Veteran Nigerian actress, Joke Silva Jacobs, has revealed that she was adopted by the late E.A Silva, a lawyer, and his late wife, Abimbola Silva.
A closely guarded family secret, this is the first time that the 56-year-old actress would be revealing that she was adopted from a foster home, run by the Red Cross in Lagos.
Speaking at the first Annual Conference of Heritage Adoption Support and Advocacy Group (HASAAG), which held at Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, Joke Silva-Jacobs gave a vivid account of her experience as an adopted child. Her story:
“Living in a foster home of the Red Cross in Yaba, Lagos, everybody would be calling me whenever my adopted mum (Dr. Silva) came with cakes and a lot of things during her visit. I went to YWCA Nursery, which was not too far from the Silva’s home in Yaba. I also have memories of moving in with them when they moved to Glover Road in Ikoyi.
“I remember reading newspapers to my Dad in our sitting room and pronouncing Brig-General Aguyi Ironsi, the then Nigeria Head Of State, ‘Agolo Iresi!’ My father could not stop laughing at my hilarious interpretation of the newspaper. Also, I remember making them proud, when performing at St. Saviour School. My parents would be standing and were congratulated by other parents too for my acting skills. My parents were so excited that this child was incredibly talented.
“I remembered going out with my cousin and we met a big cousin. She introduced me as ‘my cousin’s daughter and this is Dr Silva’s daughter.’ Then, the older cousin was like, ‘Dr. Silva ke? Se Doctor Silva bimo ni? (Meaning does Dr. Silva have a child?). Did Dr Silva ever have a child?
“I was so confused and when I got home I told my mum, ‘I met this lady that says you never had a child.’ My mum froze and she said, ‘don’t mind them, they are used to rubbish talk.’
“But I got to know years later when I wanted to travel and was looking for my passport where my mum kept it. Since she was not around, I opened the box in her absence and I saw my adoption papers. I never discussed it with my mum because I felt it was something that would hurt her that was why it was kept secret from me.”
Reminiscing about how amazing her parents were, Joke Silva said:
“I had incredible memories of my amazing parents for allowing me to do my A Level in England and going to one of the best schools in Bournemouth (a seaside resort on the southern coast of England) coming back after my A level with two of them having an argument on what I was going to do because I had failed my A level having done it for the third time then.
“I had done it thrice because I changed from science to Arts— I didn’t do well at all. My father said, ‘Joke, go back and do your A levels again and my Mom said, let this girl go and do the drama.’ They came into a middle ground, and as you can see I am still in drama today.
“My mother is the first person who taught me how to pray and she told me, whatever the problem, her own father, Bishop Phillips, taught her to kneel down and pray on any issues bothering her life.
“Whenever I go to her, she said, “Joke have you being on your kneels, oya take it to Baba God in prayer. Take it to daddy in prayer.”
Her mum, Mrs. Silva, who was the third Nigerian woman to qualify as a medical doctor, died in July 2015.
The actress also revealed that she was protected in the Silva’s family will.
“Even in their wills, I was well protected. My daddy, being a lawyer said in his will, that all his children, both adopted and biological should be treated equally. I was not stressed in anyway. We were all well taken care of till my mum died at the age of 89.
“At 56, I still miss her but I know she has definitely gone back to her father. On her sick bed, I always sang her favorite tunes, she would be imputing the melodious tunes and she died singing to her Lord. She had prepared her family before my coming into her life because I had an incredible big Silva family.
“I have a very big family I am the first daughter, I carried the responsibility of a first daughter. Everybody in my family cannot take any decision until sister Joke has come. I can’t call my parents, adopted parents. They are my parents.”
In his remarks, the HASSAG founder, Ituah Ighodalo, said his foundation aims at changing the negative perception of adoption in the society and render support to prospective adopters, adoptive parents, and adoptees.
According to him, adoption is the solution to the growing problem of abandoned and vulnerable children in the society. The process will help make thousands of homeless children to be settled in loving homes.