Where do I belong?

By Ifeoluwa Gloria Kuku – aka Ife Thomas

In 1984 my parents came to the UK from Nigeria and were staying in London on a study visa.
I was born in September and in October my parents were deported when their visas ran out. They left me with a recommendation, a white couple who were well known for the great work they did looking after foster children.

Some may feel sorry for me as I encountered my first experience of rejection before I was 2 months old. However I have come to believe that everything happens exactly the way it’s supposed to. I was never really fostered or adopted – my mother just handed me over and asked for me to be looked after. I call them mum and dad.

Ife Thomas and her Mum
Ife Thomas and her Mum circa 1985.

They were very frightened about my situation, so much so they never suggested that we holiday abroad. They were afraid that if they enquired about a passport for me it could notify the authorities about me. The fear of being deported was paralyzing and crippled my mum and dad’s motivation to investigate my options.

When I was 19, I did the unthinkable and applied for my first passport. My application was returned back to me stamped declined. This wasn’t so bad I thought, in sales when you get a no you just try again. So I just kept applying and my applications came back every time declined. When I told my mum that my plan was to keep applying, she begged me to stop. She was so afraid. She was convinced I would be dropped off in the middle of Nigeria to fend for myself.

It got to the point where I decided I was prepared to risk my secure private existence. I felt like a prisoner in my own country, I felt out of control, stuck and angry.

I was living in Walthamstow in London at the time. My brother suggested that I call the home office and ask them why they kept declining my application. I spent hours on hold being bounced from department to department. After making the call several times, I eventually stumbled on to someone who said you are what we call stateless. This two-syllable word had a huge impact on how I felt about myself. What does that even mean?

“Well you don’t belong anywhere”.
“What do you mean?” I said again
“Well you have slipped through a loophole in the system, anyone who was born in the UK whose parents were born outside the UK between 1983 and 1984 fall under the reference stateless”.

I was emotionally devastated by the statement. So in other words I belong to no one and belong nowhere. Well, that’s comforting.

How does that happen? “Things just happen” I was told.
After all the drama and worry I was told by my solicitor that I needed to become “naturalised”, another adjective that made me feel like I was not good enough and needed changing.
Then once I was “naturalised” I could become certified and then get my citizenship. And only then was I finally able to apply and get accepted for my British passport.

So after experiencing this emotional battle on my own, I learned to never take no for an answer. This was my tipping point to self-discovery, self-acceptance and self-development. I’m not afraid of the word ‘No’. I don’t like it and it’s not comfortable but I won’t run away from it.

These characteristics I have developed are a direct reflection of my attitude and how I choose to live in this world. Eight years after being awarded my passport, I decided to set up the National Accountancy Network of Chartered Accountants with no qualifications in accounting or business. I spoke at The Birmingham Law Society and trained solicitors on how to manage their time and negotiate deals when I had no law degree.
I travelled to California to train with Brian Tracy – a leading authority on human potential; I became the first Brian Tracy UK certified sales trainer.

My new project is an online course supporting a book I have written called “I Hate My Job But Can’t Leave Right Now”. Everything that I do is because I believe that people, in particular black men living in the UK, shouldn’t have to feel inferior and should be encouraged to fulfil their true greatness by doing what they love to do.

I’m passionate, opinionated and fearless and I believe, if you change your thinking you can change your life.

Mind work out by Ife Thomas
“Mind work out”,Ife Thomas’ new online course.

One thought on “Where do I belong?

  1. What an amazing and captivating story! I’m so happy to hear that not only were you finally granted the peace that comes with freedom to travel, but that as a black man you excelled in your field. Thank you for the motivation on a day I was searching for inspiration.

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