My early life started in Ghana and I was a child of parents who had migrated from their place of birth in a western Nigerian village to another city and then another country entirely in their mid-twenties in the late 1950s.

Both my parents were traders, my mum was a general trader of produce and charcoal, my father specialised in real estate, owning and helping others to own.

My siblings and I grew up in what was then a growing part of Lagos, I was the second of six brothers and sisters, although as was acceptable then, my father had a second wife who is the mother of my four step sisters.

My older brother was born seven years after my older sister who died in childhood which left my mother who was an only child of a mother who had lost a number of children in their infancy devastated.

My first name, until starting formal school, Olufunmilayo was the same as my dead sibling and even today some older members of my mother’s family still refer to me as the second Funmilayo.

I spent part of growing up staying with my paternal grandmother for a short while before and shortly after my parents returned back to Nigeria after a mass expulsion of foreigners in Ghana by the Kofi Busia’s government in 1969.

My childhood memories are mixed but overall it was simple and good, a crucial part of my remembrance was making our own recreation, table tennis bats were made out of plywood and we rent bicycles per minute from bicycle shops and this was where my lunch money mostly went.

Our house was the tenement style popularly referred to as 'face-me-I-face-you’ where different families live in a long line of opposite and adjacent rooms with communal kitchen and bathrooms.

The Youth
I have always wanted to travel and use to go to the airport in Lagos intentionally as a routine just to take in the atmosphere, I came into the UK by myself in 1986, at the age of 23 to see the world and as a chance to better myself and I have in the most part enjoyed the sojourn.

Parental Values
The dominant traits of both my parents were their kindness and generosity and a willingness to share their homes and resources with family and friends so throughout growing up, we lived with constantly changing set of cousins, aunties and uncles by themselves or at other times with their children in tow and my brothers in their late teens had a room that became home for their friends and other young people without home in the neighbourhood to stay.

My parents were steady and ‘go-to’ family and community leaders, it is especially telling because my father was the fourth of five siblings and the second of two sons whilst my mother was an only child of her mother but was the gel that held many strands of her extended family together and even older relations in family dilemmas referred their offspring to my mother for directions.

My dad, even though he was firm and could be deemed a disciplinarian still had an open mind willingness to engage in frank discussions and his responses which were often peppered with proverbs was full of wisdom and he had a reputation for being a wise and temperate person.

He was a frugal man and shunned excessive consumption of any kind and always reminded us of his gratitude at how far God had brought him as a fatherless child.

He accommodated people of different persuasion and tribes at a time when others discriminated about having only people of their own tribe or background as tenants

As a child, we pay scant attention to history and always think there is time, both my grandfathers had died before I was born but my two grandmothers were part of my growing up, my maternal grandmother had a house that was built jointly with my mum and she and I had enjoyed great relationship, she had a quiet demeanour, was an entrepreneur who networked quietly and made both emotional and financial contributions that were pivotal to me and my siblings progress.

My great grandmother came to live with her for a short time and so in the early 1970s was privileged to be part of four living generations in the early 1970s. My grandmother died in 1987, a year after I came to the UK and even now she is still sorely missed.

I wish I had been more intentional about listening to family history and even when I told, I made the mistake that I will remember and did not formally record the information. I am aware that my paternal grandfather died when my father was about three years old but because of his calm and good manners and a desire to improve himself, he was a much loved friend of my mother’s oldest step brother and even though her family were of higher social standing, it was on the account of his personality and relationship with his son and family that my maternal grandfather compelled my mother to marry my father.

My father in his determination to improve himself started primary school at the age of nineteen and he did excel that even today is name is on a remembrance stone at the school in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Although my mum cooks well and I still recall the tasty vegetable stew she made with cocoyam leaves and the rice she seasoned with cheese that was sent to her by her stepbrother who had moved to the UK in the 1960s to study, she was more of a trader and most times left us to do the cooking by ourselves.

Because age range of the children in her household varied from child to teen and young adults, we tend to cook for ourselves and was helped and satisfied by a full pantry because she sold food produce.

If Only
I wished I had realised sooner the importance of recording and dating familial history and genealogy because they are a crucial part in understanding my existence because it is not just my story but intertwined with that of others, they teach, acknowledge and motivate us to make the future better for ourselves and coming generations.


This story was shared though a project by CultureTree supported by the Mayor of London.

CultureTree is a pan-African organisation committed to creating diverse opportunities to learn & experience West African languages, arts & culture - Welcome to CultureTree - CultureTree

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