The life and times of Olabisi Ajala, the traveller (1)

Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, popularly known as Ajala the traveller in his heydays, 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, most especially Nigerians, do not walk about naked or covered in leaves and loincloths.


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 a 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 with several television appearances in impeccable African traditional attires. He was attractive, handsome and charismatic and he became an instant attraction to 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, 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 disappear 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 encouraged Oladipupo to come to Nigeria and take part in the upcoming cultural fiesta, named “Festac 1977.”

The year 1953 was like a festering sore, for Olabisi Ajala. He was arrested on 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 deported 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 be deported.

He protested on the tower for about 24 hours, turning deaf ears, to the pleas of the immigration authority and passers-by. He eventually caved into 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 in August 1955 on charges of being an adulterer and a philanderer.

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 around the world with a motorcycle scooter Vesper.

To be continued…


Article was written by Hon. Barr. Femi Kehinde, former member, House of Representatives, National assembly.

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