Personal Stories

Camilla Balshaw’s Journey Back To Her Nigerian Father Who Abandoned Them When They Were Young

   

Photograph: Si Barber for the Guardian

Camilla Balshaw had no intention of having anything to do with Nigeria after the ill-treatment her mother had gotten from her father, but a phone call changed it all.

Camilla’s parents met in London in the early 60s. While her father was there to study engineering, her mother was a trainee nurse. They fell in love and had three children but Camilla’s father was lackadaisical to his responsibilities as a husband.

Camilla told Guardian that, her father was from a wealthy family in Nigeria and had been pampered to a life of ease by his mother.

Camilla’s parents soon separated, and her father returned to Nigeria while her mother single handedly raised them. With that, Camilla and her siblings were warned to, “never, ever marry a Nigerian.”

“Nigeria was too foreign and they wore strange headwraps and spoke in sing-song dialects that I couldn’t understand. Plus, I had a fierce loyalty to my mother. She had brought us up single-handedly and done a very fine job. Why would I want to find a man who had no hand in my upbringing and whose face I could barely remember?” she said.

One day, she received a phone call from a cousin, who is from her father’s side. He explained to her that her Nigerian family had been searching for her for years and he got her contact through social media.

When Camilla met her cousin, he gave her a note from her father, which contained how sorry he was, but she did not respond to the letter immediately.

The first time Camilla spoke with her father, the call lasted only four minutes without a goodbye.

“What perplexed me most was the lack of questioning on his part and at the end of the call he said, “OK”, and the phone went down. He didn’t end the conversation with “goodbye”, which I thought incredibly rude,” she said.

She soon received another call that her father had died but was urged to come home to know her roots.

When Camilla got to Nigeria, she learnt that her name, which she thought didn’t sound Nigerian at all was popular and spelt Kamilah or Kamilaat.

When Camilla asked one of her cousins about her father’s phone habits, her cousin said,  “Sometimes we don’t. Everything has been said already.”

Read the full story and her experience in Nigeria on Guardian

 

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