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Paul Olayiwola Ajao: Another Unsung Nigerian Documentary, Filmmaker

By Olutayo Irantiola

The journey of life might not be as smooth as desired but the intrinsic value attached to life always glow when one contributes his meaningful quota to humanity. The late Pa Paul Olayiwola Ajao is one of the unsung heroes in the evolution of the Nigerian documentaries and film making community. His life cannot be forgotten most especially by those that he made contact with during his earthly sojourn within corporate and social Nigeria. He was an exemplary gentleman that you cannot measure his worth from his face but he was indeed a great man.

Pa Ajao, born in the ancient town of Ogbomoso in 1942, had his fair share of the nomadic lifestyle of his generation. He started his academic pursuit at the native authority, Iseyin, a pastoral town in Oyo State, from where he proceeded to the Ibadan City Academy, Ibadan, still in the same state before he joined the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture. Thereafter, he studied at the renowned Overseas Film and Television Centre in London, United Kingdom.

The fair and handsome young Paul started out as a Clerk and Studio Assistant in the Federal Film Unit till he rose steadily through the ranks to become the Chief Film Editor at the Nigerian Film Corporation, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. He was a dutiful employee of the Federal Government of Nigeria across the different touch points both in Lagos and Plateau States.

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The onus of parenting fell on the soft-spoken Paul early in life. As testified by his siblings, he took up the fatherly responsibility when his father, Fredrick Ladipo Ajao passed on. This, in fact, made him marry late. Stories were told about his generosity to his siblings, he shared his earnings with them and he would gladly manage himself throughout the month.

When he eventually got married to his beloved wife, Mrs Abiola Ajao, it was recounted that he gave up many luxuries enjoyed by his contemporaries so that the family can have the necessities which helped him in raising three successful boys, who are now professionals in their own right, despite the demand of his job.

One of the friends of the humorous six-foot tall Ajao retold a tale in which they had nicknames based on the meal they loved best- one was Alhaji Fufu while the late Ajao was being called Alhaji Moin-moin. They were always referring to one another, as such, till he passed on. There were a lot of encomiums showered on Olayiwola Ajao when he passed on because he was loyal to all his kith and kin.

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Having worked in assiduously in writing of Nigerian stories through documentaries and film; it is rather unfortunate that many of the works he did in his active years in the civil service were not kept for posterity. This is the bane of the distorted stories in Nigeria. Having edited more than 50 documentaries and feature films, his works should not have gone down the drain in the annals of film making within Nigeria.

Findings revealed that the late Ajao edited feature films such include Aiye by Herbert Ogunade, the father of filmmaking in Nigeria, Kulba Na Barna (Hausa) by Brendan Shehu; Omiran (Yoruba); The Great Attempt. Other documentary films of national importance that he worked on were- The making of a Policeman; Labour Create Wealth; 100 years of civilization in Egbaland; this is Nigeria. The list of documentaries are Statute in Nigeria; National Agricultural Land Development Agency; FESTAC 77; Nigeria at a Glance; Come Sun, Come Rain; Transition to democracy; Welcome to Nigeria to mention a few.

In an attempt to review his works, it was discovered that many of this works which were previously in Celluloid were not converted to other formats. Howbeit, he did not have the opportunity to keep these records because they were the proverbial horn of the King that the person who steals it would not be courageous to blow it anywhere. These great works have been thrashed. The rhetorical question begging for answer is, “How can we thrash our history?” Until, we get to the point of valuing our national archival materials, like these, before we will be able to project accurately into the future.

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This great man and many more dedicated nationals might not have been celebrated in the annals of documentary and film making in Nigeria but they did their very best to create great historical materials that, even from the titles, are topical and of national importance. Nigeria needs to evolve to the point of archiving works in various format in other to educate, entertainment and benchmark our evolution in all spheres of human endeavours over the years.

Olutayo Irantiola is a PR Specialist, Atọ́kùn, Yorùbá Lákọ̀tun, Creative Writer, Reviewer, Translator and Cultural Advocate. Some of his writings are available on www.peodavies.com

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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