My parents were Nigerian. I say were because they have both passed away now. My mother passed away 11 years ago to this month, whilst my father died just under two years later with a photo of her in his wallet – even though they had been separated for over 20 years. When I indulge myself and romanticise I imagine that he was still in love with her and died of a broken heart.
It may be stereotyping, but when I mention this to some of my Nigerian friends they find his actions to be contrary to those of a typical Nigerian man. They point out that even when married, Nigerian man are more inclined to carry around photos of their children than of a photo of their wife.
Assuming that the stereotype describe does in some way reflect reality, maybe my father was just different – different because this is his nature or different because he spent numerous years living in England from the early 1960s to the later 1970s.
You see my parents like so many others Nigerians in the 1950s and 1960s came to England to study in 1961. Whilst here they had four children inclusive of yours truly and additionally my older siblings who originally resided in Nigeria were brought to England.
A number of the Nigerians that came to England during this era never went back and some of them have children who could only just point out Nigeria on a map. However, they have no concept of the language or cultural and feel no connection whatsoever to the country.
Others inclusive of my parents eventually went back taking the “British” children with them – typically in the 1970s and 80s. Some of the children settled in, in Nigeria and you would never know their backgrounds if you met them in one of the cities in Nigeria such as Lagos. For some they never settled in and it was inevitable that they would eventually come back to England for University, for work or some even in Secondary School. Of course there are also the inbetweeners who could happily live in either country.
Marriage also brought a new group of Nigerians to Britain. Those that beyond the connect via (the Briish) Empire had no other connection aside from that marriage to a British citizen of Nigerian origin. Then of course there are also the economic migrants.
You may wonder why I’m talking about this?
You see, whilst over the years there has been a drift of British Nigerians to Nigeria, over the recently recession years that has been something akin to a mass migration of people of Nigerian origin back to Nigeria. A key difference that I have, however, noticed with a lot of married couples is that whilst in past both partners would typically relocate to Nigeria, in more recent times one partner tends to relocate to work in Nigeria, whilst the other stays in the UK with the children. In fact, there was a point earlier this year that virtually ever week I would speak to someone of Nigerian origin who would mention the fact that their spouse had moved back to Nigeria. My question as to whether they also intended to relocate to Nigeria was often met with a degree of uncertainty that often left me wondering – would history repeat itself with British Nigerians? Children once more being relocated to Nigeria –. Some possibly better prepared having made visits and with an education on Nigerian culture from home together with interactions with Nigerians here in the UK, whilst many having no real understanding or concept of the culture
You may think it doesn’t matter, after all they are just children. However, I believe if does if it is not done with a sensitivity to a child’s developing culture, personality and sense of self.
Just pondering. #Selah
Susan Popoola runs a Human Resources Consultancy, Conning Towers Ltd. She is also the published author of a two books: “Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective” and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain”.