Ihuaku Patricia Nweke

My name is Ihuaku Nweke (Nee Obi Nwagwu / Chinyere-Ezeh). I was born in Lagos Nigeria to a late Medical Doctor Father and an Accountant. My life up until the age of 11 years old was pretty enchanted. We lived in a peaceful area of middle class Owerri in the Eastern part of Nigeria.

My father Dr Obi Nwagwu or the Action Doctor as he was lovingly known in the political realms and amongst his supporters was a very dominant figure in my life. I remember happy memories of him swinging my sister and I like a human see-saw on his strong legs and carrying us high on his shoulders. I also remember him scraping dandruff off mine and my sister’s heads as we sat in between his legs on his stool. Some of my memories include me and my brother being taken to school in one of my dad’s blue campaign buses by one of his staff drivers with vote NPP hollering and Action Doctor bellowing out of the megaphone at the top of the van. My father’s political supporters and staff were always around the house and available to assist in any errands we needed.

We always had house helps around the house and each of us had a nanny who took care of us until around the age of 5, my nanny was called Aunty Eugenia. The rest of my childhood was full of sweet memories of walking to school, friends popping round to ours unannounced and vice versa, having sand fights or water fights with the neighbours’ kids and having a house surrounded by fruit trees. We would casually picking fruit from whichever tree took our fancy, be it an orange tree, guava or mango tree or the paw tree by the kitchen window. There was also a crevice in the large mango tree at the front of the house that used to provide solace as I hid there reading my book oblivious to the world around me.

I have fond memories of rainy seasons when we would run around naked in the rain, jumping into the waterfilled drum outside the house. After the rain, there would be a swarm of flying insects called ‘Aku’ everywhere and we would run around with bowls hunting and catching aku. These insects were so delicious, that no oil or flavouring was required; aku had its own fat and unique natural smoky flavour.

After taking the Federal Common entrance examination at the age of 10, I was hoping that I would be able to join my sister in the nearby Federal government Girl’s Secondary school Owerri because these were seen as the Grammar schools of Nigeria and it was my dream to also attend there. However, fate was to deal me a very cruel blow which my young mind found it hard to comprehend.

In Nigeria there was a system of favouritism that would benefit the less educationally minded Northern indigens over the Easterners and I had fallen victim to this. The last 5 names of Eastern girls that had made it through to the exam were removed and were replaced with the names of 5 girls from the Northern part of Nigeria and my name was one of those girls. I had to settle for the least favourable state school, the dilapidated Owerri Girls School. Which don’t get me wrong was a good school ran by nuns in fact my mother and Aunt had attended Owerri Girls or Ojimgbo girls as it was fondly called. However, the school had seen better days and the facilities had not been maintained at all. The truth was, Federal Government schools always received better funding than state schools and it showed!

Attending a state secondary school in Nigeria was School was an eye opener and a shock to my system. I was welcomed to a world where toilets were dark, dingy corridors with human excrement on the floor and showers were open outdoor cubicles. The best way to describe the food was unceremonious gruel. It only took me one term before I developed Anaemia and had to become a day student. I quickly became everyone’s best friend, bringing rich home cooked meals in several containers to my less fortunate undernourished friends. There was talk at the school that I would be made queen of the Christmas Bazar that year but that was not to be. I had hardly completed my first year of Secondary school when my family and I embarked on the journey to England in the summer of 1988 that would change the trajectory of my life.

Just before coming to the U.K, I did something very stupid- perhaps it was the excitement of coming to England or a subconscious form of self-sabotage, but I took a pair of scissors to my hair and snipped off one corner of my hair. When my mother came home and saw me, she flipped out and the only remedy to redeem my ridiculously cropped hair cut was to scrape everything off. So here I was coming to the U.K and no one was sure whether I was a boy or a girl.


My Father picked us up from the airport and we took the tube to his two-bedroom bedsit which he shared with an elderly Caribbean woman in New Cross. I remember the distinctive sound of the EastEnders sitcom music playing every evening. I also remember trying Chinese food for the first time and vomiting everywhere because my system was not used to that type of food. It was an interesting summer getting used to the sun shining till 8pm and not setting by 6pm as we were used to in Africa.

The open displays of affection of lovers on the tube and every other public place was something we were not accustomed to in Africa and needed some getting used to, a lot of getting used to!

My father, though an Oxford graduate and Medical Doctor who had his own clinic in Owerri, the popularly known Lifecare was now driving Taxi cabs to make ends meet. We moved from new Cross to a bed and breakfast facing Finsbury Park called Queens hotel. My sister was in Nigeria studying and my mum decided not to give up her high-powered job as a top executive at a national bank. She had about 200 staff members that reported to her. So, whilst I and my two younger brothers of the tender ages of 8 and 4 stayed back to face the life of hardship and uncertainty that awaited us in the U.K.

My mother returned to her work and my sister who was sitting exams in secondary school. It must have been a very difficult and heart-breaking decision for her to make.

I got admission into a catholic secondary school, Mount Carmel whilst my brothers got admission to a nearby primary school Woodgrove. Life as an immigrant in the U.K was tough. Because of the way I looked and my accent, I was badly ridiculed and bullied. However, I quickly became best friends with an Irish girl, Deidre Reilly. I used to take a bus to her house every Saturday which was near the Caledonian Road swimming pool and we would go swimming with her older brother Shaun and her younger siblings. Deidre made my life in the UK easier but that was all very short lived and would all change when she returned to Ireland with her family. I became very shy and timid and would eat my lunch hiding in the toilets because I didn’t want all the other children to see that I had no friends. The playground was the loneliest place for me. I was constantly bullied by a group of 5 popular girls in my class who were a lot bigger than me. I couldn’t wait to leave Mount Carmel secondary school.

Life at home was not easy either, my dad had to go to work most of the time, so I became mother to my two younger brothers, even though I wasn’t that much older than them. I grew up very quickly. I would cook whilst my brother washed up. On Saturdays, we would embark on the two-bus journey from Finsbury park to the only nearby supermarket in those days, a Sainsbury’s on Holloway road. From there, we would go to Fontil road to buy meat from the butchers and African foodstuffs, then we would take all our clothes in a black bag to the laundrette and read our books whilst we waited for the clothes to wash and dry. We would then go home and prepare dinner.

Christmas was mostly spent at family friends’ houses and once at one of the chamber maid Ann’s house from the Bed and Breakfast where we lived. She had agreed to have us whilst my father worked yet another Christmas.

My sister joined us in UK 2 years later and mum a year after that.

We got approved for a council house in Edmonton and we moved. My sister and I got admission to Enfield County Secondary school and my brothers got admission to the local primary school. Though I was still bullied, I had a group of about 4 friends, and I became best friends with a very popular Ghanaian girl, Sheila Crosby-Bennet. My sister became part of the popular group of girls in the school. I tagged along sometimes when they went out, but I mostly spent my time dressing up and dancing to music videos at Sheila’s house or occasionally hanging out at Woodgreen shopping mall after school.

I have always loved fashion and for as long as I can remember I have sketched designs on paper of elaborate wedding dresses as I dreamt of my own fairy tale wedding. I would transform tined cans into ornate bracelets making holes at both ends.

Though I had pursued a degree in Economics and soon after that a master’s degree in Business Information Technology, my mum helped me pursue my passion by paying for me to take a course in Jewellery making at a local college. Soon after, I started making jewellery for myself as well as friends and family. I held very lucrative jewellery, clothing and fabric showcases hosted by myself, my mum or her friends who would take a commission of sales proceeds.

I took further training to develop my skills and I started my design line in 2009, showcasing in several international exhibitions such as Collections London. I further developed into Fashion design, taking short courses between 2009 and 2011. In 2014, I got the opportunity to showcase at African Fashion Week London (AFWL), launching my fashion and jewellery brand I.Kollection, www.i-kollection.com. I debuted with my jewellery designs at AFWL and debuted my first clothing collection at Fashion Finest, London Fashion Week in the same year. I went on to showcase at Birmingham International Fashion week in 2015 and again at AFWL in 2017.

I have since taken further vocational courses in Fashion Design and have done two exhibitions with Commonwealth Fashion with the last exhibition being in August 2020.

I am now an alumni of Henley Business school and Parsons University of Technology for an online course titled Fashion Futures undertaken with AFWL in October 2020.

I have since had several highlights in my fashion career such as being featured in Vogue in 2015 and designing for high profile clients such as Marie Diamond one of the Authors of the International Best-Selling book, The Secret.

Whilst pursuing my fashion career, I also managed to hold down a full-time career as a Procurement Consultant, achieving the chartered status in 2014 with a graduation in 2015. All this with a family and three children in tow!

Within my procurement career, I have been privileged to work with top government departments such as the Department for Transport, ministry of Justice, Department of Health, the British Business Bank and several NHS trusts.

I also run a social enterprise called Cedarcube www.cedarcube.com with the mission to Heal Hearts and Restore families. This is done through education, counselling and financial support. Initiatives include the Building the Excellent Family online summit which is now in its second year and was held between the 6th and the 8th of November 2020 with a global line up of experts in health and wellbeing, finance and real estate, relationships and ministry. Cedarcube runs a domestic abuse advocacy and in 2018 launched the Behind the Mask initiative to encourage domestic abuse sufferers to speak up about their experiences and to remove the taboo that surrounds the subjects. The initiative offers free counselling and therapy to families affected by domestic abuse.

Cedarcube has won several awards including being one of 9 shortlisted community organisations amongst 22,000 organisations worldwide for the multi strand category of National Diversity Awards (NDA) 2019, UK. Other awards include the Corporate Livewire award for relationship counselling organisation of the year 2020.

In October 2020, I got together a group of domestic abuse advocates world-wide to undertake a project that would have a huge impact and provide a useful resource for domestic abuse sufferers during the recent global covid-19 outbreak which saw the number of abuse cases skyrocket worldwide. Together they formed the International Consortium for Domestic Peace (ICFDP) www.subscribepage.com/icfdp.

I am in the process of completing her book about discovering purpose through following ones’ passions and going through painful experiences, an inspirational book which is a culmination of her own life lessons and this is set to be completed by December 2020 with a launch in the spring of 2021.

Author profile
Ihuaku Patricia Nweke

Ihuaku Patricia Nweke is a Designer, International Best Selling Authour, Speaker, Social Entrepreneur and Procurement Consultant living in London.