Babajide Folarin Ademujimi, one of the UK’s renowned Mental Health Care Providers, left Nigeria for the UK at the age of 23, in search of a better life. Thirty-four years later, he looks back and is happy that he has successfully established a track record of caring for and supporting the vulnerable and the less privileged, while also making impacts in other areas.
About me, my family, and childhood
Highly focused, a go-getter, and compassionate are words that best describe me. My parents started life as teachers, so I probably started schooling the moment I was conceived. I attended Ereko Methodist School, Obalende, St Finbarr’s College, Akoka, Jibril Martins Memorial Grammar School, Iponri, Lagos, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, College of Distributive Trade, London, and the University of East Anglia, UK. I am the first of the four children of Chief Bayo Ademujimi (now deceased) and Chief Mrs. Dayo Ademujimi. Dad was the Ajiroba of Ode – Irele and mum is the Yeye-Oge of Ode-Irele. My dad was from Ode-Irele and my mum is from Ajagba – both in the Southern Senatorial zone of Ondo State.
They both started life as school teachers and that has helped to shape my personality in no small measure. I was born in my mother’s hometown of Ajagba but returned to Ode -Irele immediately after I was born. My parents relocated to Lagos in 1970, and I started primary school at Ereko Methodist School where my dad was a teacher at the time. We moved around Lagos quite a bit until my parents left for the UK in 1974 for further studies.
My siblings and I lived with different family members until our parents returned to Nigeria in 1980. Our lives changed for the better upon the return of our parents from England. Dad was appointed Purchasing Manager of the now-defunct Nigerian National Paper Manufacturing Company, Iwopin, Ogun State, while mum was a Management staff of British Caledonian Airways. Life was really good in the 80s and we eventually settled in Ikeja. Being the first of four kids came with a lot of responsibilities, and my upbringing as the son of teachers meant to discipline and academic brilliance were in my DNA.
Current professional engagement
I am a Registered Mental Health Care provider in West Sussex, UK. I have been in this field since 1992. I have found fulfillment in working with people with mental health difficulties and that’s what I have done in the past 30 years. I have worked in the private, voluntary, and statutory sectors in the UK before setting up my outfit in 2003. I am semi-retired now and that gives me time to engage in property development in Lagos.
Assessment of the Care Profession in the UK
It is well regulated and well regarded. Care professionals in the UK come from a variety of backgrounds but what sets them apart is their level of professionalism, training, and the conducive environment in which they operate. My sector – Health and Social Care, is well funded by the government and is available to all from birth to the grave. The Care profession will continue to thrive because the UK has an aging population and a stable/accountable government. Opportunities will always be there for investment because the sector is heavily funded by the government.
Early days in London
Life was good when I arrived in London considering where I was coming from. At least there was uninterrupted power, water and jobs were available. I arrived in August 1988 and started my first job within a month. I saved and got my accommodation by November 1988. I had a good network of family and friends in London, and that made it a bit easier. My dad founded the Ode – Irele Progressive Union in the UK in the 70s, and that association has been a rallying point for us to this day. I also reunited with my first love – Olufunmilola Daramola, now Mrs. Olufunmilola Ademujimi in London in 1989. By 1990 December we had our traditional marriage in Nigeria and the Croydon Register Office in Feb 1991. Funmilola was born in London and so marriage to her opened a few doors and gave me the stability and focus I needed at that time.
The route to the top, climbing the ladders of success
I used a long ladder. I think my background was a key factor. I started life as the son of poor teachers but our lives turned around when my parents came to England. And so I followed their path and left Nigeria in 1988 to improve myself. I studied Mass Communication but changed my carrier upon my arrival in England. I worked hard and I worked smart to reach the top in my chosen field – Mental Health. I have always wanted to be self-employed, so having garnered a lot of experience in Residential Mental Health; I bought my first Care home in 2003. I did some property business alongside my paid job in the late 90s and that’s how I raised the funds to set up my Care business. I tried to do some business with Nigeria but that’s a difficult place to do business especially if you are not based there. Now I do residential property development in Lagos because I have the time.
Success principles and nuggets
Give your best wherever you find yourself. Do not be work-shy or give the absolute minimum at work, especially as an employee. Invest in yourself. Read, attend courses, and be open to new ideas and new technologies. Always strive to be the best you can be. My last paid job was as Service Manager of Equinox, a Charity in South East London in 2000. It was a new service for young black men with mental health issues in Peckham. I was given a free hand by the Directors and from inception; I managed the project like it was mine. The project became known as Folarin’s project. I was on a fantastic salary at the time but having set up the project from scratch, I realised I could do the same for myself. As Service Manager, I had access to the Budget and other financial information. That gave me the impetus to set up my own Care Home. I resigned after three years to set up my Care Home. I also run Consultancy services specialising in Residential Care Set up and Management. The lesson here is to give your best in any given role. Whatever I’d done in my previous jobs in residential care and the experience garnered along the way prepared me for my current role of Care Home Proprietor.
Life’s abiding values and principles
Integrity is the core for me. My word is my bond. This is followed by respect, compassion, and self-discipline. I guess my omo teacher’s start in life has been the foundation of my life. I was born and raised in a Christian home and practised the religion until my mid-teens. So, my philosophy remains the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Treating your fellow man like yourself and helping those in need. I am also guided by the saying, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
I believe in giving of myself and my resources, especially to the less fortunate and anyone around me that needs help. I believe in the saying, “the hand that gives is always on top”. I also believe that our parents are our God on earth. So, I have always loved, respected, and treated my parents like my God, and the rewards are enormous. It’s one of the secrets of my success. I have always tried my best to make my parents comfortable from the moment I arrived in England at 23. I am not a practising Christian, but I believe that my parents’ prayers have been instrumental to my achievements. My advice to our young people is to try as much as possible to ensure that their parents are not deprived of anything. Ensure that they live comfortably, especially in their old age. If you have done that, consider your prayers answered.
Some advice for young Nigerians just arriving in the UK
The same rules of hard work and working smart still apply. Honesty and Integrity are essential ingredients of success. Invest in your relationships, and also invest in your personal development. Do not stay too long in any employee role. Learn all there is to learn in any work environment and move up. Get on the property ladder as early as possible.
I love football. I used to play a lot in my younger days but now I enjoy football on TV. I love attending parties, and I enjoy travelling. I also enjoy my own company. I am a good cook but my Olufunmilola is the best. We both love to cook/entertain when I’ve got time.
At 57, my plan is more about consolidation. Now I work three days a week and I get to spend more time with my family. I came to the UK at 23 and have always been gainfully employed. So, I have put a few things in place and now I just want to enjoy the fruits of my labour. No man is assured of tomorrow and so I’m going to travel more, socialise more, enjoy life, and put the kids on a sound footing so they can have a better start than I had as a JJC in London in 1988. I thank God for what I have achieved so far and thank him even more for making me content with my lot. I am not in competition with anyone and I never stress myself unduly so I’m pretty chilled about life. I have lost some close friends in the past year and that has put plans and life in perspective for me. My plans are good but I want to live every day like it’s my last.
Advice for the Nigerian Government
I’m not sure I’m well placed to advise any Nigerian Government. That’s because I’m not so optimistic about the future of Nigeria and it’s just so sad. I left Nigeria in 1988 because I could see into the future. After my OND in 1987, I got a placement at Nigeria Airports Authority for the mandatory one-year industrial attachment. They made it clear that I would not be paid. I had a car then and my parents gave me all I needed as a young chap. I turned down the offer because I thought if I couldn’t get paid for a one-year placement, what are the chances of getting full-time paid employment after graduation? By that time graduates could no longer afford to rent a flat or buy a car. Although I was very comfortable living with my parents then, I knew I wouldn’t live with them forever, and having tasted the good life around Ikeja – Toyin Street, Allen Avenue, and environs, I was not ready to settle for less after graduation.
I decided to leave Nigeria as I couldn’t see a future for myself in the country. I also made sure my siblings moved abroad within a few years of my settling down in London. It’s the best move I ever made. I’ve been in the UK for 34 years and we’ve been praying for a better Nigeria since. Bad leadership, greed, and our deranged value system are some of the problems of Nigeria. Leadership in Nigeria is not based on merit or pedigree, so you have the worst among us occupying leadership positions. Such people are not likely to entrench meritocracy because it’s not in their interest. And now, the presidency and other positions are being offered to the highest bidders. Nigerians believe in prayers, anyway, so let’s continue to pray for a better Nigeria.
Marriage and family life
I am one of the lucky guys that got married to their first love. I met my wife Olufunmilola Ademujimi, née Daramola, in the summer of 1980. We were both teenagers. She came to visit my immediate sister, Bose who was her senior at Fiwasaiye Girls Grammar School, Akure. I knew she was the one for me the moment I saw her. She was only 13 and I was 15 at the time but she had the qualities I wanted in my future wife. She was super calm, beautiful, respectful, fair-skinned, and from a good home, the first child of Mrs. Esther & Chief S.O. Daramola.The Olotu of Idoani. We didn’t see much of each other because of our educational pursuits at the time but we exchanged love letters and that was it in those days. She left for the UK in 1987 and I thought that was the end of our love story as I don’t believe in love across the sea.
As fate would have it, I arrived in England the following year and immediately started to hunt for her. We found each other again and this time I was ready to show her I’m for real. We got back together in 1990 and had our traditional marriage ceremony in Nigeria in December 1990. We got married at the Croydon Registry, the UK in 1991. He who finds a wife finds a good thing. I found an angel in Olufunmilola, and so I consider myself blessed and highly favoured by the Almighty. Olufunmilola has been at the heart of my achievements. A man can only be successful if the home front is peaceful and loving. We are blessed with three lovely kids who are now young adults.