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Destiny Ogedegbe Discusses Life After Harvard and His Recent Hobbies in Today’s “Doing Life With…”



Doing Life With… is a BellaNaija Features series that showcases how people live, work, travel, care for their families and… everything in between. We are documenting the lives of all people and ensuring everyone is well-represented at BN.

Did you miss last week’s conversation with Bukunmi Oluwasina? You can catch up here

This week, we’re doing life with Destiny Ogedegbe, a Nigerian first-class graduate of Law. He holds his LLM from Harvard and is currently a licensed attorney of Corporate Law in New York. He gives us a glimpse into his life after school. Enjoy!

Hey Destiny. Tell me how you are doing today

I’m as good as I can be today. Hopefully better tomorrow.

Give me a peep into your background and what part of your childhood influenced who you are today

I grew up in Benin City, Nigeria. My parents are both from there. My mum was a trader and my dad, a civil servant. They’ve been separated for long now. They’re both significantly responsible for shaping me into who I am today, but I think much of my upbringing happened outside the home. With friends, in the streets of Benin, and very often, alone. And so, much of who I am today is a result of an almost painful independence from a young age.

I think every part of my childhood influenced who I am today. From the mundane to the remarkable in the small and significant. My favourite meal, for instance, is still coconut rice, in the very particular way it’s cooked in my city back home, and I’ve liked it since I was a kid. I still prefer spoons to forks regardless of the occasion because forks remind me fondly of this neighbour when I was a kid who had an amusing way of deriding forks in the Bini dialect. I would rather play football, even if barefooted than spend hours in a club because I spent pretty much my entire teenagehood playing street football. I still want my meat well done, slightly burnt if possible, because it attends to my mind with such a nostalgic draw. We humans are essentially projects in motion, so everything, I think, sort of ties into one another as a meticulous network of events. I’m no exception.

Interesting. Let’s talk about academic growth, and moving from Nigeria to the US. What unique challenges would you say you have faced as an LLM student in comparison to your undergraduates?

I’ll take it methodically. It’s tough to get into an Ivy League school, and particularly crazy to be accepted by Harvard. That’s first. It’s tougher to get your dream job as an international student and to be aware of your limitations. That’s second. The toughest is being an immigrant. Usually, many international students from Africa, focus on the first. Understandably so, because the two other difficulties are hard to appreciate until you’re in the system already. You would have taken that Kierkegaardian leap to leave your country before you realised how difficult it would be to get a job or maintain a working immigrant status. I’ve been through all of it.

While it took a lot of work to get into Harvard and succeed there, it took ten times more effort to get my dream job, largely because of complexities akin to my immigration status. In my case, I even had it easy despite the hardship. So many of my friends had to go back home. It’s that tough. When you’re done with your master’s, fortunate enough to get a job, you have to deal with the complexity of simply living a new life. You now have to learn pretty much everything again, like a toddler—how to speak, this time with an affected accent that you are told you don’t have to learn but you know damn well you need to learn quickly because your job practically depends on people understanding what you say; you have to learn how to socialise differently, this time with a funny kind of pretentiousness that moonlights as politeness.

Must have been tough

You don’t say. You have to learn basic everyday stuff like the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, the difference between blocks and streets and avenues, the different types of bacon, and the difference between peas and asparaguses. And then, given the difference between these two realities, you become more conscious of being judged. A simple confusion about a social cue can come off as stupidity and register permanently in the minds of others. There’s enormous pressure to defend your history and the same time assimilate a new reality.

All of this is hard because you’re reconstructing yourself and there is so much chaos in that reconstruction. But it’s fine, it’s been a worthy challenge so far. I’m watching myself mould my bricks. I’m treating myself as a garden and so far I’ve been planting cactus pears and lemon clovers. I am growing something beautiful from this chaos. Growth may be messy but it’s still my favorite show.

Let’s talk about the highlights too. Moments that strengthened your belief and decision in your course and path

I can’t recall most of them exactly. Academic achievements, alone, are not enough to justify my conviction in practising as a lawyer. Although they did play a role. More importantly, during my time at Harvard Law School and also now in practice, there have been moments where I had something like a rude awakening, a self-perpetuating conviction that I may be on to something with this profession. I feel that way usually when I think of the access practice has given me to some of the most important people in the world. From where I sit, I understand better and can explain the financial logistics of this world we live in and the internal architecture of the institutions that order our global existence. This experience and opportunities are unparalleled and when I think about it, I have no regrets in my decision to practise law. I am building something that cannot be broken or taken away from me.

You once shared how your uncle forced you to study law, but here you are now. Tell us about that

I wouldn’t say it wasn’t initially mine — maybe part of making it mine included my uncle’s intervention. I don’t know what I would have turned out to be if I studied the course I had planned to study initially. But what I can say is that I enjoy being a lawyer.

It is safe to say you are academically successful and even on the path to financial success and global recognition. What would you say success means to you?

I will get to your question but let me first tell you about that great African proverb — the hunters and Eneke, the bird. Eneke swore that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, it has learned to fly without perching. I think of myself as Eneke. I’m racing against the tide of life. This life will kill me someday, all of us. It will not stop until it does. So I plan to simply keep advancing myself until I no longer can. Society has its definition of success, which is fine. But success, for me, is whatever I have achieved and whoever I have become, at the time I’m burnt out and ready to arrive gently at death. This is also true for Eneke. The distance already covered by Eneke at the time it finally falls from the sky and whatever Eneke has become in the process, is Eneke’s success. So let’s define it tomorrow; for now, we must keep flying.

Makes sense. What’s that unconventional thought you have about the world?

Every time I look at the world and its people and pay close attention to the details, I get emotional. I admire the heroism of those who try to make the world a better place and I partake in this heroism because it is good. I, too, want to help bridge the many gaps that seem to be the source of the injustices we see today—from racism to corruption, poverty and all. What makes me emotional, however, is that the way I see it, society is not fair and probably never will. Society is not fair because society is not designed. Society is, to me, and for the most part, the elaborate outcome of extensive incentives, tradeoffs, and negotiations through different means including violence when it suits the agitators. There is no grand world plan whatsoever and not even the powerful institutions of the world can save us. It’s all a bunch of different groups of people fighting, haggling, begging and scheming for their interests.

Because you share a lot about academic success on social media, many people may think you have life all figured out. Are there moments when you have fought the battle of the mind?

Haha, my mum is already begrudging my reluctance to get married so she sure doesn’t think I have it together.

I’m kidding. But yeah, it’s not all rosy and I think this is trivially obvious to many people who follow me. Because I try to present the difficulties that confront me from time to time. It’s partly why I accept interviews like this, to tell a more complete version of this story. I’m not all that, frankly. I think people give me more goodwill than I deserve.

Haha. You’ve come under criticism on social media a couple of times, particularly because of some opinions you hold. How have you been able to navigate keeping your voice while managing criticisms?

I think it’s simple for me for one reason. I don’t take myself too seriously. A lot of things are easy to brush off if you are just unbothered. I just use it to share my ideas and sometimes, intrusive thoughts. I don’t matter. I’m thankful to those who show me lots of love, support and goodwill. I’m also not surprised by those who hate me. But whichever category you choose, you are still missing the point. I don’t matter. Only my ideas do — just as I am merely a conduit by which a fraction of life’s internal architecture reveals itself, social media is merely a conduit for the expression of my ideas. That’s all I care about. It’s debatable whether my ideas matter, but for sure they matter much more than I do.

One moment in your life you felt utterly proud of yourself and nothing else mattered?

It would be my first day at my place of work here in New York. When I walked into the halls of the building, taking in all that musty scent of history that hung on those walls, I felt proud. Nothing else mattered. It felt like everything had come together—finishing from Harvard Law and taking up my place in this world amongst the greats in my profession. And it will always be in my story, that I did that, damn. Man, if I die today, it cannot be said that I did not succeed. There are few things more pride-worthy than that.

A skill or hobby you picked up in the past year and enjoy?

I recently set out to try out random cuisines in the various restaurants around my neighbourhood and I think that’s my new hobby now, haha. Might become some obnoxious food/restaurant critic in New York. I’ll add JuJitsu and boxing to the menu of hobbies as those are stuff I’m recently getting into and pretty excited about.

One crazy thing you’d do if the world wasn’t watching you?

Probably go to North Korea to see what Kim Jong Un is up to with those nukes.

Two things you would rather be if you’re not a lawyer?

I’d rather be a creative artist or a footballer.

On a light note, how did you spend your Valentine’s Day?

Haha. I spent the day working. Trust me, it was no fun.

Haha, thank you for being on Doing Life With…, Destiny

Thank you for having me, BellaNaija.



Many thanks to Destiny Ogedegbe for having this conversation with us and answering all our questions – and swiftly too, we must add.

Do you love this content, have any feedback for us or want to be a BellaNaija Features contributor? We’d love to read from you. Shoot us an email: [email protected]Join us on Saturday for the next episode!

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