Pa Stephen Bolaji alias Baba Jeje, son of Ologori Aliu Eminefo II, was
born in 1910.
Youth And Sojourn
Prince Stephen Bolaji went to the 2nd World War and campaigned in the Second World War in Italy as a driver. Little was known about him until returned back home to Ogori in 1963 from Chad Republic, where he finally sojourned for many years after the war. He was widely traveled as his profession and interests took him to countries such as Italy, Egypt, Cameroon, Morocco, the two Congos and many of West African countries. As a result, he was multilingual and became one of the very few Ogori people who were skillful in foreign international languages. The international languages he spoke were Latin, Arabic, French and English; while he also spoke Nigerial regional languages: Hausa, Yoruba, igbirra and Edo; and his original first language: Ọ̀kọ́, which he recovered later, as it were. He was stoutly built with amazing strength even till his old age.
He married a Chadian lady with whom he raise 2 kids Benjamine Olu Bolaji and his sister. But as the the Ogori anthem goes, “K' ebeben, k'unini, I shall never forget my home, Ogori a yo Eko eke wura”, he had to return home.
Although it might not have been his intention to separate from his wife and daughter, he was comforted by the joy of reuniting with his family back home; and he received a rousing welcome at his arrival to the Eminefo palace. To the people at home, it was a joyous occasion. He later married again: a young beautiful lady (Remi) who bore him Iyadun (female).
Baba jeje was one of the pioneers of public transport business in the Ogori. When he first arrived back home, he joined business with ‘Area' the first transporter in Ogori. The first car Baba Jeje drove, conveying passengers between Ogori and Okene, was called Ok 4 - an inscription written on the door. It was a Morris minor. That was 1964. While the Area sounded the horn of his Austin “bolekaja” vehicle, which motivate children's chant of “Area Motor”, Pa Bolaji’s own horning was greeted with “Baba jeje”, meaning “take life easy/ drive with care”, which seemed to be his philosophy. But what really earned him that name was the gentle and extra care he took in conducting his driving business. He drove his vehicle meticulously, on a slow speed, avoiding every pothole on the way. He moved clear off the way for any on-coming vehicle. He was in no hurry to get to Ibillo or Okene. If his speed didn't please any of his passengers, he was ready to refund his/her money and couldn't be frustrated into any race, speed or argument. Nevertheless, he addressed his passengers politely in his soft-spoken voice, and with a great sense of humour. Out of his hard work, he acquired his own commercial vehicle later.
Baba jeje was also a man of amazing experience. The wisdom in his discussion when he relaxed in his easy chair at the close of the day's business was astounding. With his blue transistor by his side broadcasting either in Yoruba French or English, Baba jeje would narrate stories about his journeys around the subcontinent, or comment on any news items relating to those places of his sojourn, while his mini, copper colour or brass kerosene stove boiled water for tea. His last appointment while he was abroad was the driver of the President of Chad Republic.
Baba jeje was very close to his brother Babalola Aliyu (a.k.a Babalokoja). He lodged in Alate's house initially when he first arrived at Ogori, but later moved to Babalokoja's house. And when he also moved to Okene, he settled in one of the rooms in the white house at Lafia Street, where Babalokoja also resided. He eventually moved with him Opposite the Hospital where he lived for many years before finally moving to Iruvicheba.
His fame spread from Ogori/Magongo to Ebiraland where he worked. He became ill after receiving an injection for a minor illness. It was believed that the injection he received caused him to become inactive and he died a few months later, in November 11, 1979 in Ogori. Incidentally the date he died was a significant date in the history of the World War 2. It was not a surprise because he took part in the war actively, and today he deserves to be honoured as one of the WW2 Veterans.
Pa Stephen Bolaji was a noble man whose memory will linger in the life time of his acquaintances. As Ubuoro, Olu Professor Akerejola rightly observes,“Babajeje was a Prince per Excellence who I pray to emulate into old age. But who can be so Jeje?”