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All in the family

Posted by By Josfyn Uba on 2007/06/02 | Views: 779 |

All in the family

Herís is like a tale from the storybooks. It is the kind of story that bestsellers are made of. Perhaps, if Sidney Sheldon was alive, he would probably have made a lead character from her.

..Mom is called to Bar same day with daughter

Herís is like a tale from the storybooks. It is the kind of story that bestsellers are made of. Perhaps, if Sidney Sheldon was alive, he would probably have made a lead character from her.
From childhood, little May Okafor had not only nursed the ambition of becoming a lawyer but had also dreamed of the day she would stand among other learned friends in the court to defend the oppressed.

She kept on with this dreams even after her first degree, after four kids and even, in the face of all adversities, nothing could stop this burning desire. Still driven by an unquenchable sense of determination and self actualization. The middle aged woman practically abandoned her home, headed for the University where she spent well over eight years pursuing her ambition.

Eventually though, this woman of destiny who shares the same birthday with Nigeria, was to be called to the bar on the same day, with her first daughter.
The mother of four went down memory lane in a rare chat with Saturday sun recently

Major influence
From my childhood, I had always wanted to be a lawyer. I loved to be one. My idea of wanting to be a lawyer stemmed from when I was a little girl and my father would bring back newspapers. I was so much fascinated by the lawyersí garb and I was particularly thrilled by people like the late Rotimi Williams.

Every time I saw him on the TV or in the newspapers, I was very happy and so, I wished that I was one of them. As a matter of fact, my dream was to be a lawyer and that one day, I would stand in the court and argue just like the Rotimi Williams.

Although, I didnít know of any female lawyers or perhaps, there were few of them then but I dreamt that someday, I would become a lawyer.

And as I grew up, this desire became more intense. I was sure of one thing. I had silently made a personal promise that as long as I live and no matter how old I may have become, nothing, absolutely nothing would stop me from realizing this dream.

Getting educated, first
My father, though, not lettered but knew the benefits of education, so, he left the legacy of education to all his children. I wanted to read law and had always expressed a strong desire for this but my parents thought that teaching was the best for a woman. I had to take to teaching and of course, there wasnít much awareness on guidance and counseling, so, there were limited choices.

I went on to do my NCE and later obtained a degree in English from the University of Lagos but I didnít teach for a day. All along, I knew that I was not caught out for teaching and so, I kept dreaming and hoping that this self-actualization of becoming a lawyer will come to pass one day.
Even, when I got married, I had confided in my husband of my ambition and his support had been most tremendous.

Early marriage
Without sounding immodest, I would say that I come from a background of discipline and good upbringing. Each of us, abided by the dictates of the family, especially, that of my fathersí for he was very strict.

The determination to give us a good education was his priority. There was no excuse for you not to go to school so the issue of anyone getting married early was not there and even when it did come up. My father was the last person to entertain that and so, none of us considered getting married early.
However, my younger sister was to get married contrary to what we knew to be the obtainable. I didnít find this funny as I was already in a courtship but wouldnít think of marriage and here, she was getting ready and Daddy was not upset.

It was her action that triggered me into marriage because I didnít want her to marry before me. As a matter of fact, I was about 20 years or so when I got married and I am happy that I took that decision

Quest for self actualization
In 1997, I got admission into the University of Abuja where I was to read law as a part time student. As part time students, our schedule was naturally different from that of the regular students. We paid higher school fees and had a different marking scheme. We ran this part time course until a time when the University authorities decided to do away with part time programme in law. In effect, all part time law students would integrated into the regular programme.

Everything we tried to put across as logic to change this decision came to nothing and so, we changed into the regular programme.This change-over wasnít easy for any one of us as we have different businesses outside the school programme.

So long, a course for mama
For me, it was pretty difficult. Every weekend, I had to fly from Lagos to Abuja when our programme was regularized, and I had to attend lectures everyday like all normal students, it was evident that I couldnít cope with living in Lagos, attending classes in Abuja and taking care of the homefront. So, I had to relocate and move my family to Abuja. All my four children who are in school had to relocate with me as well.

My business crumbled as well. This issue between us and the school authority was so bad that we contemplated going to court to argue the case because when we started, our programme was on part time and we thought that for them, now to change it was a breach of contract. This idea was later dropped though, as we figured that we couldnít fight the authorities.

The issue of whether to go regular or not with the other students was so bad that we spent extra two years away from school. I even, traveled abroad but with a firm resolve that I would finish the race and see my dream come true.

While all these were happening, my husband was solidly behind me. he stood by me in all ramification. Financially and morally, there were times, I felt like throwing in the towel, but his words of support kept me on. Then, we resumed after a two year break.

All these were the numerous challenges that I had to contend with while on this journey of realizing my childhood dream.

But the most traumatic of all these troubles was when my elder brother died just about three months after my motherís death. It wasnít funny. It was the most devastating period of my life. I was doing my last paper when he died. I couldnít be informed about it so as to allow me finish up. so, the sacrifices I made to actualize this dream was too much. And I thank God that I made it eventually

Like mother, like daughter
While I was studying, my first daughter, who is about 26 years had also gained admission to also study law at the University. We didnít attend the same school. She schooled in the East while I was at Abuja.
We would not have met or finished together, if my programme had gone the way it was scheduled. I spent about eight years doing a programme that should normally have taken just about five years.

As a matter of fact, we graduated with the 1996 set at the law school because of the same problem that trailed our set.

Theirís was a little different. They couldnít go to the law school because they said that the Universityís law faculty was not accredited and so they battled and while at that sets of students were passing out but couldnít go to the law school. By the time this problem was settled, they had had a backlog of sets.
However, when I finally rounded off the programme, she had finished too and we were both ready to go to the law school. Although, while I went from home, she was in the hostel. My daughter is currently in Minna doing her youth service.

Of course I also had to move back to Lagos right after my programme which also means that the whole family has again moved down here with me and that was part of their own sacrifice.
Graduating on the same day with my her remains the greatest day and the most memorable in my entire life.

The feeling was simply indescribable. First, here I was, finally graduating after all the hiccups, both official and personal. I was very glad that I have at last, made it. Standing side by side with my daughter on that day was another experience too. So, I just canít thank God enough. The joy that I have been called to the bar is immeasurable. And I have my husband and entire family to thank for their unflinching support all through these years.

I have no regret at all for pursuing my dream tirelessly. In spite of all odds, I have I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the journey. I have no iota of regret. Absolutely none, rather I am so fulfilled. I am so elated.
Nonetheless, I feel sad, very sad indeed that my mother who was there when I embarked on this journey, in quest for this dream didnít live to witness this memorable occasion and share in my joy as I accomplish this dream of a life time

Mrs. Okafor told Saturday sun that she will not practice for the mean time rather, it is a payback time for her family that she had abandoned for so long.

I am not going to practice now. I am devoting this time to put back my family. They have sacrificed so mush to see me through these years, so it is now my own time to pay them back.
There is the need to also put a few things that went wrong while I was away. My business practically folded up and I need to put it back on track. I guess nothing would be too much to reward a family that has done this much for me. for now, there is a lot to be done in the homefront

May, 29th, what is in a date?
I was born some 40 something years ago on 29th of May. My parents had actually lost many children before I was born. And as they had them, they were given names considered most beautiful and lovely. But unfortunately, these names died along with them.

These high mortality rate no doubt, made my parents very angry and when I was given birth to, my father thought that giving me a lovely name would simply amount to a complete waste, and so refused vehemently to give me any name. And also thought that what use would it be and thought that I might just go the way others before me did.

So, since I was born on May, 29th, they simply adopted the name May and thought that if I eventually died in my childhood, they wouldnít be loosing some precious name.
Today, the name stuck on me and I, by sheer providence is still alive.

I believe in destiny. I believe that since this date worked for me and my family, it will surely work for Nigeria.

I strongly believe that Nigeria will rise again

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