A century of Jamaicans in Nigeria
Portland native starts bakery to school his 30 children, bread named after himFriday, July 02, 2021
When the first two Jamaicans arrived in Nigeria in 1846, it symbolically marked the reverse journey, and a homecoming of sorts, as many Nigerians were among the estimated 12.5 million Africans snatched from the continent and taken to far-flung places like Jamaica.
As they do everywhere, the large number of Jamaicans who migrated to Nigeria left their mark on the society. Nigerian author Koko Kalango traced the history of those Jamaicans and told their story in her book One Love: Over 100 Years of Jamaicans Contributing to Nigeria's Development.
Kalango, founder of Rainbow Book Club based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, is of Jamaican heritage and features in her book the profiles of 50 notable Jamaicans who crossed over from the West Indies to make Africa's most populous country their home.
The book written in three parts, chronicles these arrivals as Pre-Amalgamation (1846-1914), Amalgamation (1915-1960), and Post-Independence (1961-2020), The Sun newspaper reported in a review.
“In profiling this select group of Jamaicans, the author gives us a brief history of their families and growing up in Jamaica, the circumstances that led to their relocation to Nigeria, plus impacts made by them here,” the newspaper said.
Jamaica's Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith is quoted in the forward as saying: “ One Love is an invaluable tool in our efforts to appreciate the journey and the significant contribution of Jamaicans to Nigeria's development.”
The Sun's Henry Akubuiro wrote: “For most of these Jamaicans in this book, it was like homecoming, for the majority of African slaves transported to West Indies during the transatlantic slave trade, according to available data, were predominantly from Bight of Biafra, Gold Coast and Bight of Benin.
“While many of these migrants came to work in Nigeria in the 19th and 20th centuries and stayed back, some others got married to Nigerians and naturalised. Their tentacles are felt in diverse fields, from clergy, education, health, journalism, energy, tourism, among other sectors.”
It said the most recent of these arrivals profiled in the book is Michael Williams, who arrived in 2012 to work in the port city of Calabar — like Andrew Chisholm and Edward Miller, the first two Jamaicans who arrived as missionaries 175 years ago.
Other Jamaicans chronicled in the first wave of arrivals include Robert Campbell, publisher, educator, and businessman; John Edward Ricketts, a missionary, educator and industrialists; Lucy Stewart, an educator; Amos Shackleford; and Lackland Lennon, a missionary, educator, pharmacist, industrialist and politician “invited to Nigeria's Independence celebration in 1960 because of his exceptional contributions to the development of the country”.
Amos Shackleford, originally from Buff Bay, Portland, stands out because he retained close ties with Jamaica over the years. He is remembered for starting a bakery to school his 30 children from many wives. So influential was he in Nigerian society that bread became synonymous with his name, “Shackleford”.
Kalango tells an interesting story of Lucius Scott, a preacher, educator and agriculturalist, who went to work in Lagos in 1949, and traced his maternal home to Ubiaja in present-day Edo State. Myrtle May Abulokwe, who moved to Nigeria in 1957 with her Igbo husband whom she met in London, is one of the many Jamaican women who married Nigerians, the so-called Nigerwives.
The book also made much of the fact that with pan-Africanism rife in the 1960s, many Jamaicans decided to relocate to Mother Africa. One of them is Lindsay Barrett, now 88, a media professional, who arrived in 1966 hoping to stay for only two weeks, but made Nigeria his permanent home. He is now the oldest Jamaican man living in the country where he raised a big family.
“ One Love is a glossy, table book that not only chronicles the history of Jamaicans in Nigeria but redefines our concept of home vis-à-vis dislocation and relocation of the individual,” Akubuiro wrote.
— Compiled by Kevin Wainwright and edited by Desmond Allen
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