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[MUST READ] Alajọ Ṣomolu: Nigeria’s Legendary Thrift Collector Who Lived For Almost A Century

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Before the advent of unicorn fintech and banks, people entrusted their savings with thrift collectors. One of them stood out in Lagos and the areas that now constitute the South West of Nigeria: Taiwo Olunaike Alphaeus.

But that name may not ring a bell until one says “Alajọ Ṣomolu”, literally meaning the thrift collector of Ṣomolu.

He had no computer knowledge, not to talk of using a balance sheet or running an excel file, but he was good with counting and keeping money.

His fame embodies honesty, faithfulness, and the true Nigerian spirit of industry.

This explains why his name was likened to success and smartness in the track “Alajọ Ṣomolu” by Afrobeat singer, Olawale Ashimi, popularly known as Brymo.

Born on September 16, 1915, in Isonyin, a small town eight kilometers from Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State, Alphaeus, also called Sir Alphaeus, was one of the surviving duo of a triplet birth at a time multiple births was a taboo because it was believed to bring misfortune to the land.

One of the triplets was sacrificed to the gods and another died at infancy. Their father too died three years after their birth.

Baby Taiwo’s close shave with infanticide was rewarded with longevity as he lived for 96 years. Born a year after Britain amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria, he witnessed the country’s independence 45 years later and the 50th anniversary of independence in 2010.

If his name is mistaken as a myth or legend, that is because he is linked to many wise sayings and anecdotes.

Tailor turned thrift collector

At 12, Sir Alphaeus moved to Lagos in 1927 where he was first enrolled at St. John’s School, Aroloya, and then at Christ Church Cathedral School, where he took his first school leaving certificate in 1934.

Two years later in 1936, he took up an apprenticeship role under a neighbourhood tailor named Rojaye. He would spend nine years under Rojaye’s tutelage.

In 1950, he followed his uncle on a commercial trip to Cameroon. There, he learnt the ropes of thrift collection from a Cameroonian neighbour.

The special kind of microfinance banking Sir Alphaeus came to be popular for is an agelong practice in many Nigerian communities and marketplaces where clients contribute daily, weekly or monthly predetermined amounts to a thrift collector. The collector takes the first contribution as their own fee. The business is called ajọ in Yoruba, esusu in Igbo and akawo/adashe in Hausa.

After four years in Cameroon, Sir Alphaeus was ready to take his trade back home to Nigeria. He returned to Lagos to start his own thrift collection business called the Popular Daily Alajọ Ṣomolu. Not only did he safe keep the savings of individuals, he also offered loans to those he considered had proven integrity.

Photographic memory

But it was not just for his business integrity that Alajo Somolu would become legendary. Practicing at a time computer or calculator was unknown, at least in the area, Sir Alphaeus stood out for his mental acuity. He could recall transactions, their dates, and details without reference to any documents.

This unique trait endeared him to people, many of whom marvelled at his gift.

This gave prominence to the aphorism the Yoruba use in extolling the virtues of wisdom and intelligence in a person; “Ori ẹ pe bii ti Alajọ Ṣomolu, to fodidi ọọdun meta gbajo lai ko oruko ẹni kankan silẹ, ti ko si ṣowo san fenikeni” (meaning: you are as intelligent as Alajọ Ṣomolu, who collected thrift for three years, without writing down a single name, and never made a single mistake in paying back his customers)!

At first, clients approached him with skepticism, but all that soon changed after many testaments of his photographic memory gained traction. Those who dared argue with his impeccable off-the-cuff recollection of statistical details were awestruck when he opened his logbook.

He was a moving bank, ATM booth, chequebook — all in one. His brain worked like a cloud.

Trust and integrity are the capital for the business he ran, and Sir Alphaeus was integrity personified. This attracted many clients to him who trusted, loved, and respected him, making his boom.

In fact, legends suggested that not only did Sir Alphaeus pay back contributors the exact amount they were due, he also paid them back in the exact notes and coins they contributed.

They were mesmerized by this and he became the number one mobile banking choice for many traders in Sangross, Mile 12, Baba Olosha, Ojuwoye, Awolowo, Oyingbo, Olaleye, and Shomolu markets, all in Lagos.

At a time, after one of his cars showed signs of wearing out and was no longer cost-effective for his thrift collection trips, he sold off the car and bought a Raleigh bicycle. The bicycle gave him farther reach to areas that were hitherto inaccessible.

This again won him another star in the heart of people as they read that to mean he was an economically savvy businessman. That act passed as a further advertisement for his business.

Retired Not Tired

Even as he aged, his love for his trade and the trust people had in him did not wane. He continued with the business until 2010 when he was 95 years old.

Even after his children pressured him to retire, people continued to throng his house to deposit their daily contributions. This time he no longer went to them, they came to him. He had earned their trust.

As he served his clients so he did his God. He was the lay reader and treasurer for 30 years at the Ṣomolu Anglican Church he attended.

Though he lived a spartan life, he was well-to-do in his own right. He built his first house at No 10, Odunukan Street in Ijesa, and later sold it to the Deeper Life Ministry. He built another house at Olorunkemi, Owotutu Area, Bariga, Lagos.

Sir Alphaeus House built in Bariga, Lagos State.
There, he lived his last days. He died August 11, 2012, and was buried a month later at the Church of Nigeria Cathedral, Isonyin, Ijebu in Ogun State.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Temitope Onigbinde

    November 22, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Legend!!!

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BIG STORY

UK Imposes Travel Restrictions On Six African Countries As New COVID-19 Variant Emerges

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The UK government has imposed temporary travel restrictions on six African countries following the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa.

A new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.1.529, was discovered in South Africa three days ago and 59 cases have been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana.

Although the variant is yet to be detected in the UK, it has gone ahead to announce that travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini, will not be allowed into their shores from 12:00 GMT Friday (1 p.m. Nigerian time).

According to Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, “the UK Health Security Agency is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.”

“From noon tomorrow, November 26, six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.”

Experts have said that the B.1.1.529 variant could be the most lethal and worrying yet. This is because of its “awful spike mutation profile”, which scientists fear could help it evade immunity. Early reports suggest it is capable of reducing vaccine efficiency to just 30 percent.

“The first indications we have of this variant are that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and that the vaccines we currently have may be less effective,” Mr Javid said.

According to him, British scientists are “very concerned” by this variant.

“We will ask anyone arriving from these countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels,” Mr Javid said, adding that those arriving before that date will have to self-isolate and do two PCR tests on the second and eighth day of their confinement.

“And if someone has arrived from these countries in the last ten days, we will ask them to do PCR tests,” he added.

The WHO will hold a special meeting following the emergence of this new variant.

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Chidinma Sold Ataga’s Laptop To Me For N495,000 —– Computer Village Businessman

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A businessman, Mr Ifeoluwa Oluwo, has narrated how the laptop of the murdered Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, Michael Ataga, was sold to him for N495,000 by Chidinma Ojukwu two days after Ataga’s body was found.

Chidinma, a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, was accused of killing Ataga.

The undergraduate and two others, Adedapo Quadri and Chioma Egbuchu, are undergoing trial before Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the Lagos State High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos State.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday, Oluwo, the third prosecution witness, was led in evidence by the Lagos State prosecuting counsel, Mr Yusuf Sule.

Oluwo said he sells phones, laptops, and accessories at Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, and has been in the business for five years.

According to him, after seeing Chidinma on social media after the sale of the laptop, he immediately ensured that all her documents were kept handy.

The witness identified Chidinma as a customer who had purchased a phone on April 30 and also sold a laptop on June 18, at the same office.

Oluwo said, “On June 18, Chidinma sold me a MacBook Pro laptop for N495,000 after negotiations and market value comparison. In order to make a sale, you have to submit some documents and fill a form with your government identification card, driving license, international passport, voters’ card, and National Identification Number.

“You also have to fill a form which includes email, phone number, house address, and full name. It will also contain the full value of the item for that day, the name of the item, and the serial number of the item.

“This is what we do to contact a customer if there are any issues.

“I asked Chidinma to unlock the laptop and she did. So, I conducted my internal observation which included speed performance, the circle count of the battery, and general functionality.

“After that, I proceeded to ask questions, ‘Do you have a receipt for this laptop?’

“She stated that it was a gift from her boyfriend and that she had two laptops and needed to sell one to pay some bills.

“I conducted a check on a website for my market evaluation. I confirmed the value of the laptop. It was $1,000 to $1,200. The exchange rate of dollars at that time was N400 to N450 and she wanted to sell for N600,000. We were able to negotiate for N495,000, which I initiated from my UBA bank account to her Sterling bank account.”

When asked if Chidinma had produced the receipt of the laptop, Oluwo stated that she was not able to provide the receipt as she had insisted that it was a gift from her boyfriend.

“After the sale of the laptop, we saw her face on social media regarding a murder case. A few days later, the police from the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, invited my manager, Olutayo Abayomi.

“When I got to the police station, I discovered that it was in connection to the laptop we bought from Chidinma on June 18.

“We both made a statement detailing how we came about the laptop and how we made the purchase.

“We gave the police the documents of the former owner, which included a copy of her voters’ card, a copy of our form, and all receipts which already have her information regarding the laptop.

“There is no way we can detect that a phone or laptop was a stolen one,” Oluwo said.

During cross-examination, Chidinma’s counsel, Onwuka Egbu, asked if he was shown any documents, receipts, or proof of ownership to show that the laptop was not for the first defendant at Panti but the witness said he was not shown any.

Justice Adesanya adjourned the case till November 29, for the continuation of trial.

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New COVID Variant Of ‘Serious Concern’ Detected In South Africa

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A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa.

The variant, B.1.1.529, is said to have a high number of mutations, which may be a source of concern in relation to immunity and transmissibility.

Confirming the discovery in a statement on Thursday, the NICD said 22 positive cases of the new variant have so far been detected in the country.

“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, confirms that through collaborative efforts with private laboratories and the NGS-SA members, a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa,” the statement reads.

“Twenty-two positive cases of variant B.1.1.529 have been recorded in the country following genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories. In addition, other NGS-SA laboratories are confirming more cases as sequencing results come out.”

According to the statement, Adrian Puren, NICD acting executive director, said it is “not surprising” that a new variant has been detected in South Africa.

“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date,” Puren said.

The institute said Joe Phaahla, the country’s health minister, confirmed that the new variant has also been detected in Botswana and in Hong Kong.

He said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”.

Michelle Groome, head of the division of public health surveillance and response at the NICD, also said provincial health authorities remain on high alert and are prioritizing the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples.

“This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well-ventilated spaces. Individual compliance to preventative measures can have a great collective impact in limiting the spread of the new variant,” she added.

As of September 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had identified five COVID variants — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Mu.

While it is not unexpected that there will be more variants of the coronavirus, prior to the detection of the B.1.1. 529, the Delta variant had been linked to a high infection rate.

The Delta COVID variant was confirmed in Nigeria in July 2021, and is currently the most dominant strain in the country.

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