UCU alumnus called to the Nigerian bar
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2021/08/ucu-alumnus-called-to-the-nigerian-bar/
By Jimmy Siyasa
Faced with the career paths of music and law, which one would you take to deliver you to glory?
That is the question Shalom Okeke encountered years ago. He couldn’t choose, so he walked both. Today, Okeke is an accomplished music minister and a barrister.
Okeke achieved part of his childhood dream when he was called to the Nigerian bar on July 29, 2021, at a ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria. The development means the Uganda Christian University (UCU) alumnus will now be able to represent a party in a Nigerian court.
The news of Okeke’s being called to the largest bar in Africa quickly reached Uganda, with his former dean at the UCU Faculty of Law, Dr. Roselyn Karugonjo Segawa, tweeting: “When one of your best students is called to the bar! Congratulations Shalom Okeke!”
It is no surprise that Segawa, now the chairperson of the Leadership Code Tribunal in Uganda, still remembers Okeke. Her former student was the second best in the Bachelor of Laws class that graduated in 2019.
In 2013, upon completing high school at St. Christopher’s Junior Seminary in Onitsha, Nigeria, Okeke and his parents got busy scouting for law schools out of Nigeria, but within Africa. “My parent and I chose UCU, because I wanted to study under an environment where I would not just be built intellectually, but also grow in faith,” Okeke says.
When the family had decided on UCU, he enrolled at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka in Nigeria for a Diploma in Law course, as he awaited his visa and admission into UCU. Everything went according to plan. Okeke, therefore, had to drop out of the Diploma in Law course at Nnamdi Azikiwe after just half a year of studies.
“Some of my colleagues (at the time) who didn’t know what was happening thought I had dropped out because the course was too tough,” he says during an interview from Nigeria. In 2014, Okeke set off to Uganda, to pursue his dream course in a country he had never been.
Activities at the Nkoyoyo Hall at UCU were the mainstay of Okeke’s spiritual development and feeding his passion for music. His skills and busy schedules had fashioned him into being one of the revered keyboardists in the university.
Asked how he struck a healthy balance between commitment to music and to the law course, in typical Christian modesty, Okeke attributes it all to God. He believes God guided him through tested strategies for academic achievers, such as relentless revision, knowing one’s best revision time and “learning to love all course units and the respective lecturers.”
Not all was smooth, though. He faced serious challenges as an international student while pursuing his course at UCU. Three obstacles were the language barrier, unfamiliar food and lack of exposure to Ugandan history.
“Constitutional history needed me to, not just know the native names and cases, but also know Ugandan history. And that is something I had no clue about,” he says.
To aid his academic progress, Okeke began to commit to memorizing some of the cases with Ugandan names. Sometimes, and incorporating his music talent, he says, he often “silently” sang some of the Ugandan names as he headed to the exam room.
Being a pastor’s child, Okeke got exposed to music and music instruments quite early; he lived within the church’s vicinity. And this granted him almost unlimited access. As a teenager, Okeke also pursued a certificate course in music.
It is no wonder that besides playing the keyboard meticulously, Okeke also plays a couple of wind instruments, too. He is also an instrumentalist to the congregation shepherded by his father, the Rt. Rev. Henry Okeke, the Bishop of Ideato, one of the Dioceses under the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion.
He is currently serving his country in the Nigeria Youth Service Corps (NYSC), a government program, whose aim is to involve Nigerian graduates in nation building and development. The ultimate tune is yet to come.
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