How Nigerian student, Onoriode Reginald Aziza, got 3 first-class degrees at 23

Nigerian student Onoriode Reginald Aziza earned three first class degrees including one from Cambridge University before turning 23 (lawyard)
  • At 12, he took and passed his Junior School Certificate Examination (JSCE).
  • He gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) to study law at 15 where he finished with a first-class degree.
  • Aziza went on to bag his second and third first-class degrees from the Nigerian Law School and Cambridge University by the time he turned 23.

Meet Onoriode Reginald Aziza, a triple first-class lawyer who got all his degrees before turning 23 years old.

Now 25, he holds over 25 academic awards including the Faculty of Law Prize for the Best Student in the Faculty of Law OAU, the Mohammed Bello Prize for the Second Best Student at the Nigerian Law School and the Wolfson College Jennings Prize for a Distinction on the Master of Corporate Law in Cambridge.

Here’s how it all happened

Aziza took and passed his Junior School Certificate Examination (JSCE) at the young age of 12. He initially planned on becoming a neurosurgeon. This changed after his father told him to study medicine. Deciding to study law was his way of rebelling against his father's plan.

Speaking with Bar Alpha, a platform for young Nigerian lawyers, he said, “To be frank, my decision to study law was an act of rebellion against my Dad. My early goal was to be a neurosurgeon. I flirted with the idea for a number of years until I was 12 when I took my JSCE examinations. The grades came out exceptionally well, and my Dad told me he wanted me in medicine and went on to name the subjects I will take in my SSCE examinations. The rebel in me sprang up and I resisted (although it was what I wanted). It appeared that the thought of someone naming my subjects for me irked me because if given the choice myself, I would have picked the exact courses my Dad selected! I still remember the exact words I used in my declaration of rebellion: ‘In fact, I want to study law.’”

With his mind made up, Aziza gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) to study law. He was 15 years old at the time. There, he graduated with as the best graduating law student from the Faculty of Law.

He went on bag his second first degree from the Nigerian Law School and then the third one after securing a scholarship to attend Cambridge University. He graduated with a Master of Corporate Law (MCL first class).

“The 1st first-class felt good, the 2nd first class felt great; the 3rd was outright emotional: saying I was on the Mt. Everest of ecstasy does not do justice to the feeling!" he said.

Face2Face reports that he is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Oxford where he is expected to graduate in 2021.

Asked about his driving force, he said, “I believe my single driving force has been an unrepentant commitment to excellence. It is all I have ever wanted to do and be: excellent. As I have said and will always say, I am no genius and I certainly do not consider myself as naturally gifted or smart. I believe I have only been thirstier than most in pursuing excellence. I believe, as did Aristotle, that excellence is not an act but a habit. The pursuit of this habit of excellence has thus been my driving force.”

Aziza’s parents — a civil servant and a Professor of Linguistics at Delta State University — have come around despite his father's initial reservations. 

As he puts it, “Grinning joyously at each of my graduations from the Obafemi Awolowo University, the Nigerian Law School, and Cambridge, the look on my Dad’s face shows he is happy I rebelled.”

He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2013. Since then, he has put his degrees to good use by serving as an Attorney at Chevron Nigeria Limited, Shearman and Sterling, a multinational law firm in Paris, Olaniwun Ajayi LP in Lagos and Herbert Smith Freehills in London. 

Aziza has also started a scholarship award called the Reginald Aziza Leadership in Law Scholarship Award. He plans to reward exceptional students with this award which started in October 2017.

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