Msughter Paul Michael Ordam was the star of the show at the grand finale of the 2018 Simmons Cooper Advocacy Development (SCAD) Compete, a bi-annual competition organised by Simmons Cooper Partners (SCP). LAWYARD recently engaged Paul Ordam in a conversation about his experience winning the highly coveted top spot at the advocacy competition and what impact the victory has had on him.

LAWYARD: Please tell us a bit about yourself (secondary school, name of university, level and where your family resides).

I am Msughter Paul Michael Ordam, well known as Paul Ordam. I was born to Mr/Mrs. Michael Aondona Ordam (KSM/LSM) in the family of Zaki Ordam Aga Abunku of Mbaboor, Mbatierev in Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State. I am the first of eight children. I had my Secondary School education at the prestigious Government College, Makurdi where I graduated in 2007. In 2009, I enrolled into the Diploma in Law programme at the Benue State University, Makurdi and completed in 2011. I was also admitted into B.A. English programme which I later abandoned in the final year, when I gained admission to study law. I am currently in my last semester of the LL.B. programme at the Benue State University, Makurdi.

LAWYARD: Please give us a little background into how you decided to study law as a course.

Sincerely, I do not know why I opted for law. But the only thing I would have chosen instead of Law is the Catholic Priesthood.

LAWYARD: Not every law student is interested in advocacy; how did you discover your interest in mooting?

For me, advocacy is the pinnacle of the legal profession, and without advocacy, the legal profession will not be complete. The Solicitor side of the profession is equally important, interesting and satisfying, but advocacy is more fulfilling. And like the Vice President, His Excellency Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said at the SCAD event; “advocacy is the very firmament of democracy.”

LAWYARD: What are the things you consider your biggest assets in advocacy?

My biggest assets in advocacy are eloquence, audacity and a wholistic comprehension. In writing, you can write whatever you’d like to write, and one may have the patience to find what he or she is looking for; but in advocacy, it is a different thing altogether, your first task is to capture your target audience, otherwise, whatever you are saying will make no sense to them, and how do you capture your target audience, you have to be confident, eloquent, audacious and of course interesting. You must be as concise as possible without equivocation; so that your target audience understands exactly what you are talking about. Above all, you must know your target audience, because concentrating on a wrong audience is suicidal. For instance, your target audience in court is the Judge or the Justices, if you focus attention on the members of the courtroom, you are simply shooting yourself in the leg. In competitions, your target audience is the panel of Judges, and not the crowd, this is key to advocacy and cannot be taken lightly.

LAWYARD: What other competitions did you participate in, prior to SCAD and how will you describe the experience at each of those competitions compared to SCAD?

I have participated in several moot court competitions within my faculty and with law faculties of other universities, but SCAD was the most prominent. SCAD was indeed very thorough, highly complex and competitive. SCAD is not just any competition, it is one competition anyone would want to be a part of. The decision to participate in SCAD is one I will always be glad I took.

LAWYARD: Please tell us your favourite courses as an undergraduate and why you consider them your favourites.

I have always had a very keen interest in constitutional law and constitutionalism, which is a complex web of ideas, attitudes and patterns that contain institutionalised mechanisms for the protection of lives of a people and their properties. Maybe because I see law as a tool of social engineering and the constitution being the embodiment of this contention, I may say constitutional law is one of them. Law of Contract is another course, because of the involvement of my favourite lecturer, Prof. Akaa Imbwaseh, a fecund and highly intelligent professor of commercial law. He is one lecturer that appreciates ingenuity and critical thinking capable of producing good reasoning. In our 200 Level, he gave us a test that everyone who scored high had arguments tailored in the same line, but my argument was completely different from the others, in fact diametrically opposed to my classmates, and his remark was “good argument” and scored me high like the others. That alone grew my interest in the course.    

LAWYARD: How have you been able to combine your academics and participating at advocacy competitions?

It has not been easy; but in the long run, participation in competitions and mooting generally enhances one’s academic performance greatly, and as such I have had no problems at all with my academics as a result of advocacy or mooting, be it competitions or otherwise. I can even say it has been a plus to my academics as it enhances easy comprehension of complex issues, even where the issues are herculean and tasking.

LAWYARD: Please describe your experience preparing for SCAD; did you think you had a chance to win?

Preparing for SCAD was not easy. More so, that I knew of the competition quite late. The dispute scenario was very complex, highly demanding and even entirely new and strange. As to whether I thought I had a chance of winning, no one goes into a competition as a winner. The difference is what you make of your going into the competition. That is whether you are going in to participate or to compete, and I was going in to compete and not just participate; and if your decision is to compete, you become your own assessor and see all your efforts as falling far below standard, and the need for improvement keeps recurring in your mind. This was the situation I found myself right from the brief writing stage, I was always seeing my work as not good enough; thinking others may present a better argument than what I had, so I was always seeking to advance my contentions until I finally submitted. When I was shortlisted among the finalists and right until I took the stage, I was always seeing myself as not doing enough and the urge to do better kept burning in me. After my presentation, I told myself, this is my best at the moment, if I win fine, and if I don’t win, fine. So I had no tension at all.

LAWYARD: What was your favourite SCAD moment?

Sincerely, the moment I was announced the winner, and given an overwhelming standing ovation. I actually became emotional at that point and I don’t know in what state I was at that moment, whether elated, in ecstasy or simply happy. I cannot explain but that was a special moment for me.

LAWYARD: What impact has SCAD had on your academic sojourn at the university, your interest in advocacy and on life generally?

SCAD has really widened my horizon and expanded my scope of thinking. I used to be thorough and meticulous, but SCAD has thought me to redouble my efforts and become even more thorough and more meticulous. The society is interested in solutions and not excuses; and is not ready for what football pundits call “beautiful nonsense”. No matter how one tries, once your efforts provide no solutions and attract no results, as far as our society is concerned, your best is just beautiful nonsense. SCAD has taught me that what your client, just like the society expects from you is solutions to the problem brought before you no matter how complex it may seem, your excuses will make no sense to your client. There were many hiccups, stumbling blocks and bottlenecks that almost hindered my participation in the competition, even at the brief writing stage, but I was unrelenting, and God was gracious enough to reward my efforts with resounding success and I give all glory to Him.

LAWYARD: Have you been offered any career opportunities by reason of winning SCAD?

There has been contacts but no direct career opportunities yet. Maybe because I am still in school, I should have been done with LL.B now but for the ASUU strike. I am to do internship with SimmonsCooper Partners but that may be in June after I am done with my final exams in the University, while waiting for law school.

LAWYARD: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Well, at the moment my major concern is to get done with LL.B, go to law school, and let God complete the work He has begun in me.

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