any formal education and learn “handwork” like carpentry, tailoring and others such jobs. While I have a lot of respect for persons who earn their living by doing such jobs, I resolved that they were not for me. As God would have it, my Mother was also of the strong resolve not to let me drop out of obtaining formal education. She gird herself and worked hard to provide for and take care of her children. Often times, she did menial jobs, selling cooked food on wheel-barrows, going to village markets to buy and sell foodstuff. For the avoidance of doubt, my Mother was a graduate and a teacher as I earlier mentioned. For me, my Mother is actually the champion that should be celebrated; as she is the true epitome of the Idia Renaissance.
Oh, I had not yet told you that I am the first of six children. Yes, just to make my ‘box’ size bigger for me, life made sure I had five younger siblings. After my Father’s untimely demise, I had to grow up immediately. I assumed responsibility at an age when other boys were still carefree and acting like children. I grew up trying to act like a father to my siblings and ensuring some sort of protection for my mother. I had to maintain a high level of discipline and focus to provide leadership and steer this ship life had made me the captain of.
I was offered admission to Edo State University, Ekpoma, where it was tough most times. I had early help from my father’s younger brother who lived in the USA at the time. This however, was a bit short-lived as my uncle succumbed to pressures from SOME quarters to stop financing me. God, through my mother and myself, took over completely from the later part of my 3rd year to my graduation in my 5th year. When others saw negativity, I chose to see only the positive sides. I dreamt every day of how I would add value to my immediate and larger society by becoming a Lawyer. I also realised that if I gave up then, my five younger siblings would have nothing left to look up to. So I pushed myself to the limit.
Reflecting on those days as I write this article, I find that what was even most remarkable was the way my siblings and I worked as a team to make sacrifices. We all ‘cut our coat according to our cloth’. I used to come back home regularly from University to do some out of school jobs in Benin just as my siblings joined my mother to help out with preparing food for sale after her teaching hours. We used to wake up very early to cook rice and sell to others. Looking back now, I remember how some people used to make me the subject of malicious gossips whenever I was in Benin, instead of being in school. They used to whisper whenever I went by ”why is he often at home instead of in University? Are you sure he even got admission at all in the first place? Do people study Law in their mothers’ part time food selling venture?”
Unknown to them, those whispered words that filtered back into my ears, propelled me on. I worked hard at my studies and even harder at helping my mother while ensuring I provided guidance to my siblings so they could stay focused. I wish to use this opportunity to thank my siblings who were very understanding. Even on the days when there was no food to eat, they never complained. We grew up with the stoic resolution to succeed. We did menial jobs to get by. I eventually graduated from the University. I could not get into law school immediately until 4 years after graduation. I did my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year in Sokoto State and finally did my Law School in Abuja. I worked briefly in Lagos and then decided to come back to Benin City. I wanted to conquer my niche first. I will emphasise here that I am a firm believer in ‘start small from your locality then, you can conquer the world’.
When I found the location my office is in today, I only had a 50 Naira note in my pocket to go back home. However, I did not let that stop me. I went confidently into the office and told the agent to please keep this particular office space for me. I told him I would come back and pay in a week. Miraculously, I got the money before one week and paid up. I did not let the reality that I had only 50 Naira note in my pocket keep me in a ‘box’ and becloud my vision or my dreams. No, not at all. I transcended the ‘box’ as I have continued to do every unwanted ‘box’ and typically, somehow, the money materialised to pay for the office. This has over the years, led me to conclude that success is a ‘state of mind backed by strategic hard work and a blind faith in Jesus Christ’
I am happy I am a Lawyer today and very happy I can impact my society. Like the first indigenous Nigerian Lawyer called to the English Bar Christopher Sapara Williams (1855–1915) once said “A lawyer lives for the direction of his people and the advancement of the cause of his country”. For me, using law to advance the cause of my society is my primary concern and motive, making money is secondary’.
To anyone out there who wishes to go down the Legal path, I would advise them to gather knowledge voraciously from every available opportunity, encounter or space. It is even easier now in this electronic age. They must be determined to advance the cause of society adding value to one’s country. Try to right the wrong in society and every other thing will fall in place. Start today! Not tomorrow. Not in five years time. It is never too early to have a vision and a mission. We need more lawyers in Nigeria and in the world.
We at LR were greatly moved by this very inspiring man. Barrister Daniel Aroren Noah Osa-Ogbegie is the managing partner at OGBEGIE & ASSOCIATES which is a foremost value-driven integrated law firm equipped to handle matters of any kind. A solution oriented one stop legal shop, with a tradition of excellence and integrity, powered by passion and commitment. The LR Team were fascinated at how much this man believed in himself from a very early age. His office at Edo House by King’s Square is strategically located at the very heart of Benin City. We could equate it to an office in Oxford Street in London. It takes courage and belief in one’s self to negotiate the price of such a place and decide to acquire it with only 50 Naira in one’s pocket. Any way, with the kind of mother he is blessed with, we could not have expected anything less from this enigma of a man. We here at LR, have decided there is no unwanted ‘box’ stopping us. What do you think? Let the comments roll in the comments space below.