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Studying law is a family thing for us – Belgore

The Belgores have a long history of holding sway in the legal profession in Nigeria. While some have worked quietly in the profession over the years, others have been popular, due to their highly placed government positions or appointment. In this interview with PAUL UKPABIO, son of a High Court Judge in Abuja, Mohammed Belgore, a lawyer like the other Belgores before him, speaks on issues and in a blunt way. As a poet, he is creative, wishes he was a Formula One driver, and hopes to be a future change agent in politics

2023 is fast approaching and the two political parties talk about giving youths a chance, what is your experience, do you think they are receptive to the youths and where are you pitching your tent?
If they are receptive to the youths then they should field them for elective offices. They should make young people their candidates. Anything else is not good enough. Unfortunately, otherwise is the case. They aren’t receptive to the youths, when they say they are, it’s just lip service.

What political role will you be playing come 2023?
The most important thing to me is that young people go out, vote, and make themselves count. I believe you can’t rig out an overwhelming majority. I’ll be pushing this message to my peers because the reality is that a lot of young adults do not vote. Most of my friends don’t even have a PVC. We need to sensitize ourselves for this purpose, it is the best way to change things in my opinion.

Nigerian politics tend towards fast exchange of money, do you think youths vying for political positions will be able to cope?
Honestly, I don’t think they will be able to cope. They can’t buy the expensive forms nor can they fund any sort of meaningful stomach infrastructure which is how the ruling class makes subservient to them the voters. It’s a very difficult terrain for the youths to thrive in.

What motivated you to study law?
It’s a family thing for me. I won’t give you those poetic answers about I intend to help people or make an impact, yes I want to do that but I would have been able to achieve that without being a lawyer as well, it’s just a case of family influence. Most of my forebears are judges and lawyers. That is how it has been, somehow we have been able to keep the profession in the family over multiple generations.

Tell us a little about your background and early life
I was born here in Abuja to the family of Mrs. Hafsat Belgore and Justice S.B. Belgore, although a magistrate at the time. I went to primary school in Abuja and attended Federal Government College Keffi, Nassarawa state, before proceeding to the university. A poster boy for humble beginnings I believe.

What are your ambitions?
Well, I hope to succeed in practice and use it as a springboard for other achievements. God willing I hope to tow the path of my forebears and take a seat on the bench but I also want to leave other possibilities open. Perhaps I might be led divinely towards politics where I can make an even larger impact.

You were born with a silver spoon, how did this influence the person that you are today?
I don’t think I was born with a silver spoon, yes my family had a good name and a good reputation and still does, but we have never been amongst the wealthiest. My dad made his way through the magistracy ranks and then became a judge and my mum is a civil servant so I don’t see how I was born with a silver spoon.

You work in a top-notch law firm, tell us about that, and what can you say about your principal partner who is also a senior advocate of Nigeria?
My boss Mahmud Magaji SAN is an extraordinary human being. He is someone that inspires me with his penchant for generosity. His manner of helping people goes beyond caution. That is how wonderful is heart is. He is also one of the best lawyers in the country at the moment and believes when I say there aren’t too many professionally endowed law offices in West Africa that can match up to his. If you doubt me come and see for yourself.

Do you play polo, which sports are you attracted to?
(Laughs) I don’t play any sport unless you say video games are sports, something like FIFA. I’m attracted to football, I love Arsenal so much and I follow the premier league keenly. As for playing, I play with my pen and my books.

That brings us to your writing. I believe it has been a while since you put out one of your heartfelt articles to the general public, why have you not written anything for your readers in a while?
To be honest with you, just as you said, I write from my heart and Nigeria is painful to analyse. The state of the polity is depressing and overwhelmingly confusing. Sometimes I ask myself that even if I get the opportunity now, how would I change things. And believe me, there is no harder question. This is why I haven’t written for a while. Nigeria in my head is like jumbled wires that need sorting out and I have decided to focus more on personal development and then I’ll see how much more impactful I can develop my writing to be.

Being the son of a Judge, were you treated differently at the university and Law school?
It will interest you to know that it only made things harder for me because there is extra attention and scrutiny on me. It is often a thing of bewilderment to me when I get the impression that people believe my background made things easier, trust me it doesn’t.

Are there others among your siblings who are interested in studying law?
I’m the only one. My younger brother is an economist and my sister is the most brilliant doctor I know. The last of us is an International relations student.

Holidays, which memorable one can you recall?
Holidays with my maternal grand mum in Ilorin were the most beautiful days of my childhood. Life was much simpler back then anyway.

What memory of your childhood can you not forget?
I used to eavesdrop on my parent’s conversations with their friends, and then later I’d write a letter to my dad advising him on what steps to take concerning issues I might have heard them discussing. Thinking about it now, it must have been weird.

If you were not a lawyer, what else would you have wanted to be?
Well, I don’t know if this makes sense but I believe that if I was born in the developed world where talent is allowed to thrive, I would be a formula one driver. Trust me, I would rival Lewis Hamilton. I’m too sure.

You hail from Kwara and live in Abuja, which other part of the country would you also want to live in?
Abuja is the only place I would want to live. I’ve never been to Lagos and people sometimes don’t believe me when I say that but based on what I hear, the traffic and all, I don’t even want to go there for a holiday. Every other state is sad without any enticing incentive our leaders need to do better.

Apart from the popular foods in the north that you are used to, do you eat Yoruba’s eba, igbo’s akpu, or the Calabar’s afang soup?
Akpu has never looked like something I should bother my digestive system with, even the name sounds somehow to me. I eat Eba sometimes and I have had Afang soup once or twice and it wasn’t bad, to be honest. Mind you, I identify as a Yoruba man from the north, north-central to be precise. I’m a hybrid of sorts.

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