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Dad’s return to Nigeria homeless after 30 years in UK, US sad – Son

John Ibironke, the son of a 68-year-old man from Ondo State, Joseph Ibironke, who claimed to have spent nine years in the United Kingdom and 21 years in the United States before he found himself in Nigeria after a strange illness, tells FATTEH HAMID how he reunited with his father

Who is Joseph Ibironke to you?

My name is John Ibironke, I’m a building contractor. I’m from Igbara Oke, Ondo State. I’m the only son of my mother alive, born to Joseph Ibironke.

Your father said you were a few months old when he left Nigeria. What do you know about his life or as you were told by your mother?

Well, I barely lived seven years with my mother before she got married again to someone else and life was not easy; it was very difficult. I had to start living with my dad’s elder brother, Williams Ibironke, when I was about seven or eight years old. However, while still with her and from the things she told me when I grew older, my father was a man who cared for me and my brother when he was still in Nigeria and we would never have suffered the way we did if he was around.

When did your older brother die?

Of course, I was still young at the time but it was around 1987 that he died as I was told by my mother. I was not old enough at that time.

How old are you?

I’m going to be 43 in a few months.

Did you not try to search for your dad when you grew older?

I did. There’s an adage in Yoruba that says that it is only a bastard who won’t look for his father; a true son will find his father. When I was growing up, my friends and some people in my mother’s family usually called me a fatherless boy which was a very painful abuse and sad for me at the time. So, I decided that I was going to find him. I had always worried my mother that I needed to find my father but she didn’t have the time to do that despite my insistence. It led to a fight between us and her new husband. Later on, I had a long vacation in school, I hustled and gathered money together to travel to Lagos from Ilesa, Osun State. At that time, his brother had already died but I didn’t know.

What happened when you arrived in Lagos?

When I got to Ebute Metta, I went to their house and asked his wife why I wasn’t informed when he died. She said she didn’t know that I was going to come back. I told her that what brought me to Lagos was the fact that I needed to find my father and going to Igbara Oke would be the best shot to finding him and that I needed the address to get there. She gave me the address and I left Lagos for Ilesa after three days in Lagos. After two days in Ilesa, I went home to Igbara Oke searching for my other extended family members with the hope that I’d be able to locate my father because the only link I knew, which was the uncle I lived with, had already died.

How were you received in Igbara Oke?

When I got there, no one knew me. I had to explain who I was to them and mention all those I knew just to be able to back my claim that I was the son of Joseph Bankole Ibironke. I spent about six days in Igbara Oke before I left there.

How did you know that your father had returned to Nigeria?

It was the son of one of his brothers who called me that he was back. I remembered that there was a time I went to Lagos and we exchanged contacts and he told me that he used to connect with my dad and that he was going to contact me when he was able to reach out to him. Some years later, he called to tell me that my dad was back in Nigeria. He said that he got his Nigerian phone number and that he was going to share it with me.

Did you call your dad?

I called my father and we spoke. He tried explaining some things to me but I told him that my mother should be his first point of contact and that if he reconciled with her, it was all fine with me.

After that, he regularly called me but I didn’t warm up to him. This year, in June, he called me and informed me that he was with my mother in Ilesa. I spoke to my mother through his phone and all was settled. He also saw my mother’s new family. This came about six or seven years after our first contact notifying me that he was in Nigeria. After about two days, he called me and told me that he also wanted to meet me and he travelled down to Ilesa to see me and my family.

How many children do you have?

Yes, I have a family already. I am married with three children.

How did you feel when you saw him for the first time after decades?

It was a sad reunion, I must be honest with you, especially when he explained all he had gone through. I couldn’t cry but pity him because of the experiences he had and what life had shown him. I believe that when there is life, there is hope. I am trying my best to visit him in Lagos from Osogbo when I can.

How did your wife and children receive your father?

It was emotional. My wife had never seen him or his picture before so she didn’t recognise him. I had to introduce both of them and also introduced him to my children as their grandfather. My children and wife were all surprised to reunite with their grandfather and father-in-law, respectively, after so many years.

How old are your children?

My first child, who’s a boy, is 19 years old and my second child is four years old. The third is a toddler who’s just four months old.

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