The Story of Olabisi Ajala, The Popular Nigerian Traveller Who Toured The World On A Vespa
Mashood Olabisi Ajala(1929- 1999) Actor, Playboy & Globetrotter. He was the first (and perhaps the only) Nigerian/African to ride around the world on a moped
Ajala was born in Ghana and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. At 18, he sailed for the USA arriving in New York City in August 1948. Ajala had little money to live on, but earned a Lutheran scholarship with which he studied at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois then later at Roosevelt University in Chicago and Columbia University in NY.
He supported himself with odd jobs; even as a Hollywood film extra. In the 1953 film ‘White Witch Doctor’, he was cast alongside Robert Mitchum, recommended for the part by his actor friend Ronald Reagan). He was deported from the US after an angry girlfriend reported that his visa had expired. By 1957, he had found his way to England from where he bought a Lambretta Li and set-off on a six-year journey through 87 countries.
Ajala’s accounts of his travels and his activity travel a free-lance journalist brought him fame at home, and he became known as ‘Ajala Traveled All Over The World’ which Ebenezer Obey famously sang about.
His remarkable story includes many meetings with the world leaders of the time. Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev apparently ensured him a visa to ride from Berlin to Moscow. He rode across the Middle East and Egypt where he interviewed President Nasser before heading in to Israel to meet Prime Minister Golda Meir.
Then onward to Iran meeting the Shah, then to India meeting Pandit Nehru. His travels through much of Asia involved meetings with Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia and Chiang Kai-Chek in Taiwan.
He wrote of the racism he encountered among Hindu’s, and of Australia where he found democracy and equal treatment for all, except Aborigines. Additionally Ajala was a known notorious philanderer but we have to write about that in a separate post – Ajala died in penury in Lagos in 1999.