I was born in Maiduguri, Borno, in the northern part of Nigeria. The name Maiduguri is derived from an Arabic expression meaning “quenching the thirst.” The expression refers to the waters of the nearby river from which travelers would stop and drink.
My father was a very hard-working man. He was not around much during our upbringing. He traveled far away to the southern part of Nigeria to work, and sent us as much money as he could. My mother was a business woman, and she always thought of small things we could do around the house to make money.
The value of education and prayer is something that I understood from a very young age. My parents made it clear to me why these values were important. My father got a promotion and moved us to Minna, Niger State, Nigeria. His main reason being he wanted us to learn English. “The schools there are really good,” he would say.
No one liked the decision at the time. We had to leave everything behind and start all over again. However, it is because of this that I got to talk to my uncle, Bukar Ibn-Mohammed, who lived in America.
One evening after school my uncle called and asked about our well-being. My mom called me from outside and handed me the phone. I remember her being very excited. She told me it was my uncle from America. I had a conversation with him in English and he was impressed. He said to me if I did good in school, he would bring me to America.
After the phone call, I was in shock. I told my mom what my uncle said and I’m sure everyone in the neighborhood could hear her scream in joy. I was in disbelief. I kept saying there is no way I could go over there, that’s it must be too good to be true.
America is an absolute dream to almost everyone in Nigeria. Because of what my uncle promised me, I started working twice as hard in school, and I graduated at the age of 15. My uncle kept his promise.
For the first time in my life, I was on an airplane. An old lady sitting next to me on the plane, who noticed my excitement, asked if it was my first time flying. When I said “yes,” she replied and laughed, “I can tell.”
I was also scared because I didn’t know what to expect; I was going to this land, and my sole purpose was to educate myself and remove my family from poverty.
My grandmother rolled her spiritual dice in front of me and said, “You are going to be a very lucky person.” I didn’t believe in luck very much. Rather, I believed in destiny.
Feeling lost and afraid, I walked towards the arrival section in the airport to meet my uncle for the first time. In that moment, I knew I was walking the path destiny crafted for me.