OVER the weekend, Nigerians in the Diaspora went agog with pride and jubilation as the Nigerian flag flew in honour of a survivor of Boko Haram terrorists who bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in a Californian university.
At the capacity-filled invitation-only event, a US Congresswoman, Representative Grace Napolitano representing California, was also awarded an honorary doctorate 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 and 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.” The congresswoman said 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 graduands to show gratitude. “You have been beneficiaries of someone. Be grateful for the blessing” of education. She noted that almost half of the class of 2019 “are the first to graduate in their family” and the university was “fifth for social mobility” of all universities in a recent US ranking. After her inspirational speech, certificates were presented to graduands by the university’s president. When the survivor of a Boko Haram attack, Zion Umar, was called to the podium amidst cheers and applause by her Nigerian and American guests, the president of the university went out of her way to hug her. Ms Zion Umar had come a long way from terror-ravaged North- Eastern Nigeria. In May 2013, as a secondary school girl, terror unveiled its ugly head when dreaded Islamist terrorists broke into her family home in Maiduguri and grabbed her pastor father. As she pleaded with the gunman for her father’s life, they warned her to enter the house or be killed. Before she could do so, they opened fire, killing her father while a bullet lodged in her head.