Two destiny encounters in secondary school changed Chukwuechefu Ukattah’s academic trajectory. He moved from the bottom to dusting every examination and outshining the brightest of his peers until he hit a roadblock down the line. This experience made him question his ace track record and shattered his confidence.
Dr. Chukwuechefu Ukattah is an experienced maritime lawyer and is currently a Partner at Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Nigeria’s leading and largest law firm. He shares his fascinating backstory with Business Elites Africa in this interview.
BEA: Did you choose this Law path, or your parents made a choice for you?
Chukwuechefu Ukattah: Technically, I was indirectly influenced to be a lawyer. My father was the last chief judge of the old Imo State and the pioneer chief judge of Abia state. So, growing up in an environment like that and seeing him wearing his ceremonial dress and going to court, you kind of get used to the legal profession and want to be like your father. In the family of six, five of us are lawyers. That’s why I said he indirectly influenced me. But he never for once said we must be lawyers. He always gave us a chance to choose whatever we wanted to become in life. I think I decided that I’d become a lawyer in primary four, and here I’m today.
BEA: Beyond your father’s influence, what spurred the decision at primary 4?
Chukwuechefu Ukattah: I think it was more about using the Law to change society. Growing up, I read a couple of my father’s judgments, and the conversations I had with him made me understand that as a lawyer, and ultimately if you become a jurist, it’s all about making an impact in society.
You are trying to change the life of the common man. You should see from that prism that you are trying to make a positive impact in society that would speak for your generation.
It was always about impacting society and changing people’s lives. He told me always to remember the common man and that if there is anything you can do to make their lives better, you should always try to do those things. So growing up, that was the philosophy, and I still have that philosophy today. Beyond trying to be a successful lawyer and make money, the Law is meant to be used as a tool to change your society and the life of your fellow man.
BEA: Where did your career journey begin?
Chukwuechefu Ukattah: I was called to the Nigerian bar in 2004. So the journey began in 2005 while I was in Sokoto State. I didn’t want to practice. I had left the University as the best graduating student in my class at Abia State University. I told myself to find a job at one of the International Oil Companies or the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (N.N.P.C.). But that year, I had the privilege of working in the chambers of a wonderful man, A. Y. Abubakar, at the Law firm of Al-Mustapha & Co. in Sokoto State.
A.Y Abubakar treated me like a brother and exposed me to the practice of Law. There was a time he wasn’t even going to court anymore. I was the one he would send to court in different states – like Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi states. That spurred my interest in legal practice. Although my father was a chief judge, it was really A. Y Abubakar that spurred my interest in Law.
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