We moved to Nigeria in 1975 from Scotland. It was a weird experience for me because I don’t
think I really understood what leaving the only society I’d ever known actually meant. The sense
of displacement was very real and I was so confused, at times I would walk to our backyard in
Apapa expecting to bump into our backyard in East Kilbride (don’t be harsh, I have always had
a wild imagination).
When we met my father’s family, I never felt they knew what to make of us. There always
seemed to be an expectation of something to be given but never returned. I do not think this can
be dismissed as youthful imagination. I still don’t think I was wrong. I could neither really relate
to nor get really close to my cousins because of that mental barrier.
At school for the first few years I didn’t really fit in. I grew to be quite popular but I always
embraced the fact that I was seen as just a little different as a defense mechanism so it couldn’t
be used against me.
I remember we started meeting a lot of West Indians almost from the time we arrived in Nigeria.
They were the first people who I felt embraced my family and I on our own merits. The “aunties”
and “uncles” and their children formed that backbone of my social circle before the NWIA was
formally constituted. Back then it was a group of fishes out of water supporting each other.
By the time I was a teenager, NWIA kids made up almost all of my social circle. Maybe I should
have been more inclusive, but it is a fact that without understanding NWIA you do not know me.
There is an old photo of me at my father’s 1996 funeral that shows me flanked by NWIA kids
and aunties comforting me.
It was an NWIA kid who helped me look smart at my wedding, adjusting my lapel and tie.
It was an NWIA kid that sang at my wedding.
I married an NWIA kid.
I suffered a major stroke in 2021 and threw a birthday party/celebration of healing that NWIA
kids attended from all over. Even after all this time, they still hold me up, just like they did at my
My fondest memories of Nigeria are almost all centered around NWIA events.
There is no doubt about it, NWIA was my first family outside of nuclear family. My feelings
about this are undiluted.
WRITTEN BY ROGER OKEWOLE