AJALA TALES: The Origin

Okay, before I go on into today’s post, let me first use this opportunity to thank the people who have reached out with words of encouragement and critical comments about this idea I have floated. I don’t take it lightly and I will work on every one of your suggestions and pointers. Shout out to J Dust and Olaronke. Shout out to Jumai, who actually IS the inspiration behind today’s post.

I realized after some comments that perhaps I should explain the inspiration behind the name “Ajala Tales”. I made an assumption, erroneous one at that, that people would know what the general idea is and hence no need to explain myself. LOL. Well since this blog is meant to be fun as much as it is educating. Forgive me!

“Ajala” is a name actually! No, it isn’t my name but it was a name made popular by now legendary traveler and explorer, Olabisi Ajala. A few of us might not know that but I am sure we have heard about the same name in the Ebenezer Obey song

Ajala travel all over the world

Ajala travel all over the world

Ajala travel, Ajala travel

Ajala travel all over the world.

cf6-htlw4aarmf0Familiar yeah? Well maybe not to some of you the Wizkid, Davido generation but If you grew up in Nigeria with my type of parents who try to imbibe more of the world they grew up in, in my brother and me, you would definitely know the song. Enough of the preamble lets go into this historical post already.

THE MAN

Born Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, our protagonist was one of 25 children. Yes, you heard right. Yes his father had four wives….what a man. Legend. He had is schooling at the Baptist Academy, Lagos and Ibadan boys’ High school. At the age of 18 he went to America to further his education. Ajala had this dream of becoming a Doctor and was in fact the first black student to be inducted into the Delta Upsilon Pi “fratority” at the De Paul University in Chicago in the year 1952. In his own words, he wanted to return to Africa as a Doctor to “wage war on voodoo and other superstitions”. *sigh* I feel you my man!

Europe had famous Explorers like Christopher Columbus, We had Olabisi Ajala. In the year 1952 he commenced on a lecture tour across the United states, from Chicago to Los Angeles, get this, ON A BICYCLE!!! What a man! Starting on the 12th of June 1952, he arrived in Los Angeles on the 10th of July, 1952 ahead of his 30 day schedule and was received by the city mayor Fletcher Bowron . He might have even arrived earlier though but he narrated an incident in Topeka, Kansas where he was jailed for 44hours after the white YWMA refused him a room and called the police when he protested. This was a time when America was still divided with segregation at the fore point.

I asked myself what was the purpose of the travel tour and further reading/research enlightened me that Ajala was a psychology junior at the Roosevelt College in Chicago and the goal of the tour was to educate the American public on the progress made but his native country, Nigeria. He did this tour wearing what was described as “Elaborately flowered robes with a felt-likr head dresses to match” but You and I can simply call this Agbada (of probably the Ankara Variety) and Fila. According to Ajala he did this to “….show and prove to Americans that we do not go about nakedly in loin clothes”

However, Ajala was deported from the United States on account of Forgery and he was flown to England after his original application to be deported to Canada was denied. He however returned to the USA but this was the beginning of his global travel.

11
Olabisi Ajala and his famous scooter. See closely the insription telling us some of the countries he’s been in with the scooter!

GLOBAL TRAVEL

He visited nations like Russia(then USSR), Jordan, Israel, Iran, Australia for the most part using nothing but a motor scooter, popularly called Vespa. He met with popular political figures and leaders like Abubakar Tafawa Balewa(Nigeria’s First prime minister), Marshal Ayub Khan of Pakistan, Golda Meir of Israel(First female prime minister of the nation). Ajala actually released a book documenting his travels titled “An African Abroad”. In all Ajala visited about 85 countries in 6 years and met with people in the corridors of power.

Read from Ajala in his own words:

 “From America I went to Canada (where I spent a couple of years) and later on to Britain. In 1957 I began my one-man Odyssey around the world. It is still going on as I write this in Sydney, Australia. In nearly all the eighty-seven countries I have visited during the course of my six-year jaunt around the world (ranging from North America to Eastern and Western Europe, through Africa and Asia and as far east as Korea, Indonesia and Australia), I have observed many different political regimes both in democratic and communist states. I have met with brutality and racial intolerance. I have felt the bitter evil of man’s inhumanity to man, and have marbled at the goodness of the humane-hearted”

He was not without his own demons though, A Chicago Nurse once filed a suit against him when she claimed He refused paternity of her child. He asked the lady to submit the child to a paternity test even after she claimed he signed the birth certificate. According to Ajala “I think it is a trick”. However when the lady was ready to submit to paternity tests, Ajala was nowhere to be found and the court eventually ruled against him.

The irony of this glorious tale about Ajala is, despite having tasted wealth and fame, walked in the corridors of power, he died a very poor man on the 2nd of February, 1999. What a sad end to a magnificent tale.

Ajala rapidly became an household name used to refer to a person who travels a lot. The name was immortalized like I stated earlier by Ebenezer Obey in one of his songs. If you were a person whose work required you to travel a lot, you’d probably be referred to as “Ajala Travel”.

WHY AJALA TALES

There you have it boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen! The story behind the name “Ajala Tales”. Okay barring the epic sad ending, you get the idea that this blog has been created to document travel and stories across Nigeria and Africa at large. I am tired of switching my TV to CNN and the Western Media projecting Africans as people who live on trees and mud houses. You have these media outlets referring to Africa as “War Torn”. The fact that there is political unrest, civil war in an African country doesn’t mean that the entire continent is War Torn. We are a people of diverse culture and traditions. We have wonderful 21st century compliant cities, beautiful tourist attractions and ultimately wonderful, warm people.

Africa is not a country. Repeat after me. AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY.

I really wish the government of Nigeria could have done more to honour this wonderful man Olabisi Ajala who, despite his troubles and personal demons, took it upon himself to project the Image of the African continent, especially the Nigerian way of life. So long explorer! You inspired me

I want to thank www.abiyamo.com for making it so easy to get all the information I needed for this tale but below are some of the references

  1. Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad (Jarrolds, London, 1963)
  2. Moshood Olabisi Ajala, People Profile, Jet, 7th August, 1952
  3. African Cyclist Near End Of Cross Country Tour, Jet, 17th July 1952
  4. James Olney, Tell Me Africa: An Approach to African Literature, Page 47
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