Nigeria’s
Ferdinand Maumo!

by

John Bain

Cerebral palsy (CP) affects a person’s mobility, coordination, agility, balance and posture. Regarding intelligence (IQ), however, people with CP fall within the normal distribution on a bell-shaped curve with approximately 2.5% falling in the superior/genius range.

10-year-old Ferdinand was was born in the slums of Makoko, Nigeria–the “Venice of Africa.” Makoko is an 85,000 person city built above water.  Much of Makoko is built on structures constructed on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon, making for challenging living conditions.

Makoko a city on stilts above water

Makoko is a city on stilts over the water!

Children grow up in Makoko surrounded by polluted water and are often forced to become fishermen as adults. Most children in Makoko learn to swim, row and fish at a very young age.

Ferdinand’s father is a fisherman. However, Ferdinand’s condition does not allow him follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, Ferdinand works with his mother at home and at the market selling the catch of the day.


10 year old Ferdinand Maumo sitting at chessboard behind the black pieces

Ferdinand finds a chess club!

One day when walking, Ferdinand looked into a chess club in the slums of Makoko. He walked inside and his peers started making fun of him because of his awkward CP conditions.

However, coach Babatunde Onakoya, who is part of the Chess in Slums Africa program, welcomed Ferdinand.

“I gave him a chance to learn with the other kids and got the shock of a lifetime. In fewer than twenty minutes he could move the pieces and was able to solve complex geometrical puzzles on the board,” the coach said.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that Ferdinand was a savant. He solved a complex Knight move puzzle just a few minutes after teaching him the basic Knight moves,” Coach Babatunde said.

“This in itself is an extraordinary feat, even for a genius.”


Ferdinand Maumo was born to play chess!


10 year old Ferdinand Maumo holding trophy arrives home on a boat to his stilt house

Ferdinand bringing home the trophy!

Ferdinand did turn out to be a chess savant. Less than one month after learning the game, Ferdinand won the junior section of a local tournament.

His peers have learned to respect him on the board and to value him as a friend. They carried the trophy on a boat to his stilt house–and to his parents’ utter excitement, amazement, disbelief, pride and joy.

10 year old Ferdinand Maumo holding trophy sitting with mother

Ferdinand and his mother!

His mother said, “Ferdinand is more grounded at home and he’s even teaching chess to his little brother. The other mothers of Makoko come to congratulate him. Now I can hope that he will become something in life.”


Contribute to Ferdinand’s GoFundMe

10 year old Ferdinand Maumo with medal around neck raising trophy

Ferdinand hoisting the trophy!

The slums of Makoko are one of the most difficult places in the world to live.

However, Sunde Onakoya, the founder of Chess in Slums Africa, says, “A slum is just a place. It does not define the people who live there.”

Ensuring Ferdinand’s Future

GoFundMe Photo of Ferdinand


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Chess Tactics For Students
An instructional workbook containing 434 carefully selected problems presented in worksheet format.

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