La Verne graduate student Ooceeh Afame escaped slavery in Nigeria

LA VERNE, Calif. (KABC) -- A man who escaped a life of slavery in Nigeria is on the path to becoming a doctor in Southern California as he gets a master's degree from the University of La Verne.

Ooceeh Afame walked around the university campus, reflecting on his former life 8,000 miles away, where he spent his childhood as a slave.

"You were basically treated I wouldn't say like an animal because when I came to America, I found out animals have rights," he said jokingly.

He can laugh about it now as he is about to graduate with a Master of Health Administration. But the first 15 years of his life were torture.

"You could be whipped, you could be tied to a tree and with your legs hanging up there you could be whipped almost to death," he said.

His life changed forever when he was 15 years old and met a group of Christian missionaries. It was then that he knew he had to escape, but it wasn't easy.

There aren't many photos of Afame in Nigeria. Even though he was free, for another 14 years it was a brutal life.

"There was no bed. There was no mattress. There was no electricity around," he said.

Then one day, he met some people from the United States who were in Nigeria on a mission trip. That eventually led to him obtaining a student visa. Fast forward another seven years and here he is obtaining a degree.

His goal is to bring quality health care to underserved communities. The university president, Devorah Lieberman, is proud of Afame.

"He represents adversity, tenacity," she said.

Afame has a message for those who may be struggling.

"Even the poorest of the poor in America, it's like the rich people in some countries of the world. We have enormous resources in the U.S. for everybody that if you want to live the American dream, you can live the American dream," he said.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.