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Q&A with Ike Awgu

7 July 2011 No Comments

Ike Awgu

By Samuel Getachew

At 19, Ike Awgu was a candidate for the office of Mayor of Ottawa. Though he eventually lost the election, his respectful showing on election day made a passionate impression to countless of people.

Not yet 30 today, the Carleton University alum reflects with Sway on his long journey in public life, his law career and tells us what concerns him most these days.

SG:  In 2003, you were a candidate for mayor (of Ottawa). Former Ottawa Mayor Chiarelli described you as someone who is “very, very bright, articulate young man, and with a bright future ahead of him.” What have you been up to since?

Awgu: Since the election, I’ve become a lawyer practicing in Ottawa and Toronto, primarily in civil litigation. I’ve also been fortunate enough to host a television show on CPAC (the Canadian Political Channel) and be an editorial columnist with the Ottawa Sun and the Globe and Mail. The experience was a great introduction to the political world and its players, albeit at a municipal level. Looking back, I think the most significant thing the experience did for me was make me comfortable meeting strangers, knocking on doors and understanding the concerns of people far removed from my own personal experience.

You are now a successful lawyer, a profession that has been described “very exclusive”. Why LLB?

Awgu: I always had a passion for debate and dialogue and law seemed a career that suited best my aptitudes. Also, since I wasn’t going to be a doctor or get a PhD, it was the only other profession I was permitted to enter, according to my parents. A law degree is great because of its versatility. Many lawyers don’t practice law; they teach, work in business, or do anything else they set their minds on. The degree acts almost as a kind of promise that the person whose earned it is probably bright, and therefore attractive to employers outside the legal realm in any endeavor requiring brains and hard work.

You were a recent candidate for City Council in Ottawa. Would you still consider being a candidate?

Awgu: Not sure I’d be a member of any club that would have me. Still, who knows what the future holds. Right now I’m most concerned with contributing the public conversation when it comes to issues I’m passionate about such as education or the success of our youth.

Any parting words?

Awgu: Pressure and Time are two of the most powerful forces in the Universe; they can upturn entire civilizations, cut pathways through mountains and even change the shape of planets. In most of our lives, the most difficult kind of pressure we face will be the pressure to conform; the pressure to be like everyone else.

When you’re young, it whispers to you that you should wear the ‘right’ jeans to blend in with the other teenagers. When you get older it screams that you should ‘go to university’ because everyone else is. When you’re still older, it shouts that you should be ‘married’, or ‘starting a family’ or ‘buying a home’.

For many people, perhaps most even, this pressure is a kind of favor to them; helping them avoid pitfalls they would otherwise tumble towards. For others though, it will make what could have been unique and great lives mediocre and common. ”

Most people who have ever done anything special with their lives had to ignore people around them telling them to blend in. You might succeed, you might fail, nothing is guaranteed in life. But if you’re the person I’m speaking to, the person to whom this final paragraph appears is speaking, you’ll never forgive yourself for not trying and you’ll always wonder what could have been…right up until your end. And there are no do-overs. To die without achieving all of your dreams is not tragedy; to die never having chased any of your dreams is.

My parting advice: follow your heart, not the crowd.

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