This article will be like a reminder to my dear readers that were born in the 1980s and those born after then would have listened to the beautiful song composed by our evergreen juju maestro, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi (now an evangelist) about the late famous traveller, journalist and socialite Olabisi Ajala, in his ‘Magnus Opus’ Album, released sometime in the early 1970s entitled, I believe, “Board Members”, where he praised Ajala for having “travelled all over the world”.
Chief Commander Obey Fabiyi while eulogizing Ajala lyrically waxed thus:
You have travelled all over the world
Ajala travelled all over the world
Ajala travelled, Ajala travelled
Ajala travelled all over the world
The Juju crooner’s praise for Ajala was due to his journey around the world, which he was credited for being the first person to travel around the world on a motor scooter.
In a bid to get more information about this great traveller, I serendipitously, came across a book that stated that, then in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) Authoritarian Era, he was the first black person ever seen in a village in that part of the world, this made me wonder about the kind of zeal Ajala had back then.
Born in Ghana, and christened Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, the renowned globe-trotter, socialite and freelance journalist, moved to Nigeria for his education and started his travelling by going to the United States in the 1950’s. He supposedly went to 87 countries in six years and mostly on his bicycle.
In an excerpt from his book, Ajala said:
“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 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 marvelled at the goodness of the humane-hearted”.
One of the (pejorative) expression coined in relation to the adventure of Ajala is “O n bimo kiri bi Ajala.” (meaning He makes babies everywhere like Ajala).
This expression was coined from what is believed to be the result of Mr Ajala’s promiscuous nature everywhere he travelled to. As a rich Yoruba businessman, I heard that ‘Every country he visited he married a wife who bore him a child. All these women never knew of their husband’s past so they willfully loved, married and catered for him. They bore him children because they loved him.
Ajala met his Waterloo in India. His trip to India was to be executed accordingly, but the woman he married in India was too powerful than Ajala and with her witchcraft, she discovered that her husband was a real cheat and she later killed him’.
This story may be true or otherwise but what is believable here is that he did travel around the world and met with leaders of the world. Before his death he wrote a book about his voyage and his perceptions about places he visited, the book was entitled “An African Abroad”, the beginning of Ajala’s book reads:
‘It is quite safe to say the worst and the best about India and Indians. Without being biased or unduly critical, one can identify Indians as appallingly ignorant savages, yet they belong to the most highly cultured and literary societies in the world. One can further describe India as the most hideous and, at the same time, the most colourfully fascinating of countries- in brief, every possible antonym may be used to classify and dissect this part of the world, and none will be far from the truth’. (Page 19, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)
While Ajala was trying to narrate his encounter when he visited india during his sojourn around the world he said……
‘With the exception of the Prime Minister, Jawaharl Nehru(..), most of the Indian people I met(…) were snobbish and intolerant, with detestable and annoying habits. For example, you are startled out of a pleasant sleep at 5 a.m. by the sound of someone who appears to be vomiting and in obvious agony at the wash-basin. You get up, full of sympathy and ready to help, only to find someone cleaning his teeth and cheerfully clearing his throat with the most disgusting sounds’. (Page 20, Olabisi Ajayi, An African Abroad).
Whether we like it or not we cannot ignore the signs Ajala left on the sands of time. One of the reasons Ajala’s name still resonates especially among the Yorubas is that anyone who likes travelling a lot is wittingly regarded as Ajala. This comparison is however used negatively and as such carry in them implicit admonitions to shun the Mr. Ajala’s achievement.
Words by Adebola Solate, extract online.