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, had 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 stranglehold 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
Decent bara ni”
Ajala felt highly embarrassed, insulted and defamed by the “fine bara” album and also saw it as huge damage to his integrity. Fine Bara, suddenly became his nickname. The innuendo was striking and direct. Ajala had to go to court to sue 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 integrity. In this follow up album, Ayinde Barrister sang-
“Bisi Ebony mi … Ajala …
Advertisment pelu publicity
Ebony, eyin lee ni
Image-making f’ awon upcoming 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 the 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 dining table, an old black and white television 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-bedroom flat showed sign of old age, it is indeed a story of penury”
Ajala suffered a 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 smile on you, they must be held with a hand of steel and never allowed to slip off. Ajala perhaps returned the smile with an unwelcoming and uncaring man, 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 a 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 bugling and befuddling that Olabisi Ajala did not leave behind a single house in his 65 years, and thus the exit of 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.
Article was written by Hon. Barr. Femi Kehinde, former member, House of Representatives, National Assembly.