Tobenna Erojikwe: Building Something From Little

By Henry Chukwunonso Nkamuke, Esq.

Recently, I read with great delight that the NBA-ICLE has set up a Career Development Mentorship Initiative and felt compelled to share my thoughts on this major and potentially ground-breaking initiative and what it portends.

Capacity building is easily a low-hanging fruit among the tools available to the NBA in promoting the Rule of Law and improving the welfare of its members. With improved knowledge, the average lawyer is able to do more and earn more while being of service to humanity. The resources to achieve this capacity building are easily available too, especially looking inward. Among our ranks, there are lawyers with the requisite faculty and interest to share knowledge, inculcate skills, and provide needed mentorship, which is the basis upon which capacity building thrives.

Yet, as easy as the above may sound, it took the intentional efforts of the Tobenna Erojikwe-led Continuing Legal Education team to fan this potential of the NBA into flame. Began in Lagos Branch and now thriving nationally, Mr. Erojikwe’s passion is not to be compared in that one can only wonder where he derives his energy from. He continues to serve our noble profession with his heart and intellect. I have sojourned with him on this noble venture from the outset, and I am not ready to let go. Whether as participant, faculty, or facilitator, the feedback is also the same: such interventions are timely for the Bar of our time.

One of such interventions is a group mentorship programme that was held sometime in 2018 at Punuka Attorneys and Solicitors Law Firm with Chief Anthony Idigbe, SAN, as Chief Mentor. The Learned Silk made all senior members of his team available to us for this mentorship. We were taken through the changing face of law practice, offering solutions on why and how the average lawyer must keep up with time. It wasn’t all talk. The Learned Silk went practical in a later session that took us from late evening to early night, training us on the use of Personal Statement. The knowledge gained here is that Personal Statement should, among others, be a beacon of light in a lawyer’s career advancement and not just a document submitted in support of an application.

There is yet another way through which the Tobenna Erojikwe-led NBA-ICLE’s intentional effort is touching lives and waking us up. The opportunity of meeting and interacting with resource persons inspires hope for many in our noble legal profession. One cannot help but make the resolution that with hard work, consistency, and grace, one can attain the same professional prestige that we admire in these esteemed mentors. In the same vein, it is also waking up the mentors (both actual and potential) to the irreproachable need for knowledge sharing and transfer beyond the four walls of their respective offices. It is like an opportunity meeting a chance.

Meeting Oga Tobenna (as I fondly call him) through these capacity-building bouquets was beyond the encounter. He will always follow through to know how you’re doing and how you’re keeping faith with your career resolutions, knowing full well that times are hard. With the near tens of thousands that have so far participated in the continuous professional development facilitated by his team, this check-up will necessarily involve a great investment of time. Still, he doesn’t complain. What I have learned from Oga Tobenna and love about him is that with the little opportunity one has, one can make a great impact that in turn makes a great difference.

When, last year (2022), I was charged with the responsibility of upskilling participants from the Nigeria-ECOWAS subregion for the Africa Rounds of an Investor-State Arbitration Competition (FDI Moot), Oga Tobenna gave a lot of encouragement that kept me going. In the course of my volunteering, I came to realise that putting together such a capacity-building bouquet is not easy to come by, but thanks to Oga Tobenna’s advice, my team did not relent. I am grateful to God and him that I persevered, and I will continue to do so.

I am happy to note that this NBA-ICLE Career Development Centre Mentorship Initiative appears so well thought through that it could possibly revolutionise post-qualification tutelage in our profession.

The FDI Moot organized by the Centre for International Legal Studies (CILS) has become the premier Investor-State Arbitration Moot. Investor-State Arbitration (ISA) remains the most effective remedy for foreign investors to ensure that host States do not discriminate against them, treat them fairly, and with due process, and that host States keep their promises to foreign investors and vice versa. The FDI Moot helps future lawyers attain a practical understanding of these issues. The case and hearings offer a unique forum for academics and practitioners from around the world to discuss developments and assess emerging talents.

The author is a member of the FDI Moot Board for the All African Regional Organising Committee.