Alajo Somolu, The Story of The Folkloric Popular Intelligent Thrift Collector
“Ori mi pe bi alajo somolu eh.”
This is a line from Nigerian singer and songwriter, Brymo’s song “Alajo Somolu”. It is not without precedence. Alajo (thrift collector) Somolu was the name of a thrift business owned and run by Late Pa. Alphaeus Taiwo Olunaike since 1954. Alajo Somolu, as he was popularly called, was popular for his business acumen and tenacity in thrift collection. Because his name was linked to many wise sayings and anecdotes, many believed he was a myth or legend. However, the man behind the legend was alive to witness Nigeria’s 50th celebration of independence.
About Pa. Taiwo Alphaeus
The man of the legend was born a triplet. In ancient Yoruba land, triplets were seen as a taboo because they were believed to bring bad luck to the land. Therefore, the first of the three children was taken away and buried alive. The second of the remaining two, Kehinde, died at infancy leaving just Taiwo. He went on to live for 97 years and breathed his last on August 11, 2012 at his famed Shomolu residence in Lagos. He was buried on September 22, at the Church of Nigeria Cathedral, Isonyin, Ijebu in Ogun State.In the year 1927, he arrived Lagos, was enrolled at the St. Johns School, Aroloya, and later on, the Christ Church Cathedral School, Lagos, where he finished in 1934. Two years later, he was enrolled as an apprentice under a tailor named Rojaye. He got his ‘freedom’ after working as an apprentice for nine years. Subsequently, he followed his uncle on a commercial trip to Cameroon in 1950. There, he tried his hands on various tasks and ventures in Cameroon.
He later learnt about Ajo gbigba (thrift collection), from a Cameroonian neighbour and returned to Nigeria, in 1954, determined to start his own thrift collection business — Popular Daily Alajo Somolu.
Taiwo practised his trade at a period when there was no calculator nor computer to aid his calculations yet he could tell his clients exactly what their balance was without any reference to any documents. This is testament to a high mental acuity and, as many claim, a photographic memory.