Meet Alajo Somolu, The Most Famous Nigerian Thrift Collector

Late Pa Alphaeus Taiwo Olunaike, popularly known as Alajo Somolu was the most famous Nigerian Thrift collector, that his story and reputation made it into Yoruba literary genre and music.

Daily thrift collection is a special kind of micro finance banking business practised by communal people that requires integrity and trust to succeed.

He was born a triplet, but in the ancient yoruba land, triplets are considered to bring bad luck so the first from the three was taken and buried alive while the second died as an infant leaving only Taiwo behind.

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.

During this period, there were no computers or calculators, But Taiwo had accuracy in all his dealings with his customers without any reference to any document.

Alajo Shomolu was an honest man who came to understand the needs of small time traders so he began his operation in the Somolu area of Lagos, hence the nickname Alajo Somolu. It was the precursor of micro banking in the country. Small markets were thriving but also needed banking services, receiving little or no attention from commercial banks. The thrift services took a fixed amount of money from market women and men every day, and paid back in lump sums to them at the end of the month, the commission is less one day’s contribution and this served as earning for his services. It also afforded contributors to get loans for their business without any collateral.

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