In the words of beautiful and brainy Nollywood actress, screen writer and producer, Ruth Kadiri ‘Growing up in Ajegunle helped me’.
Oritse Femi, the double wahala star says ‘I actually grew up in Tolu which is one of the worse areas to live in Ajegunle. I experienced all types of miserable lifestyles, but I survived them all. Today, I am a role model to a lot of the Ajegunle youths. I used to counsel them that if I could make it, they too, can make’.
Rags to Riches Story – How Don Jazzy was Selling Akara in Ajegunle. Many do not believe, but the popular music producer Don Jazzy, has confirmed it personally that it is indeed a miracle to him today that he lives in a mansion, drives one of the most expensive cars around and is now a force to reckon with in the entertainment industry. But how did he get to where he is today?
Daddy Showkey whose original name is John Odafe Asiemo was a very poor kid indeed, he had a rough childhood in what he calls “the roughest neighborhood, the strongest neighborhood, the toughest neighborhood in the world. That is Ajegunle.”
His father died when he was only nine. His hapless mother had to face up to the daunting task of bringing up the five children of the marriage, all boys. Daddy Showkey became a street hustler, selling stolen goods and was once shot for his efforts. The idea that he came from Ajegunle denied him legitimate jobs as all the boys from the neighborhood were looked at with suspicion. He even suffered the indignity of being accused of stealing a dog when he applied to a security company to work as a guard. He was taken to the police station, and when he was told that he had stolen a German shepherd he thoughtt they were accusing him of stealing a white man! He was a street entertainer par excellence, performing all over Ajegunle as an acrobat, a boxer, an actor, as a comic, dancer and then singer. It was against this background of street entertainment that he got the nickname “Show Kid”. He would modify the name to Showkey, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Incidentally most of the Ajegunle stars hail from the Niger Delta axis of Warri and sundry interlocking towns. The Ajegunle-Warri connection is the Nigerian spirit is large especially in the booming comedy business.
Struggling comedians from Ajegunle and sundry slums such as Orile, Amukoko, and Badiya have been mentored by Ali Baba. Obus Bezalee Brodo formed the music-and-comedy group known as DC Envoys, a group that wowed crowds from Ajegunle to Warri. The legacy of Warri and Ajegunle is extended by the likes of Rymzo and Gzay. Just as musicians and comedians from Ajegunle dominate the scene, star footballers are daily being minted from the slum.
Celebrated national team players such as central defender Taribo West and striker Samson Siasia were born and bred in Ajegunle. Taribo West started life as a local roughneck in Ajegunle, being a member of the shanty gangs. He narrowly missed death before his skills in the beautiful game of football attracted the attention of soccer scouts. Samson Siasia stepped out of Ajegunle to be a schoolboy international soccer player. Many wannabes are coming up fast to dominate the world stage. The young Simon Okwori from Benue State and Nimikini Mackintosh were masters of Ajegunle street soccer. Okwori was one of the twelve children of a retired soldier living in a one room home in Ajegunle. Mackintosh’s parents having moved back to their native Bayelsa State, left the boy behind to fend for himself by sleeping with friends.
The two young footballers found a measure of fulfillment in the “Search and Groom” street soccer initiative of FIFA.
The young achievers in the field of music are the Dixon Twins, Anthony and Andrew of the Mamuzee singing group. Their father officially had 10 wives and nine concubines, with their mother ranking as ninth in the official wives’ list!
Ajegunle boasts of its resident philosopher in the poet, musician and activist Aj Dagga Tolar. By way of explanation, the “Aj” before Dagga Tolar stands for Ajegunle! Dagga Tolar is tall, wears dreadlocks and is gap-toothed. His tiny shack of a room is crammed full with books and CDs. He accommodates several artiste types of Ajegunle in his digs. A big poster of Tupac Shakur, the murdered American rapper, dominates the blue wall. He writes committed poetry and became elected the chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Lagos Branch. “Ajegunle has become a metaphor for the entirety of the Nigerian nation,” says the angry Dagga Tolar. “It is in this part of the country that you meet the poor of the poorest, and we try to survive day in and day out.” His poetry as well as his singing is primed on protest against a “system that supplies no light, no water, and no infrastructure for the teeming masses” he loves so much.