BY AKINSETAN AKINRELE
Circa 2016, at the height of Nigeria’s economic recession, the fairy rise tale of Olajumoke Orisaguna, 30, drew global attention not only for its oddity but more importantly for its originality, thus inspiring and exciting Nigerians.
Dubbed Nigeria’s Cinderella, Olajumoke, who was hawking bread on Olonode Street, Yaba, Lagos, accidentally ran into a photo-shoot famous photographer, TY Bello, was having with British rapper, Tinie Tempah. At the time, Olajumoke cut the picture of an unsuspecting leggy young lady who was just going about her trade at a prime time in the morning.
TY Bello, while harnessing materials for production of an upcoming ThisDay Style issue, compared notes with her friend and colleague, Azuka Ogujiuba, and together, they resolved that Olajumoke’s photo-bombing looked too deliberate to be accidental and could make a breathtaking cover with her story.
Quite unexpectedly, ThisDay Style agreed to experiment with the concept and that was how Olajumoke, a mother of two from Osun who had sought greener pastures in Lagos, waltzed out of obscurity to share the cover of Nigeria’s most respected style magazine with Tempah, a global superstar. And from there her meteoric rise was reported widely in Nigerian media, CNN and BBC Africa.
Furthermore, individuals and corporations scampered to have the hand of the bread seller-turned -model in endorsement deals; she landed contracts with Payporte and Zenith Bakery but her biggest benefactor, Sujimoto, offered Olajumoke’s family a rent-free apartment for five years, plus other incentives.
At the time, Ogundele Sijibomi, CEO of Sujimoto, had spoken of positioning her as an entrepreneur and bakery owner.
He had said: “Olajumoke is like an entrepreneur, she understands commerce, she understands how to add one plus one. She was the one that went to the bakery herself to go and start selling bread and sold from 20 breads, she started selling almost 40 breads a day. It is only an entrepreneurial spirit that can do that. That is why we want to squeeze lemonade from lemon, to find a way that this is your potential, how can we maximize them? No matter how small or big the bakery will be, it’s going to be the bread of hope.”
The Olajumoke miracle was even captured in Reekado Bank’s hit song, Standard, released mid-2016.
The lyrics read in part:
“Omo gutter d’onile
Omo gutter d’olona
E w’omo t’on ta breadi
O ti d’onile ni Banana…”
Banks, who was signed to Mavin Records at the time, essentially sang of how Olajumoke had risen from the gutters to own an estate on Banana Island, the sprawling boulevard of Nigeria’s super rich in Lagos.
But the sad reality is that Olajumoke is yet to own a car let alone a plot of land years after the world drooled over her story.
Three years down the line, the Olajumoke frenzy has all but fizzled out and the mother of two may return to the trenches of bread-hawking unless another miracle happens.
Out of the ton of promises and pledges made to her by those touched by her story, only a few came to fruition. Apart from her now-dormant Youtube vlog, cancelled Africa Magic show, 319,000 Instagram followers, owning a few glamour dresses and designer shoes, there’s not much else the young lady boasts of.
In a conversation with eeLive, Olajumoke’s live-in-lover, Sunday Orisaguna, said life has been incredibly tough and that his lover’s superstar status has been more of an encumbrance than a blessing.
“There’s hardly anything that I can’t do for survival as long as it’s legitimate,” he said.
“Sujimoto has been of tremendous help to us, though he couldn’t help me as he promised. I appreciate that it was him God used to put a roof over our heads.
“Every time I attempt to get a job, I get scorned because they keep seeing the mother of my children as a superstar. Even recently, I asked someone to help me process a vehicle to own on hire purchase so that I can be driving it for commercial purpose. I can work even at car-wash outlets, as long as the job is legitimate, I don’t mind. That’s how bad things are.”
Though they live together and have two kids; Grace, 8 and Semilore, 3, the lovers are not married. Sunday alleged that his family’s efforts to get Olajumoke to consent to either traditional or legal marriage have been abortive.
He said: “My parents had sent words to her mother for about three years now that it was time to formalise our union but Olajumoke has continued to turn down the proposal while insisting that the time isn’t right yet. So, marriage or no marriage is up to her.”
When an eeLive correspondent spoke to Olajumoke at a recent function, she refused to comment on her financial status but admitted that she remains unmarried. Clad in a multi-colour knee-length Ankara gown, Olajumoke said she still has a lot up her sleeves and aspires to live up to her fans’ expectations.
“The world expects more from me,” she said. “That’s why I want to own my house before the expiration of the five-year rent which Sujimoto paid on my apartment at Surulere, Lagos.
“It’s a tastefully furnished apartment and it was Azuka who spoke to her friend, Sujimoto, who later got us the place. She was also the one who spoke to the Payporte CEO who gave me one year contract.”
On why Azuka Ogujiuba stopped managing her and the allegation of rancour between them, she said: “Can you please let us leave that? She’s a very good person to me and I can run to her any time I need her the same way I would always run to TY Bello. My manager is Victoria Nkong and she’s doing a great job.”
She, however, declined to speak on how she has fared under the new management.
Ogujiuba would also not speak on allegations of friction between her and the lady she helped bring to the limelight. In a chat with eeLive, she explained that Olajumoke remains a younger sister to her.
But Olajumoke’s boyfriend, Sunday, said he can’t place his finger on what she has been doing for survival for a little more than two years.
“I think she was better when she was with Azuka because Azuka and TY Bello have great connections that paid Olajumoke more,” he said.
Commenting on the present state of things, he added: “I just know her manager calls her, they go out and return late. Sometimes she returns as late as past 12am and without explanations. She doesn’t even tell me where they go and what happens.
“To be honest with you, I’ve had to be tolerating her rudeness. She talks to me recklessly and I get very upset. There was even a day I threatened to beat her but she called and reported the matter to TY Bello and the husband. They called and admonished me to be patient. I know her attitude to me is this reckless because I’m not rich or have a robust means of income.”
Back at her former place of work, Oluwalogbon Bakery in Yaba, several staff members have an axe to grind with Olajumoke.
Our correspondent was at the bakery to feel the pulse of her former colleagues but what was supposed to be friendly chat became cacophonous as the bakery’s head of operations (olori ebi) spoke bitterly about Olajumoke while other staff who had shared the space with her interjected with damning remarks.
“I don’t even like to talk about that girl. I would rather speak seriously about how I feel if TY Bello, her boss, was here,” olori ebi said.
“This was a girl who walked into this place from Ire (a town in Osun) without a dime. Like many others, she couldn’t even afford to pay for the tray she would hawk with let alone the stock.
“Usually, we give them the tray, N1,700, give them bread, butter and every other thing they need to trade. Olajumoke was here like three years before 2016 when God changed her story. By the time she was returning to the village, she had made so much money that she bought too many things she needed and travelled home.
“We were very happy for her. When we thought she had gone to establish herself back home, she reappeared suddenly but now with a few months’ old girl.
“In fairness to Olajumoke, she was a very hard working young lady and wasn’t going after men. She resumed her job back. Here in this bakery, we all sleep on the mat because nobody lives here. We only assemble here to make ends meet and return home.
“My grouse with her is that immediately she ran into luck, she began to say unkind things about us. She even said that things were so difficult here that she was sleeping on bare floor and had miscarriage of a four-month pregnancy. She was here just once after that February to hand out N5,000 to some of her friends she loves and that has been the last time we heard from her.
“Do you know that some government agencies came to harass us here for money because they said we produced a superstar? They thought she came here to give us money. In all modesty, from here, bankers and other successful professionals have emerged, some are even abroad and none had embarrassed us the way Olajumoke has done.
“We even heard that she was advised not to come near here anymore because she’s now a celebrity. Even when my brother living abroad saw the story, he called to congratulate me and said I had made it. When we give tips of N5,000 to some people during Yuletide, they’d be complaining that it’s too small from a place that produced a celebrity.”
In all of this, survival, constant flow of revenue and starting a business are the primary preoccupation of Olajumoke. In 2019, she hopes to establish a haircare business and when asked if she has the funds to execute the project, she said: “God will provide.”
Her dream is to own a house before 2021 when her Sujimoto-funded rent expires but when asked how she hopes to achieve that, she mumbled again, “God will provide. I trust Him, He never fails me”.