Connect with us


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



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,

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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


Labour Party Denounces Suspension of National Chairman Abure




The leadership of the Labour Party on Friday denounced the purported suspension of its National Chairman, Julius Abure, by the executive members of his ward in Edo State.

In a statement signed by the National Secretary of the party, Mallam Farouk Umar, the LP said the purported suspension is illegal and of no consequence.

According to the party’s constitution, Umar said it is only the National Convention that can suspend the national chairman and this must be through a convention called for the purpose of the suspension.

“Again, our Party Constitution is clear on who can suspend and who cannot suspend the National Chairman. They should go and read the party constitution. Only the National Convention can suspend the National Chairman of the Labour Party. It also must be through such a convention called for the purpose of the suspension of the National Chairman,” the statement read.

“We think that the sudden suspension was an afterthought of some opposition parties purely to distract the leadership of the Labour Party at this time. There is no reasonable party member now who will be thinking of such a thing when we are pursuing our presidential mandate in the court and all other mandates including the governorship, Senate and House of Representatives that were brazenly stolen.

“Who will be contemplating the suspension of any national party official now? It is on record that for the first time in the party’s history, the Abure-led leadership has succeeded in changing the country’s political narratives.

“A party from the blues competing with the top two political parties and in the process, winning eight Senate and 34 House of Representatives as well as numerous House of Assembly seats. We also won a governorship seat while we are in court to retrieve other mandates including the presidency.”

Channels TV

Continue Reading


Datti-Ahmed: NBC Slams N5m Fine on Channels TV




In a March 27 letter addressed to Channels Chief Executive Officer and obtained on Friday in Abuja, the NBC said the television station violated broadcasting code.

Titled “Broadcast of an Inciting Interview, A Sanction”, the letter was signed by Balarabe Ilelah, the commission’s Director-General.

It read in part: “The NBC monitored the broadcast of a live interview of the running mate of the Labour Party Vice presidential candidate, Dr Datti Baba-Ahmed, by the anchor of Politics Today, Seun Okibaloye, on Wednesday, March 22.

“Dr Baba-Ahmed said it will be unconstitutional to swear in an elected president on May 29, 2023, because of election irregularities,” Mr Ilelah said in the letter.

He noted that the broadcast was volatile and capable of inciting public disorder and therefore violated some sections of the broadcasting code.

This, according to him, includes the section that said no broadcast shall encourage, or incite, be repugnant to public feelings or contain offensive reference to any person or organisation, alive or dead or generally be disrespectful to human dignity.

Mr Ilelah added that according to the broadcasting code, broadcasters shall ensure that no programme contained anything which amounted to subversion of constituted authority.

He recalled that the NBC had engaged Channels Television severally to consider public interest before any programme is broadcast.

This, he said, was to ensure that the country was not plunged into anarchy.

“Consequently, on the following infractions, Channels Television is hereby sanctioned and shall pay a penalty of N5,000,000 (five million naira) only in the first instance,” he said.

He added that any further infraction by the television station would attract higher sanctions.

“You are advised to pay within two weeks from the day of receipt of this letter or the penalty will be graduated,” the NBC Director-General said.


Continue Reading


Olowu Spare Parts Fire: 19 Shops, Goods Worth Nmillions Destroyed




No fewer than 19 shops were burnt and goods worth millions of naira were destroyed on Thursday when fire engulfed the Olowu Spare Parts Market in the Ikeja area of Lagos State.

PUNCH Metro learnt that the fire started at midnight.

It was later put out through the joint efforts of emergency responders, including men of the Lagos State Fire and Rescue Services.

The spokesperson for the agency, Amodu Shakiri, said a call was made to the Ikeja Fire Station at about 3.19am.

He said, “We got there in three minutes of the call time. Unfortunately, we lost 19 shops. The owners of the shops along the street all trade in combustible materials. Most of them are condensers for refrigerators, air conditioners and the like.

“All these are volatile combustibles. It aided the widespread of the fire but we were able to curtail it in time so that we did not record further losses.

“We also asked Alausa Station to join us. Despite the combustibles that were involved, there was no injury because the traders were not around.”

It was further gathered that some of the traders rushed to the scene of the fire early in the morning to salvage remnants of their goods.

Shakiri, however, attributed the fire to power disruption.

He said, “The cause is basically negligence because some people probably left their electronics on before they left the shop or maybe as a result of power disruption.

“People are advised to always switch off their electronic devices and installations. It should also be unplugged from the wall socket when closing for the day.”

The Coordinator of the Lagos Territorial Office of National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, on his part, said the fire affected 13 shops, four warehouses and one restaurant.

He, however, said no injury or death was recorded in the fire.

Farinloye said, “A fire outbreak at Olowu Automobile Spare Parts Market was recorded early this (Thursday) morning.

“The fire disaster which was reported to have started at about 2.30am affected 13 shops, four warehouses and one restaurant.

“The Commandant 9th Brigade, Ikeja met the NEMA team while he was on an assessment visit to the scene. The cause of the fire cannot be determined as of now.

“But the Chairman of the trader association, Bassey Ikpendu while narrating the situation applauded the efforts of the State Fire Service that prevented the escalation of the incident due to the combustible materials that were involved.

“The chairman narrated that one of their apprentices slept in the building and noticed the fire but by the time he got out, the chairman said, the fire had engulfed the building and immediately fire service was contacted which responded promptly.

“No injury or death was recorded.”

The Punch

Continue Reading


%d bloggers like this: