Our Adesina Family

When I heard that the third series of Channel 4’s award winning documentary The Family would be featuring a Nigerian family, my reaction was at once one of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because this was the first black family to ever feature on the series (never mind that this is only the 3rd series of the show), and trepidation because I could only imagine the cringe-worthy display that could potentially follow. So I got myself ready to meet the Adesinas, armed with some popcorn (in case it was really good) and a book (just in case it wasn’t).

We were introduced to mum Vicky and dad Sunday who have been married for 30 years, described as traditional Nigerian parents with strong views on God, love and family values, with four British-born children from 15 to 27, all living at home. Ayo, the eldest son, is 27. He currently owns an IT company, but still dreams of making it as a rapper. Julie (25), Olu (23) both work in the family business, and Olu dreams of owning it all someday. At 15, Ola is the baby of the family and is home for the summer from her exclusive boarding school. Together they run a family business: a Nigerian takeaway and restaurant.

The first episode was as I had imagined. The Family shamelessly played up to the cameras – there was constant bickering and happy slapping among the kids (except these kids are in their twenties) and some weird and wonderful dancing by mum (don’t ask). Ayo (the eldest) smoked a lot and rapped at every opportunity he got, although the rapping was atrocious, and it seemed as though he went out to smoke just so he could get his raps in!
There was nothing engaging about The Family, and I could only imagine the number of Nigerians across the UK who watched the first episode and shuddered, thinking what I was thinking – that Channel 4 had found the worst of us to profile. Especially when at the end, intoxicated by the success of her husband’s 60th birthday celebrations and when watching a replay of the day on DVD, Mrs Adesina declared “We are true Nigerians!”

I watched episode 2 in spite of myself. With the parents away in Nigeria, Julie decided to ‘help’ her sister Ola with her weight, her studies and God knows what (with less than happy consequences), while Ayo decides to throw a house party. There was too much fighting and bitching for my tastes, but I somehow found myself being drawn into Ola’s unhappiness because of her sister’s poor attempts to help her. It was obvious that Julie was trying to be helpful, but constantly nagging her siblings and shouting at them (oh, and saying “better check that attitude”) did not do much to endear her to anyone. Least of all those she was trying to help.

I was determined from the start to never like The Family. I felt the Adesinas did not and could not represent Nigeria, with her rich and diverse culture. We do not all hold the same values, so how could any one family satisfy all? “Where” I asked after the first episode, “are the families with children who responsible and who have passion and drive, despite being born and bred in the UK?” “And where are the families who have noticeably instilled true Nigerian values in their children, against all odds?” As a Nigerian, I did not recognise the so-called Nigerian values touted by Channel 4, and I felt incredibly let down.

However, I do recognise the hardworking parents who, against the odds, built their business from scratch and make every effort to give their children have the best that they can give. I recognise love, as intangible as the air we breathe and every bit as real. I recognise our methods of communicating (at the top of our voices) which so often baffles the Western world… the Adesinas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am prepared to give them a chance.

Image courtesy of Channel 4

About The Author

Tonye Tonye Porbeni Adenusi is an avid cake decorator, with a wide range of interests. She enjoys writing and spending time with her family.

You might be interested in

Comment (16)

  1. I am so much in agreement with you. In fact i do believe that this family has brought shame to nigerians.

    I beleive that Julie has issues, i mean serious issues, in fact mental health issues.
    She seems quiet disturbed. Julie is a bully. She is not beautiful at all and she also has alot of things wrong with her. She is not a true representation of a nigerian lady. She is a kid/child that needs psychiatric help!!!!! Seriously!

    Ayo, is quiet sweet only i think he is forgetting that he is nigerian, Which Nigerian family would accept there children smoking outside there house. Ayo fix up. I believe you will make a good husband, if you stop trying to behave like a big boy.

    Overall, the documentary is only getting views because people can not believe what kind of family has been choosen to represent Nigerians in general!

  2. @Bukola, I guess that’s the challenge we face, it seems the worst of us is always used to characterise what is Nigerian. Like a quote I heard of recent, ‘the tale of the hunt would be different if told by the Lion, rather than the hunter’.

    Its time Nigerians start telling their own story rather than allow the western media convince us of who we are.

  3. I would not say actually that they have brought us shame. It may seem so at first, but I think that’s because we so want them to be perfect. They’re not. They’re just human. I think we may get to see better of them yet. I hope so somehow.

  4. I’m pleased to read that you are willing to give the Adeshinas a chance as I haven’t seen anywhere that they claim to represent the ‘typical’ Nigerian family.

    Moreso, TV programme makers don’t tend to pick ‘perfect’ families to showcase in these sort of documentaries but rather look at families with interesting and engaging issues.

    Whether you look at the parents, Ayo, Julie or any of the other kids, what one sees from the 3 programmes so far is a family trying their best to deal with issues of contemporary life. Tonye, I disagree with your view that the Adeshinas portray the worst of us. The worst of us are the scammers, 419ers, fraudsters and thieves who give Nigerians a bad reputation daily in the UK.

    I think your last comment does acknowledge that whilst they might not be perfect, they certainly do not bring shame on Nigerians by their conduct in setting up their own business and trying to do the best for themselves and their children.

    I hope that by the end of the series, most Nigerian viewers will appreciate them for what they are rather than our wish to see an idealised Nigerian family showcased.

  5. What do I see I hear you ask ? A Nigerian family living in UK or second generation Nigerian kids living with their Nigerian parents , it can’t be the forma and it’s not the latter…. the answer is both.

    The diversity of any nation or culture cannot be cover in a program like this or any program for that matter ,more to the point that is not what the program set out to do . So if you’re nigerian and disappointed ask yourself was this program about being Nigerian ?
    The program addresses issues which could be more or less found in any family. Intercultural relationships, child upbringing , sibling rivalry and of course the place of tech in the modern family i.e Facebook, studying, making music and dad who is finding hard to adjust. we all know one .
    Too many times our preconceptions prevent us from seeing things for what they are

    Which brings me to my point I see a family ,not a typical Nigerian family as it has got little or nothing to do with where they come from.

  6. Thanks for your comments gentlemen. I must say you make valid points and I am quite happy to be corrected.

  7. I agree with the opinion that the Adesina should not be judged on the basis of being a typical Nigerian family but as a family period. The problem is that they seem to be hell bent on proving they representative of an average Nigerian family. I am certain the creative direction from channel 4 does not help; believe it or not, reality TV is not as real as you think, it is scripted, directed and edited to look a certain way; a way that will market well.

    The appeal for the British public is a snapshot of cultures in UK that they may not necessarily have access to and what would market well is dysfunction, at least something that looks a bit exotic or worse weird. Can you imagine a Nigerian family that has well behaved kids, sits to afternoon tea over the gentle sound of the 5th symphony softly soothing our middle class sensibilities. Reality TV thrives on the eccentric like Jade Goody, the Osbournes and Katie Price, who I assume, we all agree are not the quintessence of what it is to be English.

  8. We always judge other black people at a high standard as if they are supoose to represent the whole minority i do it too, the are just a family.
    The first family the seires shown the format was different and it was shown very late at night they were constantly arguing there was just as much drama. I have been least interested in this family Ayo was clearly interested in promoting his rapping really fed up with it. Julie scary i recognised myself in her we have completely different personalities but i noticed that she is trying to find her identity i think she is actually feeling a bit lost and like a failure and so she takes everything out on other people and makes a big thing out of nothing because it distracts from the real issue so she knit picks hopeful she will be able to recognise this problem when she watches this back.

  9. Firstly, Tonye well done on an excellent post and I’m glad I have found it. I commend you and the majority of your readers for some very balanced and enlightened comments, though what somebody’s beauty has to do with anything is totally beyond me.

    I have been keeping a running commentary on each episode on my blog http://www.letsgodeeper.com which has garnered the attention of the Adesina family themselves (they read it). Ayo regularly comments on my posts and I have interviewed him for an interview I hope to have published in a mainstream publication.

    Please feel free to read the posts to catch up with any episodes you have missed and also join the conversation there. I must warn you that some of my posts have been sensationalist in order to spark conversation.

    One thing we must all remember and as Ayo has explained in my interview with him, they are only representing the Adesina family. They cannot, and are not trying to, represent all Nigerians or black people. Some of the comments here have hit this nail on the head and I couldn’t agree more

  10. Bukky i think that is rather harsh in your statement. You should be more careful and to think you are a Nigerian yourself. What were you expecting? A perfect family? they are not and they never painted themselves to be. The dwalis in series two were not perfect but the Asian community never spoke ill of them so why do we like bringing down our own people. Like Michael Jackson sang Man in the mirror. look at your mirror and stop pointing fingers as 4 others are pointing back at you

  11. You alll know I think Nigerians have a seriouls inferiority complex disorder (ICD). we just keep looking for what we do not have. when welcome to Lagos was shown we complained that the brought us down and why did they have to go to the ghetto area. Now a middlie class nigerian family is shown and yet we still do complain. I think people should get a life and stop complaining.

  12. Nigerians have a ICD inferior complex disorder. we should learn to appreciate ourselves and stop complaining about our people. welcome to Lagos we complained and now a middle class nigerian family we are still complaining. what do we want?

  13. Whats so bad about this family. THIS FAMILY IS INREDIBLE




    AND THEY HAVE FAITH IN GOD (parents do anyway).

    if you look at the negatives you will always find them. i dislike people like you, bring to much negativity in to this world like we aint got enough.

    Anyways who are you to judge.

  14. Hey Simon

    I can see you are passionate about the family. To start with, I don’t really know who your comments are aimed at as it does not address any name so its hard to know if you are replying the previous post, the article or the entire mass of the universe. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration here but it helps to address the post your comments are aimed at. Secondly, one of the definitions of the word ‘judge’ means to have an opinion, which is what we are doing here, expressing an opinion. Disliking people for not sharing your opinion may leave you with very few people you will end up liking as you may soon find out that not many people share your views.

    Please notice I am not saying the premise of your argument is right or wrong, I just want us to maintain an open forum where people are free to express the opinion without it becoming a personal thing, in other words, lets agree to disagree agreeably!

  15. Ok, I’ve been watching this show since the first episode, I am teacher at a secondary school in East London and I’ve had some interesting conversations with my Nigerian students about the show. Personally I think it is good to see a real life black mum,dad and kids on the telly. The kids are all educated and the parents are hard working, so what that they are loud and Ayo wants to rap and the eldest sister is a bit aggressive. These are people, flawed, multi-dimensional like you and I.
    I am sure that some might agrue that us Caribbean people don’t understand Nigerian traditions and culture, I guess thats why I don’t see what all the fuss is about regarding whether or not this family misrepresents Nigerians. Please, use your intellect, how can one family represent an entire nation???
    I think the problem is that some folks would have preferred to see a self righteous Nigerian family i.e the mum and dad constantly referencing the bible, preaching and condemning sinners (because of course Nigerians don’t sin), every week bible study, no drinking of alcohol, no smoking, all 4 kids saying that they are virgins, yep some folks wanted to see a self righteous family because it has been proven that there is no perfect family.
    Ayo if you ever read this, I want to say, you made the show, all my laughter was because of you! To Oula, the youngest, you are beautiful and I cried when you cried, I hope you do well in G.C.S.Es!

  16. @Sunshine Its hard (near impossible) to review the family without referencing the culture the people represents, Channel 4 itself says: “They are traditional Nigerian parents with strong views on God, love and family values…” As I mentioned in my first comment, the positioning of these programs is to give the impression this is what you will get from a ‘traditional’ Nigerian home in the UK. Now I completely agree with you that it is foolhardy to expect them to represent Nigerians but just as Jordan (Katie Price) isn’t representative of England does not mean one is wrong to state the obvious when she does something wrong, at the end of the day, what one person deems aggressive can be perceived as bullying by another. On the whole its a TV program about a Nigerian Family which is why we reviewed it and consequently assumed a Nigerian perspective. What I will say in balance is that we should still speak with respect about them when we disapprove of their behaviour as they are not professional actors playing a character, they are real people just living their lives.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.