The Adewumi family have fled from knocking terror in their home country of Nigeria to raising Tanitoluwa Adewumi, their second son, who is a rising chess competitor in the United States. The journey to this point however was not an easy one.
Their story starts in their home city of Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Kayode Adewumi, the children’s father was the owner of a printing press shop in the city. Their mother, Oluwatoyin, was a banker. Life was pretty normal. They enjoyed their jobs and Tani and his older brother Austin, enjoyed their school.
Though that changed one day. Four men arrived at Kayode’s workplace, his printing shop.
‘They came into my office and they said they wanted to print banners and leaflets and that they wanted to print a very huge number which I was very happy with,’ Kayode said.
It was later in the work day so Kayode asked them to leave their flash drive so he could take a look at what he wanted printed. So he could give them a quote. They agreed to come back at 11am and Kayode went home clueless as to what he just stumbled into.
‘When I got home I quickly plugged it into my desktop at home. I saw what they wrote in Arabic. It was just two lines, ‘No to western education’ and ‘kill all Christians’ and design of the logo above all the messages.’
The logo was familiar and chilling. It was the emblem of Boko Haram. The militant Islam group notorious for bloody terrorist activities.
‘Honestly I was shivering because these people kill at their own will. They kill police, they kill everywhere. I pray to my God to save me from these people.’
Kayode didn’t want to print these flyers but he also didn’t want to make any enemies. So he came up with a plan. The next day before the men came back he switched off the power supply to all of the printers.
When they arrived he handed back the flash drive with the materials and said the printers were broken and he hadn’t had the chance to look at what they needed doing.
‘Immediately on of them stood up and told me that I am stupid. They said, ‘do you think we accept your apology? You have opened the flash, you saw our secret. Now you are telling us that your machine has broken down.’
That’s when I knew I had to do something drastically at that moment.’
Kayode took them around the shop and showed them the unresponsive machine shopping they’d just leave him alone.
‘I thought that everything had settled until they came to my house. They came a week after.’
Kayode wasn’t in but the rest of the family was. Tani and Austin were in bed but their mum, Oluwatoyin was awake.
‘I heard somebody knocking. It’s actually very rare to see somebody coming to my house at that time and I wasn’t expecting anybody because their dad was out. I even thought he forgot his key or something? So I just went to the door. When I opened the door, they pushed me with the door. I fell on the floor. I thought they were armed robbers.
It was later when they were asking for his laptop, and saying he had their information, that’s when I figured out that these are the people my husband had an encounter with. So I was scared. I put my face down. I didn’t want to look up.
I didn’t know what could happen, they had guns. One was with me, with a gun pointing at me and the other one was trying to search around, searching for Kayode’s laptop.
They were saying between themselves that if they don’t find it, they’ll use me as a message to my husband. That’s when I started begging them. I was shivering on the floor when I said something in Arabic.
Then, one of them asked me if I was muslim and I just had to say yes. One of them turned around and said let’s go.’
It was a moment that threatened the safety of the family.
‘When they pointed the gun at me, I really thought I was going to die. I was thinking of so many things. I really thank God that I was made safe and they didn’t kill me.’
Though they left, they now had knowledge of where the family lived and just two weeks later, they returned.
This time Kayode was home but they both didn’t answer the door. The men tried to ram the door down but it didn’t give way. They gave up and went away. That’s when the family realised they were no longer safe in the city. So they packed up everything, left their jobs, school and fled Abuja for another city; Lagos.
They told barely anyone where they were going and initially it looked like the plan worked. But a week later, the militant tracked them down.
‘We were in our living room when we heard a noise. So we quickly put off the lights and tried to see what is going on outside.’
‘They were saying things like, we’ve got you now! We know the one inside, you will go and meet your God.’
They still hadn’t got into the house. Kayode asked his wife to go into the children’s bedroom and she did.
‘I heard them banging the door repetitively. At a point I didn’t hear anything again. For a while, for more than 3 to 4 hours. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to come out,’ Olowatoyin said.
When Oluwatoyin built up the courage to leave the bedroom, there was no one in the house. There was no sign of her husband. There was no trace of him. She went to the kitchen and saw that the door to the garden was left open.
‘I went there. Saw it opened because I was thinking they’d already dragged him away but I didn’t know what to do so I was crying.’
What had actually happened was that Kayode had escaped from them through the door and jumped over the garden fence.The noise had spooked the men who then ran away.
But that night was eye-opening for the family.
Not only had the militants tracked them down in Abuja but in an entirely new city as well. They started to wonder if they could ever feel safe in their country again. Months earlier they had been planning a holiday in the US and had been given visas but work got busy and the trip hadn’t happened.
It now looked like their best chance to get to safety. So the family decided to fly to the US to claim asylum.
‘I remember when we got here. It was nice. Nice people, no danger,’ said Tani.
‘US is way different from Nigeria. In Nigeria there are bad roads, and no constant electricity but over here, since we’ve been here there’s nothing like a blackout,’ Austin added.
It is in America that their mother bought them their first official chess board and supported and encouraged both her sons to take on chess.
Tani Adewumi, her eight-year-old son has gone on to become a star chess competitor and his success became a success for the entire family.