Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Nigerian student defies odds to graduate after Boko Haram attack

10 May 2015, 08:57

Yola - Dressed in a red and blue gown and mortar board, Abubakar Umar collected his degree on Saturday looking like just another proud student.

But if there was nothing to make the 26-year-old petroleum chemistry student stand out from his classmates, the story of how he came to be at his graduation ceremony at the American University of Nigeria in the northeastern city of Yola, is one of sheer courage and determination.

Last November, Umar was driving home to the city of Kano 640 kilometres (400 miles) away when he ran into Boko Haram insurgents, who opened fire twice on his car, hitting him in both arms.

"I think I should have died on that day, I could have died on that day," he told reporters before the graduation ceremony.

"I lost so much blood, there wasn't any medication. But somehow I think the Lord kept me alive for a special reason and one of those reasons was to complete my degree."

- Warning signs -

The signs were ominous as Umar left Yola, crossing from Adamawa state into neighbouring Gombe on the seven-hour journey to Kano.

Fellow drivers warned him to take another route. On it, the military checkpoints were unmanned.

In the early hours of the morning as he approached Potiskum, the commercial capital of Yobe state and a frequent Boko Haram target, he slowed to avoid potholes on the road. Then he heard gunshots.

"I just saw these people coming out of the bush. They were screaming 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest) and shooting at my car," he recalled.

"At first I stopped because some of them had military trousers and boots but then I noticed their headbands and what they were saying, so I realised they were insurgents.

"They shot me in my right arm. I continued (driving). I didn't know where I was going. I just kept on driving. I thought I would reach a checkpoint and report the case. I never met any checkpoint.

"I slowed down again because of the road and they shot me for the second time. I fractured my arm."

After abandoning his car, blood flowing from his wounds and broken bone exposed, he stumbled upon a village and was taken in by locals, at grave risk to their own lives.

Also read: Nigerian refugees seen exacerbating hunger across borders

He was ushered to a filthy communal toilet where he passed out.

- Disguise and escape -

When he came round later in the day, the locals -- wary of reprisals if he was ever found -- provided him with a heavy salt and water mix to pour into his wounds to stop the bleeding.

After hiding out all day, he managed to call for help on a borrowed mobile phone. He spent the night in the village until friends picked him up the next day.

Even then, he had to disguise himself just in case he stumbled across rebel fighters, who at the time had bases in the area.

"I put mud and chicken dung on my head to look like a madman," he said. "I removed my shoes and put them in my pocket... (but) I didn't see Boko Haram."

Umar returned to university in January after surgery on his wounds, the scars of which are still visible on his arms.

"I came back and I couldn't use my right hand for 14 weeks... I couldn't write, I couldn't press (keys on) the computer. When the cast was removed, I was OK," he added.

After six years of violence, at least 15,000 deaths and some 1.5 million left homeless, there are often few positive tales to tell about the bloody Boko Haram insurgency.

But by battling to complete his degree -- at a university teaching the secular "Western" education Boko Haram opposes -- Umar knows he is one of the lucky ones.

"I've made it and I've graduated, so I'm very happy," he added.

To go with his degree scroll, Umar, who now wants to study for a master's qualification, also received a special award for courage.

"I've never seen anyone with more determination, with more courage, with more positive attitude," said university director Margee Ensign.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...