11 years after, female beneficiary of Presidential Amnesty Programme meets mentor, Ben Carson in US

…Reads even in toilet, emerges overall best graduating student at Alabama varsity

By Murphy Ganagana

At age seven, she dreamt of stepping into the shoes of Ben Carson Sr., a globally acclaimed black American neurosurgeon and incumbent United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who was a presidential aspirant in the Republican primaries in 2016. A pioneer in neurosurgery, Carson performed the only successful separation of conjoined twins joined at the back of the head, and had also achieved other spectacular neurosurgical feats. He became the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the country at age 33.

Born October 23, 1999 in Ido-Ani, 18-year-old Boubini Jones Wonni, a native of Arogbo, Ondo State, has a tall ambition, motivated by a book written by Carson, which she read while in Primary 2 at Banky’s Private School, Apo, Abuja. Barely seven years old, she was inspired by his thoughts and work, setting the stage for her dream world in the future.

At a tender age, Boubini knew achieving her dream could only be by hard work, and her books became her daily companion. She was three years old when she was enrolled for nursery, and proceeded to primary school at age five. Three years after, she was enrolled for the Common Entrance Examination which she passed brilliantly, and was offered admission at Word of Faith Group of Schools, also in Abuja, where she won the proprietor’s scholarship to complete her secondary education while in SS2, and was awarded the best graduating student of the school in her set, garnering an A-list result in her Senior School Certificate Examination.

“While in primary 3, I found out that she was a very intelligent child and she wrote her common entrance examination in Word of Faith Group of Schools, Area One, Abuja. She did very well in the common entrance examination and so the proprietress of the primary school she attended, one Mrs. Bankole, and we the parents, decided that she proceed to secondary school from primary three. I wasn’t surprised because her case was not the first. My second son who is now a medical doctor went to secondary school in primary three”, says her 47-year-old mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Jones Wonni.

The fourth child among six siblings, two male and four female, Boubini sat for the Joint Matriculations Examination after an excellent performance in the SSCE exams, with plans to proceed to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. She had even done the post UME test when her mother’s younger sister stumbled on a write-up in the internet. It was posted by the Presidential Amnesty Office, indicating that there was a qualifying examination which some of the applicants didn’t turn up. Though the exam was to be written same day, her mother made contacted the Amnesty Office and she was invited to participate.

Elizabeth recalls: “The notice was very short, but we rushed to the venue of the examination where I dropped her off and proceeded to the office. After the exam, I went to the Amnesty Office in the evening and the story was that apart from having the highest score, she outscored even those that took the exams the previous year. She had also sat for KAPLAN exams and performed brilliantly, but the issue was her age. She was 14 years as at 2014 when she finished her secondary school and the result of her SSCE was out in June. By October 2014, she was 15 years, but KAPLAN said it couldn’t process her admission in the US except she was aged 16. But because of her scores in the exams, KAPLAN even contacted its affiliates and said they would have accepted age 15 if there was a police permit. But the Amnesty Office decided that she proceed to the US. So, her visa was processed and by January 2015, she went to the US. She was eventually offered admission at Miles College, Metropolitan Birmingham, Alabama, after writing an examination in which she was said to have scored 100 plus, and they were wondering. That was how she started”.

Since her ambition was to follow the career path of her mentor, Ben Carson and possibly surpass his captivating feats, she took a course in Biology as first degree at the Miles College, Alabama, in line with US standards for prospective medical students. On May5, she emerged the best graduating student and has been offered admission to study medicine at Howard University, Washington DC. For Boubini, it was the first step of a dream fulfilled.

Interestingly, at the peak of the last campaigns for the presidential election in the US, she met Carson at Alabama, and took photos with him. That was another realization of a dream. She is elated and thankful to God and the Federal Government of Nigeria for supporting her through the Presidential Amnesty Programme to actualize her dream. “I am grateful to God, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Amnesty Programme for giving me the opportunity; I sincerely appreciates”, she remarked.

Her mother, Elizabeth, gives the glory to God, describing Boubini’s feat as divine. She tells her story: “In 2014, there was a day we were praying and somebody asked me, is this girl reading Accounting? I said no, she is not; she wants to read medicine. But the person said I am seeing fortune around her. We were praying and the person is a woman, she is a pastor. When she was growing up, her dream was to become a medical doctor. Not only a medical doctor. When she was in primary school, there was a day she came home with a book written by Ben Carson; that she wants to be a neurosurgeon. That was how she continued drumming it and behold, she got to the US and met Ben Carson. She met Ben Carson, snapped with him and sent the photographs to me. He visited Alabama while he was campaigning, and it was there she met him and they snapped. So, finally, she met him. That has been her dream. So, she read a lot; even in the toilet, she can be there for two hours, reading. She would fold, and start reading; read and read, that is all she is known for”.

To be sure, Boubini has become a role model for other beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme in educational institutions within and outside the country, more so, with the appointment of Professor Charles Quaker Dokubo as Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme. While expressing his determination to chart a new direction for the amnesty programme, an elated Dokubo harped on the need for qualitative training that would give jobs to beneficiaries.

“You don’t just set up trainings for training purposes or for contract issues. I believe we should train people and train them in such a way that they should have qualifications that will give them jobs, and that is the direction I am going to adopt. Contracts on training and all that will, not just be trainings; there must be a City and Guides issue that we must address. We must have the capacity to give our delegates some qualification that would enable them to work wherever they could; that will empower them. It’s not only about mass education; it’s qualitative education. Let our people have quality education that will make them stand tall. That is what I want to do”, he says.

Ganagana is Special Assistant (Media) to the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme.

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