Ajó vs Esúsú: Which Saving Is Best For You In Nigeria?

“Ori e pé bi alajo Somolu”, is a very common phrase in Lagos Nigeria and many of the people that grew up in this part of the country don’t even know the meaning of this phrase.

Late Pa Alphaeus Taiwo Olunaike, popularly known as Alajo Somolu, was so famous for his ingenuity in thrift collection, he was born as a triplet in 1915 but was the only one who survived after the Yorubas killed the first child due to the tradition and the ‘Kehinde’ died as an infant.

He came to Lagos in 1927 and enrolled in St. Johns School, Aroloya, and later on, the Christ Church Cathedral School, Lagos, where he finished in 1934.

He then enrolled to learn tailoring under a man named Rojaye and got his freedom or rather graduated nine years after.

Not long after, he followed his uncle to Cameron for a business trip. After many ventures into different businesses, Taiwo met his Cameroonian neighbors to learn the Ajo gbigba/ esusu (thrift business).

He now decided to establish it in Nigeria.

When Taiwo started practicing this profession, there was no calculator or computer to help him with his calculations, I mean, it was in the 1950s up till he died in 2012 at 97 years but he was nevertheless able to tell his clients exactly what their balance was without consulting any paperwork.

This proves he had a sharp mind and, as many people say, a photographic memory. His house is based in shomolu and the phrase from the Yoruba crime novel, written by Oladejo Okediji, titled Agbalagba Akan, had its main character Lapade dress himself using the inventiveness of the well-known thrift collector in Shomolu saying:

“Ori mi pè bi Alàjó Sómolu ti ó fi odún meta gbajo lowo egbegberun eniyan lai ko oruko kankan sile, nigba ti o fe sanwo ko si sii owo san fun enikeni.”

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In translation: “Your brain is as sharp as that of Alajo Somolu, who collected thrift for three years and paid back all his customers without writing down a single name and without making a single mistake with the payment.”

He was an honest man and he sold his car to buy a bicycle.

The idea of this business is, he goes to meet small petty traders to make daily contributions to him and he returns it to them either monthly or yearly and his commission is to take just one contribution out of the whole month.

So assuming you sell on a daily basis and pay a sum of 500 naira daily. After 25 days, you have contributed about 12,500 naira at the end of the month.

He removes his commission of about 4-5% of the total money so you roughly have 12,000 naira at the end of the month.

It was so much of a brilliant idea that he collected all Lagos states and was very popular among petty traders.

We can arguably say that he is the pioneer of this brilliant business in Nigeria and we have seen apps like Piggyvest, Opaysave, etc used this idea and modernized it.

A lot of petty traders still have thrift collectors that they pay to. This is a commissioned way of saving money whether it’s through an app or an individual.

Over the years, the human style of thrift collection has suffered some setbacks which make people not trust the system as it were back in the days, like the thrift collector running away or dying or robbers attacking the collector, etc but it’s still a reliable way of saving money.

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Another style of saving money which is also a non-profit style of saving is called Esúsú.

Esusu Savings

This idea is a masterpiece and I’m really eager to know who started it.

It’s a type of savings where a group of people comes together, 8,10,12,5 any amount come together and contributes a certain amount of money which they cumulatively give to a person and at the end of the month, everyone contributes again and, they do the same thing till everyone has collected it.

This is very common among people these days and there is barely anyone in Lagos or Nigeria or even the world that doesn’t have an understanding of this system.

If you don’t, I’d explain further.

Let’s assume we have a group of 5 people that come together to start the esúsú, and they all agree to contribute a total of 50,000 naira monthly to the system.

Each person would take a slot for each month from month 1 to month 5, so let’s say I take the first month, everyone in the system contributes 50,000 naira to the anchor (anchor is the person that meets/ calls/ text people to remind them to pay their share of the system) and the anchor pays me the money, that’s a total sum of 250,000 naira given to me.

At the end of the second month, I pay my own 50,000 and the next person gets the same amount of money that I got and the rotation continues until the last person has collected.

A complete rotation is called a cycle. Once the cycle is completed, the esúsú has finally ended.

This is an Interest-free loan system and also a way of bulk money for low-income earners or people that urgently need the money for one thing or another.

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It’s completely based on trust and familiarity, there are quite some advantages to the style of saving even though there are setbacks, it’s still one of the best ways of saving because

  • It gives low-income earners bulk money to invest in whatever they want to invest in, be it business or party, or whatever
  • It encourages saving habits
  • It’s an interest-free loan system.

And definitely, there would always be setbacks since it has to do with humans.

Let’s look at some of the setbacks that might occur. Members of the system can or might not pay on time which could disrupt the system and also the person collating the money might run away because the system is based on trust and familiarity as mentioned earlier.

Conclusion on Ajo Vs Esusu

With the advent of technology and modernization, we have seen a massive improvement in the style of saving money, and apps coming to our rescue.

If you cannot still save money or you are not accountable enough to save money, you might as well read on the best Savings app and platforms in Nigeria and their percentages. It’s going to be good:

Assuming, these new Saving apps aren’t in existence, which would you prefer, Esúsú or Ajogbigba?

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