Dr Adebisi Laja, one of the oldest members of the Nigerian community in Germany, has passed on. According to his associates, the retired medical doctor died peacefully at home in the western German town of Lindenfels on 12 December at the age of 84.
Laja arrived in Europe in June 1954 to study in Glasgow. He moved to Germany in 1958 where he lived until his death. Dr Laja is survived by his wife, Ursula, and three adult children, Modupe, a media consultant, Adeyinka, a dentist, and Adebisi, a general medical practitioner.
Laja left Nigeria in 1954 because of the limited opportunities for education in his home country, which had only one university at that time. After his secondary school education, he was faced with the daunting task of securing admission into the only university in Nigeria at Ibadan. In order not to repeat his experience of having to wait for three years after his primary school to be admitted into a secondary school (at that time there were only five secondary schools in Lagos!), he boarded a ship bound for the United Kingdom in June 1954, arriving Glasgow two weeks later.
After completing his Higher School Certificate in 1956, he found it difficult to get admission into a British university to study medicine. He widened his search to mainland Europe and was lucky to be offered admission in several German universities in 1958.
Laja moved to Germany where he qualified as a medical doctor in 1969, finally achieving the dream that took him out of his country 15 years earlier. He moved back to Nigeria with his family a few years after his graduation but returned to Germany after about two years in his home country.
Dr Laja worked in several clinics before retiring as a Senior Physician at a general hospital in the western Germany town of Kirchellen.
We interviewed Dr Adebisis Laja at his home in Lindenfels in 2012. The old, but still very energetic man, talked about life in Europe and Germany then and now; he revealed how he dealt with the problem of racism and gave useful tips on how to survive and thrive in Europe. Dr Laja also explained why he spendt his retirement in a small, tranquil western German town rather than in his native land. Read the story of Dr Laja’s life in his own very words: