BEST OF TWO WORLDS
One of the most traumatic periods of my life was when I was returning back to Nigeria with my family after ten years sojourn in Britain. The anxiety become more intense considering the fact that I was returning back with a foreign wife with two children as at then. What was paramont in my mind was how my family was going to cope with the Culture shock usually associated by foreigners in a new and strange environment. Interestingly and coincidentally this happened 45 years ago, the same year the Nigerian West Indian Association came into existence (from hindsight, we may have prompted these young pretty ladies with great foresight to take that decision to form the association – most probably in readiness to our grand entry into Nigeria)
Surprisingly enough, it was my wife’s idea that we return back to Nigeria having successfully completed our studies. Her idea was that the earlier we settled down in life the better for us. This came to me as a pleasant surprise because in all honesty, I was not quite ready to return home. My idea was to stay back for another year or two, make some good money, buy a good car and furniture etc. before heading back home. Looking back I am so happy that we took that bold decision at the time we did; the fact that my wife chose Nigeria rather than Jamaica or any other place for that matter gave me so much joy.
On our arrival back in Nigeria the focus was to try and adapt and settle down as soon as possible. The process became easier than anticipated. The plan was to try and look out for some of my old friends. In this process, I was able to locate the venue for a monthly meeting of my alumni association – Saint Patrick College, Calabar. At this meeting an old school mate, on realizing that I was married to a West Indian Lady was able to introduce me to his good friend Joe Nwoga who was also married to a West Indian – Norma Nwoga. A visit to the Nwoga’s was hurriedly arranged. You can imagine my wife’s excitement when she met a Caribbean sister in Nigeria for the first time. This was 45 years ago and that meeting marked the beginning of a very impactful life we have lived over the years.Listening to my wife having a first conversation with Norma got me very excited and relieved.
Soon we were able to identify some 3 to 4 west Indian wives who were not only resident in Ikoyi where we were first quartered, but within walking distances from our residence- Mrs. Claire Idowu of blessed memory, the nearest; lived just a stone throw . They were also Lucille Arokodare and Norma Agoro Kessington who were our nearest West Indian Neighbours. In no time, we got to know some others within Ikoyi and Victoria Island axis. Life in Lagos became more meaningful. We were also able to identify a very powerful group of ladies from the Surulere and Yaba axis- Elder aunties like Beryl Ediale and Joan Eze, others were Ferron Okewole, Anne Marie Ojerinola as well as the hardworking Gloria Acquah of blessed Memory.
At the Ikeja axis of Course was the founder and first President of Nigerian West Indian Association (NWIA), Edna Asije, Maizie and Lorna. One feature I discovered among all these ladies- they were all very innovative, industrious and Bonded with each other very well
It is instructive to note that these two bodies – St.Patrick College Alumni and the NWIA have created a very positive impact in our family over the past 45 years. My wife and children made so many more friends and sisters than we ever had. Our evenings and weekends became more exciting and less boring.
A very important advantage in marrying a West Indian wife is in the area of widening your variety of food; when you add your rice and peas, ackee and salt fish, jerk pork and chicken, dumpling and other West Indian cuisines to our Edikang Ikong, Afang, Efo-riro, Amala with Gbegiri, Banga Soup etc, you are having the best of two worlds. All these came in addition to such exotic drinks like gingerbeer, sorrel and occasionally rum punch
The very close bonding of the NWIA came into limelight when they started organising annual carnivals and Carnival Dances at Easter time on the streets of Lagos. Along with their children, they organized themselves into 3 big bands from 3 locations – Surulere, Ikeja and Lagos Islands. Competitions were very keen and received wide support. They managed to commission their husbands to man the gates, an assignment we gladly accepted to lend support. Unfortunately this laudable event got abandoned over the years when it became too large to manage; The ladies were all aging and no longer seemed to have the energy to sustain it.
Still on the social side, there was hardly any weekend without any form of celebration. I remember vividly the benevolence of the Ediales – Uncle John and Aunty Beryl. They were (and still) role models for the wives and their husbands. We always looked forward to their yearly New Year eve parties where they would host and feast all the members and their husbands to an all-night party – good meals, good music – great fun.
Looking back over the years, some pleasant memories come to mind. One of such was when I had the singular honour of travelling to Calabar for a long weekend with five of the wives who have since then been referred to as the five wives of Mr. Fernandez (Ferron, Maizie, Lorna, Norma and of course my wife Pauline was their land lady and senior Prefect).
We had so much fun, the ladies almost refused to come back to Lagos, My only regret was that I could not fulfil my promise of repeating the Journey with their husbands.
I consider myself one of the husbands who has benefitted most from my association with the NWIA. Apart from making good friends with the husbands, my daughter Nicolette found her life partner (or is it the other way round) from one of the five sons of the Okewoles, another NWIA family and to the glory of God they have been enjoying a happy married life. We have set the pace for another round of such unions
The NWIA has achieved quite a lot in its 45 years of existence. Whenever I go through my album, I see nice photographs of young girls of yester years who are now grandmothers – how time flies. It is my sincere hope that their children and grandchildren will take over from them, and continue in the exemplary way their parents have been keeping the NWIA flag flying
Long live NWIA