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‘Bullet In The Head’ Boko Haram Victim, Zion Umar Graduates From A California University

The Oasis Reporters

June 10, 2019

Ms Zion Umar graduates from a California University.
A delegation of the Nigerian diaspora and international guests were on hand to rejoice with her ( Photos by Breanna Ulsh and photo collage by The Oasis Reporters).

When Boko Haram Islamist terrorists stormed the home of Bornu State Christian Association Of Nigeria senior official in Maiduguri, Rev Umar Pama, killing him and shooting his daughter, Zion Umar in the head, they thought they had dealt a fatal blow to the family.
But after two months of searing headaches and life in and out of hospital operating theatres before the bullet was successfully extracted, Ms. Zion Umar has shown remarkable resilience and the uncommonly dogged determination to survive and overcome great odds that is life in the much dreaded terror ravaged Nigeria’s Northeastern region.

She has just graduated from a California University with a B. Sc. in science.

Her horror to happy ending story started in May 2013 when as a secondary Schoolgirl, the dreaded Boko Haram Islamist terrorists broke into her family’s home in Maiduguri and grabbed her pastor father who had a passion to care for orphans in insurgency filled Maiduguri.

As she pleaded with the gunmen for her father’s life, they warned her to get back into the house or be killed. Before she could do so, they opened fire killing her father while a bullet lodged in her head.

On the right, Barrister Emmanuel Ogebe (in blue kaftan) with a pan -Nigerian contingent in the diaspora and internationa supporters pose with Ms Zion Umar : Photo Credit Breanna Ulsh

Justice for Jos Project’s Special Counsel
Emmanuel Ogebe, and US based human rights lawyer heard her story immediately it happened, and two years later in 2015, had her moved out of the environment to the United States of America to join the Chibok girls whose education he had sponsored in the US in 2014, in honor of her late father who had taken care of orphans of numerous pastors also killed in Maiduguri.

Upon her arrival Ms Zion distinguished herself academically and soon entered university with one Chibok girl and another survivor in early 2016. She graduated from the Community College with an Associate Degree in Science, Magna Cum Laude (high Honors) in 2018 transferring and obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Science from the California university last weekend. Her Chibok colleague had herself graduated, also with an associate degree in Science from the Community College two weeks earlier and transferred for further studies.

The Nigerian flag had to fly in America in her honor as she joined Congresswoman,
Representative Grace Napolitano who also bagged a degree.
Nigerians in Diaspora went agog with pride and jubilation as Zion Umar was called upon for her Bachelor of Science degree in a California university, a visible sign of triumph over adversity, especially the virulent insurgency that has befallen the north east of Nigeria.

At the capacity-filled invitation-only event, a US Congresswoman Representative Grace Napolitano representing California was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree for 30 years of public service.

Congresswoman Napolitano who was the special guest speaker at the graduation described her ordeal growing up poor after her birth in 1936, early marriage at 18 and birthing five children by the time she was 23.

She commended the graduating class of 2019 for “the strength of character and courageous spirit that brought you to this day”.

Congresswoman Napolitano also added that she herself had “no degree” due to discrimination in her childhood but “I congratulate you” for earning degrees.

Without a degree, she continued, “ I am representing you” in the Congress proving that America “still remains the greatest symbol of hope the world has ever seen”.

Congresswoman Napolitano however warned about “foreign attacks on our constitution” which she called,“Constitutional constipation” and the return of the “Demons” of discrimination she faced in her childhood.

She charged the graduates to show gratitude, “you have been beneficiaries of someone. Be grateful for the blessing” of education, noting also that almost half of the class of 2019 “are the first to graduate in their family” and the university was “5th for social mobility” of all universities in a recent US ranking.

After her inspirational speech, certificates were presented to graduates by the university’s president.
When the Boko Haram attack survivor, Zion Umar was called to the podium to cheers and applause by her Nigerian and American guests, the president of the university went out of her way to hug her.

At the stadium to honor Ms Zion Umar were several eminent Nigerians in diaspora, including a one-time Attorney General of Fiji and his wife, a former World Bank Auditor and his wife and international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe and his wife.

Each of them had known Ms Zion’s father, the late Rev. Umar Pama.

In an interesting turn of events, the Nigerian guests included people from the northeast, south south, north central and southwest giving the contingent a pan-Nigerian coloration.

Also in attendance were an American lawyer, doctor, pastor and retired professor who had all supported Ms Zion in her schooling in California. Incidentally the retired professor had taught in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war in the 60s and the pastor had herself been born in Nigeria.

At the end of the ceremony they lined up next to the Nigerian flag specially hoisted in honor of Ms Zion for photographs.

According to human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, “Zion’s feat is historic as the first victim of Boko Haram to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in America.

More amazing is the fact that she did this despite undergoing surgery to her head.

Boko Haram generally does not directly kill women. While I have seen male victims of gunshots to the head, she’s the first and only female victim I have seen with this type of experience. Yet from her amazing smile, you could never tell what horrors she’s been through.

To overcome this and excel academically while adjusting to a foreign country showcases her resilience and is a true manifestation of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

It is remarkable that Zion and a United States Congresswoman shared the same stage to obtain degrees on the same day which remains a fitting divine blessing for a hardworking, responsible and conscientious young lady.”

Interestingly Ms Zion who was Vice President of the Honors Society in her community college became a Professor’s assistant in the university and was even grading exams of first year students.

The university had offered her a postgraduate sponsorship and employment as a lecturer but she declined due to her desire to pursue a medical-related course that would benefit others in the future.

Already she has been offered admission for postgraduate studies but is evaluating her options.

Mr Ogebe said, “I am thankful that today she has a better education than her peers at home and abroad with a degree that is marketable globally. She has the opportunity and ability to work and earn a living or continue schooling. Zion is a worthy ambassador of her late father who was a senior CAN official in Borno State. Her parents inculcated in her, the discipline and work ethic for success.

As I receive reports of continuing attacks by Boko Haram in Borno, I am glad I made the right choice to provide her an opportunity in the United States.”

Photo Credit : Breanna Ulsh

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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