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Between Fame and Penury: The Life and Times of Olabisi Ajala – The Traveller

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By Barr. Femi Kehinde

In a moment of psychological terror, anguish and angst, Sophocles, in Oedipus Rex, at a point of deep exasperation, said- “call no man happy, until he is dead!” Life did terrible things to Oedipus. He had unknowingly murdered his father and married his mother.
Chance rules our lives and the future certainly is all unknown. In Yoruba pantheon-“Alejo l’owo”- Money is a stranger, if it enters your hand, take good care of him like a lady fresh from puberty.

Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, popularly known as Ajala the traveller in his hey days, wanted to capture the world but was eventually consumed by his passion.
He was born in 1934 in Ghana, into a Nigerian Polygamous home, of 30 Children and four wives. He was the 25th child of his father, who relocated back to Nigeria, when Olabisi was an infant. He had his secondary education, at the Baptist Academy, Lagos and the Ibadan, Boys High School, Ibadan.

In 1952, at the age of 18, Olabisi proceeded to America, to further his education. He was admitted to the university of Chicago, as a pre-medical student, whose dream, was to become a medical doctor and return to medical practice in Nigeria, to debunk and disparage the traditional medical practice as being fetish.

He was shortly thereafter, captured by a superlative dream, to become a traveller and perhaps, travel around the world. He abandoned the stethoscope, for a street life on the road. In 1952, he became an instant star, when he went on a lecture tour across the United States of America, with his bicycle and well donned in Yoruba Agbada outfit, with a matching cap to fit.

He travelled from Chicago and covered about 2, 280 miles in 28 days, ending in Los- Angeles. The success of this trip, encouraged him to explore the world further and he became a self appointed Nigeria’s cultural ambassador, to showcase Nigeria and educate Americans, about the prospects in Nigeria and that Africans, nay Nigerians most especially, do not walk about naked or covered in leaves and loin clothes.

The famous Olabisi Ajala was now emboldened to explore the world, aside the United States of America. Ajala visited about 87 countries, with a Scooter Vespa motorcycle in six years. He visited countries such as Israel, India, Australia, Iran, Russia, Ghana, Cyprus, Egypt and so on, where he met some of the greatest leaders in the world, such as Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Jawarhalar Nehru of India, Niki Khrushchev of the USSR, Mohammed Ressa Shah Pahlavi of Iran. He had movie relationship with Ronald Reagan, that later became president of America and visited Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the then Prime Minister of Nigeria and many more eminent people across the globe.

Ajala’s endeavour, exposed him to the world of movies. He featured in the movie- “White Witch Doctor”, produced by the 20th century fox motion picture, with a bumper payment of 300 Dollars per week. He played the role of “Ola”- a companion of “Loni”, a famous African hunter, played by Roberts Mitshun. In 1955, he signed a movie contract with the Eagle Lion’s studio of Hollywood. He had several television appearances in impeccable African traditional attires. He was attractive, handsome and charismatic and he became an instant attraction, to so many women. His marital exploits, features different women across the globe.
His first philandering exploit in 1953, was with a Chicago nurse, named Myrtle Basset. Ajala, after Basset’s pregnancy, refused to acknowledge paternity. Basset had no choice, but to file a paternity suit against Ajala, for denying being the father of their son. The lady nurse claimed that Ajala himself named the child Oladipupo and also signed his birth certificate.

Despite this paternity suit, Ajala held firmly to his ground, of denying paternity of the boy. He suggested a DNA test, which the lady initially refused, but later agreed to surrender the boy, for a DNA test. The lady’s change of mind, made Ajala to dissappear into thin air. The court nonetheless, ruled against him. The Court ordered Ajala to pay Ten dollars per week, for the upkeep of Oladipupo, also named Andre. Ajala never saw Oladipupo again until 1976, when he looked for Oladipupo in New York and discovered him- a budding pianist and musicologist.

They reunited, having told him, he was his father and that he was his first child and first son. He enocouraged Oladipupo to come to Nigeria and take part in the up coming cultural fiesta, named “Festac 1977.”

The year 1953 was like a festering sore, for Olabisi Ajala. He was arrested on the charges of forgery, grand theft and worthless cheque by the police. He pleaded not guilty, to the charges, but rather claimed he was also duped by an ex banker- Arnold Weigner. The court sentenced Ajala to one year jail term and immediate deportation after service of sentence.

The sentence was aggravated for the fact, that Ajala had abandoned his studies, at the Santa Monica Junior College and the student Visa had been invalidated, for lack of regular school attendance.

Olabisi Ajala refused deportation and protested to the immigration authorities in the United States and that he would be killed by his father, if he was departed back to Nigeria on the grounds of tribal execution.

To make good his protest against this deportation order, he climbed an 80- Foot radio tower, where he screamed that he would jump rather, to his death, than being deported.

He protested on the tower for about 24 hours, turning deaf ears, to the pleas of the immigration authority and passer bys. He eventually caved in to the pleas, by scaling down from the high tower and jumping down from the heights of about 15 Feet. He was lucky to have sustained a sprained back. After the tower episode, he embarked on a strike, which he termed a 30 day Ramadan fasting, that he had to observe, as a devoted Muslim. Despite all these protests and desperate efforts to stay in America, Ajala was flown to London, instead of Nigeria. He had earlier wished to be flown to Canada, but the Canadian immigration, did not approve his application.

In December, 1954, Ajala found his way back to America, with another wife- Hermine Aileen, who later divorced him on charges of being an adulterer and a philanderer, in August 1955. In December of that year, Ajala married another 19- year -old white London Radio T.V actress- Joan Simons. Ajala became a world renowned celebrity, who travelled round the world with a motor cycle scooter Vesper.

In 1972, the Nigerian music legendary, Chief Ebenezer Obey, celebrated Olabisi Ajala and his adventures, in his hit Album- “Board Members.”

Obey sang the praises of Olabisi Ajala in the album- “Ajala Travel all over the world (2ce), Ajala travel (2ce), Ajala travels all over the world, Alajala mi omo olola, Alaja lami oko Alhaja Shade, Alhaja los’obokun fun alajala, emi meje o, emi meje.”

The album sold millions of copies. Aside from Alhaja Sade, Ajala had wives and children scattered all over the globe. His Australian wife- Wajuan had for him Femi, Dante, Lisa and Sydney, who were then based in Australia. There were Taiwo and Kehinde in London, Mrs Toyin Ajala in England, Mrs Sherifat Ajala in Nigeria.

Ajala in his mid life, was an advertising and entertainment guru. He was a very notable publicist. He promoted the music of many Nigerian musicians, including Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, with whom he later had a brawl. Ajala, as Ayinde’s music promoter, has helped Barrister, to organise media promotion and also played major roles in securing shows for Barrister. Ayinde Barrister, felt that Ajala was too exploitative, unbending on his numerous demands and bills. Ayinde Barrister, felt the only way he could extricate himself from Ajala’s numerous demands, was to wax an album, perhaps to disentangle himself, from Ajala’s strangle hold and he did wax a hit album and sang thus-
“Egbon kini Gbegede, Kini gbegede,
oni o gbe bukata wa
Ayinde mo gbo bukata re,
ola ogbe bukata wa
Ayinde mo gbo bukata re
Ema se bawon wi o
Fine bara
Decent bara ni”

Ajala felt highly embarrassed, insulted and defamed by the “fine bara” album and also saw it as a huge damage to his integrity. Fine Bara, suddenly became his nickname. The innuendo was striking and direct. Ajala had to go to court and sued Barrister for defamation. Chief MKO Abiola, Chief Ebenezer Obey, Alhaji Buari Oloto and M. Ola Kassim, had to intervene, to mitigate the crises from further degeneration and an armistice, was signed between the warring parties, as a cessation of hostility.

Ayinde was asked to produce another album in praise of the publicist, while Ajala was also asked to withdraw his defamation suit, as a settlement out of court. In the spirit of this understanding, Ayinde waxed another album, to sing Ajala’s praises, to control the damage, Oke-Agba Album, caused to Ajala’s intergrity. In this follow up album, Ayinde Barrister sang-
“Bisi Ebony mi … Ajala …
Advertisment pelu publicity
Ebony, eyin lee ni
Image making f’ awon up coming stars
Ebony Eyin lee nii
E’ ma P’ Ajani ni fine bara.”
Ayinde also had to play free for Ajala’s friend from London- Folly Taiwo.

Ajala, following this spirit of settlement, filed a notice of discontinuance in court and he withdrew his suit. Sooner thereafter, Ajala’s influence, popularity and fame began to wane. Olabisi Ajala could no longer sustain the life of opulence, showmanship and glamour.
He had no building, he could call his own and he had to relocate, to a rented apartment in a two storey building, on Adeniran Street, Bariga, Lagos. To get to Ajala’s dingy apartment, you need to climb two stairs of the top floor and you would be confronted with the way life had treated this globe trotter.

A passage leads to a 15 by 12 feet sitting room. A visibly disturbed visitor, on a visit to Ajala’s flat reported thus-
“Ajala’s sitting room was devoid of carpet, had a table of about five locally made iron chairs in a corner which also served as a dinning table, an old black and white televion set, seats uncomfortably in an ill-constructed shelf, the cushion on the sofa hurts the buttocks as it has become flat, the curtains on the window of the two bed room flat, showed sign of old age, it is indeed a story of penury”

Ajala suffered stroke and an irredeemable one indeed. It was a year long sickness in pain, agony and melancholy. Alhaja Sade, who then lived in Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos and his numerous children, scattered across the globe, could not save the situation, except Olaolu, who was then a teenager, then in Baptist Academy, Bariga, Lagos and Bolanle, who was also in secondary school, tendered him.

Ajala could not take adequate care of himself, because he had no money and the stroke became terribly worst and devastating, until he breathed his last.

The lesson learnt, is that when fortune and opportunities, smiles on you, it must be held with a hand of steel and never allowed to slip off. Ajala perhaps, returned the smile with an unwelcoming and uncaring mien, and thus, a life that ended tragically on the 2nd of February, 1999, at the general hospital Ikeja Lagos, as a result of paralysis from stroke at the age of 65 years.

Olabisi Ajala, having started a meaningful and robust life at the age of 18, it is still strange, mind buggling and befuddling that Olabisi Ajala did not leave behind a single house in his 65 years, and thus the exit of a life, that started in early prosperity at the age of 18 and ended in penury at 65.

Nonetheless, Ajala made his mark!
May the soul of Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala (the traveller), continually find peaceful repose with the Lord.

Hon. Barr. Femi Kehinde is a former Member, House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja, Representing Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State, 1999-2003 &
Principal Partner
Femi Kehinde & Co (Solicitors)
Ibadan Office-
No 84, Iwo Road, Ibadan

Lagos Office – Plot A, Oluwalogbon Motors Building,
Obafemi Awolowo Way,
Ikeja, Lagos.

Abuja Office-
NO. 8, Suez Crescent, Ibrahim Abacha Estate,
Wuse Zone 4,
Abuja.

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Whiz Kid, Abdul-salam, Seeks Assistance to Prosecute M.Sc Studies in Scotland

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By Eric Elezuo

Teslim Abdul-salam, a 24-year-old Nigerian, from Oyo State, has sent a save our soul message to well meaning Nigerians to come to his aid in his quest to become a Global Energy Leader and establish a Youth-led Sustainable Energy Company in Africa.

Abdul-salam made this disclosure during an exclusive chat with The Boss. He noted that he intends to extend his high flying academic sojourn with an opportunity to obtain an M.Sc degree in Energy Economics and Finance at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, the admission he had already secured.

On why he thinks he is qualified for assistance from well meaning Nigerians to pursue the Masters honours, Abdul-salam said:

“My name is Teslim Abdul-salam, a 24-year-old Petroleum Engineering graduate from the First Technical University, Ibadan, Nigeria. I graduated with a Second Class Upper and have furthered my education with masterclasses in Leadership for Young Engineers from Guardian of the Nation International (GOTNI), Abuja, and in Business Management from the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

“Additionally, I hold diplomas in French Studies and Entrepreneurship Studies from the First Technical University, Ibadan.

“Throughout my academic and professional journey, I have achieved notable accomplishments. I received the Tech-Upreneur (Entrepreneur) Ambassador award in 2020, led a team that qualified for the Hult Prize Regional Entrepreneurship Competition in Cairo in 2020, and was among the Top 100 out of 17,000 applicants in the International Breweries Foundation (IBF) Kickstart Entrepreneurship Contest in 2019.

“I possess strong skills in public speaking, data analysis, business writing, and digital marketing. Currently, I run a digital freelance business in Nigeria.

“My long-term vision is to become a Global Energy Leader and to establish a Youth-led Sustainable Energy Company in Africa. I am a passionate advocate for climate action, focusing on making clean energy accessible and affordable for underserved communities in Africa.”

His avalanche of distinguished achievements notwithstanding, Abdul-salam is unable to move closer to his dreams of becoming a better person, and contributing his quota to the making of a better Nigeria with the MSc in Energy Economics and Finance, and therefore, seek financial assistance or sponsorship.

“I have been offered conditional admission to the MSc in Energy Economics and Finance programme at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. However, I am unable to meet the financial requirements for the programme.

“I am reaching out to request assistance in obtaining a scholarship or financial support to cover the tuition and living expenses for my postgraduate programme. This opportunity is crucial for me to achieve my goal of becoming a Global Energy Leader and contributing significantly to sustainable energy solutions in Africa. Any support or guidance you can provide would be immensely appreciated,” he said.

With the importance this administration has attached to education, it will not be out of place if the likes of Abdul-salam are assisted to achieve noble objectives in science, management, finance among a host of other academic disciplines that can turn the fortunes of the nation, and reduce youth restiveness in the country.

Abdul-salam needs your assistance. Please, help!

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FG Endorses Groundbreaking Clean Cookstoves Project, Partners GreenPlinth Africa

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In a landmark move towards sustainable development and environmental conservation, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the National Council on Climate Change has officially endorsed a revolutionary initiative aimed at addressing global climate crisis, environmental challenges and improving livelihoods across the nation.

Under the auspices of GREENPLINTH AFRICA LIMITED, in collaboration with strategic partners, an ambitious Article 6.4 project has been launched to distribute 80 million clean cookstoves free of charge to households throughout Nigeria.

This initiative, the largest single clean cooking systems project in the world, marks a significant step forward in combatting the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with traditional cooking methods, such as indoor air pollution and deforestation.

The provision of clean cookstoves is set to transform the lives of millions of Nigerians, particularly women and children, who are disproportionately affected by the harmful effects of traditional cooking practices. The adoption of clean and efficient cookstoves by households will lead to improved indoor air quality, reduce respiratory illnesses, and largely contribute to mitigating climate change through lower carbon emissions.

In a statement by Dr. Olawale Akinwumi, president and CEO of GREENPLINTH AFRICA LIMITED, the Director General of the National Council on Climate Change, Dr. Salisu Dahiru recently issued a formal Letter of Endorsement (LoE) for the Improved And Efficient Cooking Energy Solution For Nigeria – a Programmatic Article 6.4 Project.

Dr. Dahiru, who is also the Designated National Authority (DNA) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Focal Point in Nigeria averred that the project would result in greenhouse gas emission reduction and more importantly lead to sustainable forest development and job creation in Nigeria.

According to him, besides reduction in domestic emissions, the project will decrease upper respiratory infections, thereby leading to improved health conditions; and equally enhance the nation in achieving sustainable development and the goals of Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Speaking on the importance of the project, Dr. Victor Fodeke, vice president and GMD of Greenplinth Africa Limited stated that the initiative will particularly benefits vulnerable communities, women, and children, who bear the brunt of health issues linked to traditional cooking practices. “Nigerians will experience tangible benefits while collectively contributing to global efforts in combating climate change”, he said.

Dr. Fodeke, a former Technical Adviser on Climate Change to the African Union (AU), declared that in addition to the deployment of clean cookstoves, the project includes an ambitious afforestation campaign, with plans to plant a staggering 4 billion economic trees across the nation. This initiative not only aims to combat deforestation but also to promote sustainable land management practices, enhance biodiversity, and create economic opportunities for communities across Nigeria – stimulating economic growth by creating new avenues for employment and income generation.

“The Article 6.4 Clean Cookstoves Project will be a foreign exchange earner for the Nigerian economy. This is first time anywhere in the world that efficient clean cookstoves project of this magnitude is being launched to be fully funded for every household, and 100% financed by Carbon Credits.

“Our PANDA Cookstove is also the first clean cookstove in the world to be launched with the co-benefit of Innovative Tree Planting and Nurturing to eliminate or reduce Poverty, Hunger, and Diseases,” he concluded.

The Federal Government’s endorsement of this groundbreaking Article 6.4 initiative underscores its commitment to fostering sustainable development, environmental stewardship, and the well-being of its citizens.

The Improved and Efficient Cooking Energy Solution for Nigeria is a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Global Climate Action Portal (GCAP) registered Initiative.

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Court Denies Binance Executive Tigran Gambaryan Bail

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Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court Abuja, on Friday, refused to grant bail to an executive of Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan.

Justice Nwite held that Gambaryan is likely to jump bail if granted to him.

The company and its executive were arraigned on a five-count charge bordering on money laundering before Emeka Nwite, judge of a Federal High Court in Abuja.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Moving an application, Counsel to the Defendant, Mark Mordi, argued that the court had the power to grant bail to the defendant and impose conditions to ensure his presence in court.

The prosecution counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, however opposed the bail application, stating that the defendant is a flight risk.

He stated that the defendant attempted to obtain a new passport, which he claimed was stolen, and this is a suspicious act given the proximity to his colleague’s escape from custody.

He added that the court cannot risk granting Gambaryan bail, especially as he is not attached to any community in Nigeria.

“The fact that the passport of the defendant is with the complainant does not guarantee that he will remain in Nigeria because the defendant is not only an American citizen but also an Armenian citizen by birth.

He urged the court to refuse the application and instead remand him in EFCC custody to ensure his safety and prevent potential flight risk.

Delivering ruling, the judge said several factors including the nature of offence and its severity must be considered when trying to decide whether or not bail should be granted to the defendant applicant.

Justice Nwite agreed with the depositions made by prosecution and was of the view that the applicant will jump bail if bail is granted to him.

He subsequently ordered that the trial be given an accelerated hearing.

After the ruling, the EFCC called its first witness, a staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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