Ajala Jog: Nigerian globetrotter who saw the area but died at dwelling in poverty


Even when damaged-down history ignores Olabisi Ajala, the phrase “Ajala the traveller”, a nickname in Southwest Nigeria for the footloose and the adventurous, manner he would never be forgotten.

The truth is, the legendary Juju musician, Ebenezer Obey, in his 1972 hit album, “Board Contributors,” contributed to etching his name in Yoruba folklore when he sang memorable lines about his adventures:

“Ajala travelled in each set the area (2ce). Ajala travelled (2ce), Ajala travelled in each set the area.”

Such used to be the lifestyles lived by Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, aka Ọlábísí Àjàlá, who toured about 87 international locations on a bike within the 195os.

By every lunge of it, his adventure had the whole trappings of glitz, exhibiting off now not appropriate himself but furthermore his culture as an African.

In every country he visited, he donned his agbada – the Yoruba flowing costume – and a cap, a mix described as “elaborately flowered robes with a felt-like head-attire to match.”

Flawed he used to be, as is every person. Heroes, because the high-quality columnist Sam Omatseye as soon as wrote, attain now not come in in tidy applications. Neither are villains whole failures.

If Mungo Park toured the African fly to “scrutinize” the River Niger and Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated to point out the earth used to be spherical, Ajala explored the area to point out the African culture and the can-attain élan of Nigerians.

Ajala is subsequently to Africa what Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, James Put collectively dinner, and Marco Polo are to Europe, and Ibn Battuta al-Tanji and Zheng He to Asia.

His bike used to be his compass which he outdated to wicked borders and say the brutality of racial intolerance.

He used to be standard for his stumble upon with authorities and brushes with the law. If now not for petty crimes like being caught with a unsuitable cheque, then it used to be in fights over a girl.

Ajala, the girls’ man

Seemingly possessing a ferocious libido, his escapades produced for him offspring scattered in each set, actually turning into a father in quite lots of international locations.

A Chicago nurse named Myrtle Bassett had his first son, Oladipupo (furthermore called Andre), whose paternity he at the inspiration denied no topic a court docket ruling asserting otherwise.

He would marry an American model, Hermine Aileen, who divorced him on the costs of philandering and adultery, an allegation he mentioned he “can now not contest.”

He went on to marry a 19-year-outdated white London radio-TV actress, Joan Simmons. His Australian spouse, Wajuan, had for him: Femi, Dante, Lisa and Sydney. There used to be Toyin Ajala in England, with whom he had Taiwo and Kehinde. In Nigeria, it used to be Sherifat, amongst others.

Ajala used to be born in Ghana to Nigerian Muslim americans in 1934 – the twenty-fifth of his father’s 30 children from four better halves. He attended Baptist Academy in Lagos and Ibadan Boys’ High Faculty in Ibadan.

Leaving Nigeria

Worn 18, he travelled to the United States to gaze pre-drugs at the College of Chicago, turning into the first shadowy student within the Delta Upsilon Pi ‘fratority’, a co-tutorial Greek-letter organisation.

He wished to gaze drugs so that he could well “wage war on voodoo and diverse superstitions” when he returned to Africa.

“The sphere need to send clinical doctors to Africa, and missionaries to Chicago. The gangsters here need to transform noteworthy bigger than we attain,” he wrote in his travelogue.

He would never fulfil that profession dream as he abandoned the stethoscope for a lifestyles on the avenue.

He would later transfer to Roosevelt College (then called Roosevelt College) to gaze Psychology.

At 22, standing came to the charismatic icon on June 12, 1952, when he made up our minds to embark on a day out from Chicago to Los Angeles, conserving about 2,280 miles all on a bicycle. He used to be obtained by Los Angeles city mayor, Fletcher Bowron.

With the tour, all over which he stopped to lift lectures at 11 fundamental cities, he sought to point out the American those who “we (Nigerians and Africans) attain now not shuffle about nakedly in loincloths.”

In the meantime, as a results of a ramification of bustle-ins with the American immigration for petty offences and because he abandoned his schoolwork, he used to be sentenced to a one-year suspended detention center term and used to be later ordered to be deported to Nigeria.

He protested the deportation suppose by mountain climbing up an 80-foot radio tower and perilous to leap off it if the suppose used to be now not rescinded. Ignoring pleas from the authorities, he later jumped down from about 15 feet and sprained his attend. He used to be, nonetheless deported, but to London as a exchange.

Ajala atop a tower, threatening to jump down. Credit: oldnaija.com
Ajala atop a tower, threatening to leap down. Credit ranking: oldnaija.com

While in London, on April 27, 1957, the adventurer began his globetrotting for six years, visiting what is believed to be 87 international locations on a Scooter Vespa bike.

Ajala on his Scooter Vespa motorcycle
Ajala on his Scooter Vespa bike

He detailed his tour in his autobiography, An African Out of the country, which is for the time being out of print. The 255-page travelogue used to be published by London-primarily primarily based mostly Jarrolds in 1963.

In it, he detailed his “sojourn in India,” his “visits to the Soviet Union” and the “Afro-Asian students (he met) in Russia.” Chapters were furthermore devoted to his moments with the Shah of Iran besides a cruise of the Arab world, wherein he visited “an Arab brothel” prior to a “suicidal entry into Israel’s Jerusalem.”

Ajala in Moscow
Ajala in Moscow

From Israel, he travelled to Lebanon, prior to making a end at Egypt the set he had a dialog with Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian stylish who led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 that ended the UK’s occupation of Egypt. Ajala later travelled to Australia.

Radical in his manner and now not a straightforward particular person to impartial safe no for an reply, he recalled his stumble upon with Gamal Abdel Nasser:

“On daily basis at 6 a.m. for the next two weeks, I used to be waiting straight in front of his presidential palace, hoping he would come out. On the 13th day of my hitherto unpromising efforts, around 5 p.m. President Naseer emerged from the interior of his set heading for his automobile.”

The autobiography of Ajala titled “An African Abroad” currently out of print
The autobiography of Ajala titled “An African Out of the country” for the time being out of print

Ajala got his man by screaming as loudly as he could well and used to be heartily welcomed by the president.

From the avenue to the field role of job

Moreover the barely quite lots of tv appearances in African damaged-down attire he had, Ajala’s exploits ready the bottom for him to the area of films.

He featured in White Witch Doctor, produced by the 20th Century Fox movie studio, all over which shooting he used to be paid $300 per week.

By 1955, he signed a movie contract with the Eagle Lion’s studio of Hollywood, making movies with European and African backgrounds.

He furthermore played the role of “Ola,” a partner of “Loni,” a infamous African hunter, played by Roberts Mitshun.

Privilege to penury

Upon returning to Nigeria, Ajala was a socialite and frolicked with celebrities and entertainers just like the gradual Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.

Every males quickly fell out and filed litigation against every diverse.

Ajala would later withdraw his swimsuit. By that point, a lifestyles of pomp and ceremony had change into a luxurious as his affect, standing and standing dwindled.

He had no savings for the rainy days and his later years and had no house he could well call his have.

He lived in a dingy rented rental in a two-storey building on Adeniran Avenue, Bariga, Lagos. Nothing within the house suggested a particular person that breathed prosperity lived there.

“Ajala’s sitting room used to be devoid of carpet, had a desk of about five within the community made iron chairs in a nook which furthermore served as a dining desk, an outdated shadowy and white tv set, seats uncomfortably in an in heart-broken health-constructed shelf, the cushion on the couch hurts the buttocks because it has change into flat, the curtains on the window of the two bedroom flat, confirmed signal of outdated age, it’s indeed a memoir of penury,” an observer as soon as wrote.

As he battled penury, stroke struck.

It was double hassle for the larger-than-lifestyles Ajala as he had no money to address himself.

He died of paralysis from stroke in Lagos on February 2, 1999, damaged-down 65.

Olabisi Ajala had the area in his pocket but died a lonely man with nothing in his pocket.

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