Tuesday 18 June 2024


Once upon a time in Abeokuta, there was a woman named Madam Janet Ewusi Odesola who sold cooked beans. Her bean joint was at a prime location connecting Ijaiye, Ago-Oba, Itoku, Lafenwa, Isale Igbein, and Ake roads. This spot was called "Sapon," derived from "Saponloore," meaning "help the bachelors."

Back then, people, especially bachelors, loved eating at her restaurant. It became a popular spot for everyone, including kings, government officials, civil servants, and students, who enjoyed her beans and stew (ewa pakure).

Born in 1925, Madam Janet attended Methodist elementary school in Ijoko, Abeokuta. She started her food business by selling dry fish before opening her bean restaurant in 1951. Due to the high-profile customers, her beans always sold out quickly, despite cooking a large bag daily.

However, problems arose when people started owing her. Some paid, some bought on credit, and others promised to pay later but never did. The accumulating debt became overwhelming, so she devised a solution.

Her plan was simple: if a customer's money was insufficient, she would sell only what they could afford, advising them with the phrase “sebiotimo” (cut your coat according to your cloth). For example, if someone had 10 kobo, she would sell 10 kobo worth of beans. If they asked for more on credit, she would respond with “sebiotimo.”

Eventually, customers got used to this response. Whenever they asked for more beans, they would quickly remember and say, “sebiotimo, elewa sapon.”

This policy change led to her nickname “sebiotimo elewa sapon.” She also stopped cooking more than a pot of beans daily. When asked for more, she would reply, “mo ti se bi mo se mo” (I have cut my coat according to my cloth).

Thus, her nickname “sebiotimo” became a proverb in Yoruba culture, teaching the moral of not buying things you can't afford.

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