From the beginning of independence and well into the 70s, a lot of Nigerians came to Britain for education. My parents had followed this trend – Dad, to train as an engineer and Mum as a young wife, typist, sales assistant and mother of a child, me, with another on the way.
Years later, they went back to Nigeria to settle into middle-class life; Dad now an engineer with a corporate conglomerate and Mum as a restless housewife. Restless, because my parents had briefly separated when mum abandoned cold, friendless Britain for her mum in Nigeria and a career in radio presenting and television entertainment. In those days, people frowned on women in shows, but I was proud of her.
I was passionate about reading from a very young age and remember devouring magazines, books and comics and continue to do so, but Nigerian middle-class parents of the late 70s could not imagine a career as an author. That was for illustrious giants like Achebe, Nwapa, Ekwensi, Soyinka – and those were academics! Nevertheless, the imaginary world allowed me to escape from the troubles around me, or as much trouble as a sensitive child could have. You were expected to be either a lawyer, doctor, an accountant or architect to settle into a comfortable life.
But that ideal was shattered when most of those that returned from Britain like my dad realised that corrupt politics had followed independence and there was no room or infrastructure for a middle-class life. It was either sink or swim. My parents sank, their marriage ended, and they shipped me off to boarding school.