By Henry Akubuiro
One Love, Koko Kalango, Rainbow Publishers, Port Harcourt, 2020, pp
One love, keep us together… goes the lyrics of Onyeka Onwenu’s 1980s classic. That same one love has kept Jamaican-Nigerians in Africa’s largest country hundreds of years after the first set of Jamaicans arrived Nigeria —Andrew Chisholm and Edward Miller — in April 1846 as missionaries to evangelise in the port city of Calabar.
Koko Kalango, founder of Rainbow Book Club, Port Harcourt, an offspring of Jamaican sojourner to Nigeria, has put together an amazing book, One Love: Over 100 Years of Jamaicans Contributing to Nigeria’s Development, which profiles 50 notable Jamaicans who crossed over from the West Indies to make a mark in Nigeria.
A book in three parts, the author chronicles these arrivals as Pre-Amalgamation (1846-1914), Amalgamation (1915-1960), and Post-Independence (1961-2020). 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.
Such is the importance attached to the book that the Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, penned in the forward: “One Love is an invaluable tool in our efforts to appreciate the journey and the significant contribution of Jamaicans to Nigeria’s development.”
For most of these Jamaicans in this book, it was like homecoming, for 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.
The most recent of these arrivals, profiled in the book, is Michael Williams, who came in 2012 to work in Calabar like Chisholm and Miller, who “relinquished comfortable situations and favourable worldly advantages in Jamaica” in the 19th century (p.20). 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, and educator; Amos Schackleford; 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” (p. 30).
A good number of Jamaicans arrived Nigeria between 1914 and 1960. Kalango profiles twelve of them in the second part of the book, starting with Caroline and Hitchman, missionaries and educators, who came to Nigeria in 1915 under the auspices of the United Free Church of England.
There is an interesting story of Lucius Scott, a preacher, educator and agriculturalist, who came 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 featured in this book who married Nigerians.
Part 3 of the book profiles the most number of Jamaican-Nigerians. With Pan-Africanism rife in the 1960s, many Jamaicans decided to relocate to Mother Africa. One of them is Lindsay Barrett, a media professional, who arrived in 1966, hoping to stay for only two weeks, but the 80-year old Barett has made Nigeria home since then, becoming the oldest male Jamaican in the country and raising 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.