Ajayi Jegede Nigeria
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Cowries

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The story of the cowry is a unique success story. Cowries are white or yellow porcelain-like shells, between 1 and 3 cm long, first collected on the Maldives, later also in the Philipines and Tonga. Cowries were used in ancient China from 1500BC to 200AD as a form of money. Arab traders carried the shells from India back to their homecountries and to West Africa. By the 19th century, cowries had developed into kind of a 'key currency' over an astonishingly large area from Polynesia to Mauritania approximately 20,000km apart.*

*source: René Sedillot: Muscheln, Münzen und Papier

The earliest recorded history of the Ajayi Jegede Family dates back to the mid 18th century at the time of the reign of Atewogbuwa the 43rd Awujale Of Ijebu. The family name over the years has changed with succeeding generations. Many of these names are yet to be fully searched but it is well known that Adesanya was the father of Adeduja who had three sons: Onokanren Bello, Ajayi and Olufowobi. Ajayi was nick-named Jegede and by prolonged usage the name had become compounded to Ajayi-Jegede.

Ajayi Jegede like his contemporaries in those days was a trader with wide business interest which included a custom union which insulated the British on the coast in Lagos from the hinterland of Souther Nigeria. Though based in Ita 'Ntebo, he established a forward base in Sagamu where he was to extend his family link to the Delo-Dosunmu Family of Remo through Efunleye. He had eight other wives based in Ijebu-Ode, most of whom came from outside Ijebu Kingdom. For example, Gbotifa and Oja came from Ado-Ekiti, Barikisi from Ilorin, Adetoun from Ofa, Morinatu a tapa.

Ajayi Jegede was a successful businessman and abundantly blessed with great wealth. His trade missions to Lagos convinced him of the importance of education and he was determined to educate all his male children even if it meant conceeding a change in their religious upbringing. Of the 14 foundation students of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School in 1913, he had four sons enrolled, namely, Yedun ( Father of Jide Ajayi), E.T.K. (Father of Femi and Funsho Ajayi), E.S. Ajayi and J.L. Ajayi.

Needless to say, not less than 10 of his sons, at one time or another, attended Ijebu-Ode Grammar School. By the time of his demise on the 12th April, 1912, he had become so wealthy and was one of the few who first were so privileged, to bring into Sagamu and spend the first British coins, hence the nick-name "Ajayi-Jegede, Olowo Sile"

He left behind a formidable family group who, though originally born Moslems, subsequently converted to Christianity with the exception of three children. They were however all brought up as if they were born of one mother and nurtured in the spirit of togetherness. They ate always from the same pot, they sometime had group baths and it as a sin for a wife to selectively pamper her own child to the exclusion of other children. No child ever was to call his elder by name- no matter how close by birth nor blessed with wealth, position or power. To this day, the tradition persists. But the greatest heritage of the Ajayi-Jegede Family is the fostering of a sense of oneness.

Olori Ebi

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