OLAJUMOKE THE BREAD SELLER: HOW TY BELLO STAGE MANAGED THE WHOLE DRAMA AND EVEN LIVES CLOSE TO THE BAKERY

TOFARATI IGE

The Fairy-Tale Everybody likes a story with a happy ending. That explains why the world was instantly enamored and enthralled by the story of Olajumoke Orisagunna, a bread-seller who, some weeks ago, had unwittingly stumbled upon a photo-shoot, featuring UK-based Nigerian rapper, Tinnie Tempah, by celebrity photographer and singer, TY Bello, on the streets of Sabo-Yaba, Lagos. The events that followed that chance meeting are the stuff that million dollar Hollywood movies are made of. Olajumoke has instantly transformed into a celebrity, making the cover-page of ThisDay Style and becoming runway model, even as several companies are queuing up at her doorstep to tap into her luck by making her a brand ambassador. Not only that, pastors and prayer warriors have also been using her as a prayer point.

Of course, we won’t blame them; who wouldn’t want the kind of luck Jumoke has? She indeed exemplifies the Nigerian dream if there’s anything like that or rather the dream of a typical Nigerian who wants longs for sudden wealth and even sows seeds in churches for it. Olajumoke, bread-seller turned model Her story inspires millions in a country where good news is scarce commodity. In a land where success is more dependent on time and chance than on hardwork, Jumoke’s story redefines the benevolence of being at the right place at the right time. Before the breakthrough Jumoke’s story has been told over and over again, but not much is known about her life prior to that fated photo-shoot. That’s why Showtime Celebrity decided to embark on a trip to the bakery where Jumoke used to work at least to get a glimpse of where she’s coming from. Sabo-Yaba is a bustling community of traders and foreign currency dealers mostly populated by people of Hausa extraction. The prevailing fuel scarcity in the nation cast a hue of long queues of cars struggling to buy fuel at the filling station located at the ever busy bus-stop on that wet morning when Showtime Celebrity visited the place. Some traders and students in the area are not familiar with Jumoke’s grass to grace story. In fact, they had blank stares on their faces when Showtime Celebrityinquired from them if they knew of any bakery located around the area where the famous bread-seller turned model, Olajumoke used to work. After walking down the street and asking questions to no avail, an old woman who appeared to have spent ageless years in the area seemed to have a clue.

She pointed down the road, urging this reporter to keep to the right side of the road, while asking other people on the way for directions. Minutes later, a woman who operates a small glass kiosk pointed me to the gate of the bakery which is called Oluwalogbon Bakery. It was established in 2004. The entrance was a small nondescript black gate that was sandwiched between two buildings. The bakery looked like something that was intentionally hidden from the outside world, and which was why even its next-door neighbors had no idea of its existence. However, some young men were relaxing around the gate, and when they were asked if they knew Olajumoke, the face of one of them lit up, as his head nodded in agreement. He signalled this reporter to go inside the bakery and ask their supervisor who he said was in the right position to talk to us. However, strolling into the bakery, one can describe in words, the squalour that greets the eyes; wraps of candies and biscuits littere the place just as humans congregate with hardly any space to breathe. Children below the age of five years were seen playing around, while many girls, some of whom are the mothers of the kids, sit at different corners engrossed in idle chatters. The supervisor, a stout and burly man who is dark in complexion, also admits that he knows Olajumoke, but says that all the workers in the bakery had been instructed by TY Bello, who he referred to as their boss, not to say anything to anybody. After much persuasion to let out some information about Olujumoke’s attitude while she was working with them, he simply muts, “she was calm, friendly.” Were there any signs that she was up for a big break, I ask? He resolutely keeps a sealed lip and prefers to me to TY Bello’s house to get her permission before he could talk.

‘Go to TY Bello’s house which is very close to this place and talk to her. If she accepts that we should talk to you, there’s no problem; we’ll tell you more than what you want to hear,’ he said. The TY Bello question Off I went in search of TY Bello’s house, determined to get a picture of Olajumoke’s persona, and what her colleagues think of her. One was pleasantly surprised to discover that TY’s house is just on the next street to the bakery. As a matter of fact, everybody one asked around the bakery knew TY Bello’s house and they were eager to offer direction to her house. Interestingly, when we finally traced her house, which is a yellow two-storey building, we met her gate man, a young dark Hausa boy, who asked me to call her on the phone before he could take us upstairs to meet her. My phone battery was flat as at that moment, so I opted to write a short note explaining my mission, for him to take to her. He came back some minutes later and informed me that TY Bello wasn’t in the house. I reminded him that he had assured me minutes earlier that she was in, but like a young boy caught with his hand in the cookie’s jar, he rubbed his hand over his head and stated that she must have left the house when he went out. I asked him if he had ever heard of the name Olajumoke, but he replied in the negative.

According to him, he had only been with Bello for about a month, and he didn’t know anyone called Olajumoke. At that point, I had no choice but to return to Oluwalogbon Bakery. I pleaded with the supervisor, who refused to tell me his name, to allow me take a look around the bakery, but he refused. However, he showed me a bungalow within the compound where many of the bread-sellers who don’t have houses of theirs, sleep. Olajumoke was among them before now. From their accents and discussions, it was obvious that many of the bread-sellers recently moved to Lagos. I moved closer to one of them, and she told me that she just started work at the bakery some weeks ago, when she moved down to Lagos from Ibadan. She claimed that she didn’t know Olajumoke, but that her colleagues had told her that one of them had recently become very successful. When I asked her if she believed such fate could also befall her, she laughed excitedly and quipped, ‘Of course.’ Building Dreams One thing that is peculiar about Oluwalogbon Bakery is the fact that it offers many young people the opportunity to work and make a decent living, while offering them accommodation. During my stay at the bakery, I counted nothing less than 20 adults and 10 children. Some of them spread wrappers and lay on the ground outside, apparently to escape the stifling heat inside the building, while others were making their hair, and engaged in other activities.

The camaraderie among them showed that even though they may not be in good financial state, the girls had cultivated friendship, and were living in the bakery like one big, happy family. This point is further buttressed by the fact that Olajumoke had initially left the bakery some years back after a brief working stint before coming back. If she hadn’t had a pleasant time there, she definitely wouldn’t have returned. Luxury Apartment: From Grass to Grace The next port of call was Sujimoto Construction, a company at Milverton Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, which specializes in building luxury flats. It would be recalled that the owner of Sujimoto, Sijibomi Ogundele recently offered Olajumoke a luxury apartment and a scholarship to Poise School. Even though the company refused to show us a picture of the apartment Olajumoke will be moving into, pictures on the company’s website show that it is a world of difference from her former abode. The difference is extreme, and there is no comparison. From sleeping in a room with several other women and babies to having a luxury flat to herself, her husband and two kids, Olajumoke has truly moved from grass to grace.

Source: Vanguard Newspaper

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