Pa Gabriel Ayodele Ajayi
…………Oldest Vendor in Akure
……….. His favourite song
……..Sold newspapers during Civil war
……..Honest and faithful man
As the old man got to the Newspapers’ Distributing/ Agent’s office at Oyemekun Road, Akure to collect his papers for the day’s sales , he firstly glanced through all the newspapers reading the headlines before he packed his own allotted newspapers for sale for the day .
He placed some newspapers on the top bar and others on the handlebars stem of his Raleigh bicycle, mounted it and sat on the saddle , peddling as he rode away . ”He would not return until there is no single paper on his bike ”, one of the Vendors told this reporter on that Monday morning.
That is Pa Gabriel Ayodele Ajayi who has been a newspaper vendor for over 50 years.
His dressing is unique, he wears simple but casual dress with a Bucket Hat on his head to keep him away from the scorching sun. He gets to the Agent’s office as early as 6:30am.
The old man sells for the high and the low in Akure the capital of Ondo State. He knows many streets, many big men in Akure here , and also all the nooks and crannies here too. Speaking with the old man proved a little bit difficult for he was in haste to go out and sell his newspapers. In addition, the man is a man of few words as he managed to respond to this reporter’s questions . Asked when he has been selling newspapers , he responded ” I have been selling newspapers for over 50 years. I sold newspapers during the Nigerian Civil War when the war was hot. I have lived for many years in this town (Akure)”. Asked whether it is true that he was once a photographer , he smiled but did not give an answer. When asked about his family, he declined to answer. Asked the time he would come back from selling his papers, he replied ” when I finished selling ”.
Asked another question again, he refused to answer , as he put on his Bucket’s Hat , he adjusted himself , pushed his bicycle , mounted it and left.
”Although his hearing is partially impaired yet he could understand and get what he want. He is a disciplinarian and does not tolerate nonsense , he time conscious and always the first vendor to come here and pick his newspapers to sale. He goes out early and closes by 3:30pm ”, said a Vendor. Baba celebrated his 75 birthday two years ago, the Vendor added.
One of the vendors at the Distribution Centre said ” this man is popular and known all over Akure here and he sells to the high and the low. I met him doing the job. I believe he has old customers and supplies to individuals”.
HIS BICYCLE & HIS HONEST LIFE
Looking at his Raleigh bicycle one would know that it has seen ages!. Chief Alade Adewale ( a one- time Newspaper Agent ) spoke about the septuagenarian Vendor and his bicycle, he said ” Baba’s bicycle is over 17 years old and he bought it brand new. He used to collect newspapers from me. The man is a mystery . He does not cheat, if he is paid in excess by mistake he would refund the money. Nobody knows about his family ,nobody knows his wife or kid”.
Adewale continued ” the old man is also a photographer , we don’t know much about him but all we know is that he is from Ikogosi. The man is ever neat, always at alert , well kitted , well dressed as he wears apron to show his professionalism”.
The old Vendor’s motto is ” We should look for peace not war ”. His common saying is “Keep Nigeria one is a task to be done ” and this is what he has been shouting when he came , another Vendor stated.
John Kolawole said Pa Ajayi always tell them the stories about the Nigeria’s Civil War , ” he told us about the Civil war of 1966/67 and June 12 1993 and the 1983 Governorship crisis of Ondo State where he went out selling his papers . He would sing Laarin ota ibon, yiyan le mi o yan , (I will march on in the middle of hail of bullets ) .
Tayo Ade a Vendor said ” Baba always sing songs of encouragement and tells us stories of how he used to sell newspapers during the Nigerian Civil War. He is ever neat and straightforward”
Another Vendor said the old man plays with everybody. If he dies today they will call all vendors to come and attend his burial and pay homage to him because he is faithful to the organization , he does not miss any meeting”.
What a hardworking, dutiful and honest Vendor!
This was the last interview conducted with him.
The old man passed on four months ago. He has since been buried in his home town, Ogotun-Ekiti