9 February 2013

Nigeria: 'I Couldn't Have Asked for a Better Family'


My parents are... My mum, Fati Goni Askira is very accommodating, liberal and a great homemaker. She raised me and my eight siblings by herself after our father's death. My father was a disciplined, caring and humble man, who was honest to a fault.

The household I grew up in... I grew up in a large house in Maiduguri with lots of aunties, cousins, siblings, friends, and people whom I had no blood relations with. Our way of life was strictly based on the fundamentals of Islam.

Permit me to say... my mum is the strongest woman known to me. For her to raise nine children - the oldest being 22 years old and the youngest a little above 2 years - when my Dad died and by God's grace we all turned out well...All I can say is mashaallah.

My childhood dream was... I wanted to become a newscaster. I used to makeup and sit in front of my mum's dresser and read the newspaper to myself.

The childhood memory I cherish... I went to a different primary school from that of my elder sister Zara. So every time I came back from school, I looked forward to receiving goodies - taura, goruba and hallakakwabo - she would bring me from her school. I was heartbroken when she was transferred to my school because that meant no more treats.

If I could change one thing about myself... It would be nothing because I am God's perfect creation..

It is definitely my strength... My patience.

Call it my weakness... I trust people I shouldn't trust.

The craziest thing I've ever done... Getting on a boat paddled by a fisherman at a dam without any life vest or floater on, despite knowing I couldn't swim. I still shudder at the thought.

Fashion to me is... It is a way of personally expressing your inner self and being comfortable while doing it; not following trends or trying to look exactly like the other person.

Looking at my old pictures... I always tried to keep my appearance modest, elegant and fashionable. I do not follow trends.

I'm a 'big reader'... The holy Qur'an changed me because when I started reading the English version, it made me understand man's primary purpose in life.

I'm not a movie freak... I don't watch movies.

Call it my little secret... I'm very passionate about the environment and I want to contribute meaningfully in my own little way to help humanity.

My five-year plan... I would love to set up a non-profit organisation and work with similar organisations that would add value to other people's lives by providing access to potable water and sanitation to the people living in rural areas. I believe everyone has a right to healthy life and a clean environment.

My greatest joy is... Being born into my kind of family; I couldn't have asked for a better one.

Looking at the mirror... I see a strong black woman with a blindingly-bright future that will stop at nothing to achieve her set goals.

My life in nine words... A Candid, humble, reliable, honest, cheerful and witty lady.


Zainab Mustapha Umara was born to the family of Alhaji Mustafa Umara, Nigeria's 11th secretary to the government of the federation. She had her primary, secondary and university education in Nigeria.

She is a graduate of Geology from the University of Maiduguri. Zainab later proceeded to Newcastle University to study Environmental Engineering for her MSC and graduated with a distinction.

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