Posted by By FEMI SALAWU on
Ace comedian, Ali Baba, is one of the few Nigerians who can criticize President Olusegun Obasanjo without invoking his wrath.
Ace comedian, Ali Baba, is one of the few Nigerians who can criticize President Olusegun Obasanjo without invoking his wrath. In fact, rather than get upset, the number one citizen usually enjoys Ali Babaís yabis. Said the joke spinner: "I can assure you that he (Obasanjo) can also laugh at himself and he has even told me that before he leaves office, I must ensure that I compile all the cartoons and yabis done about him in one big book and he will write the forward to it."
Although, he has been severally dubbed the presidentís Ďpersonal jesterí and Aso Rockís favourite comedian, the frontline comedian knows where to draw the line. The man, whose real name is Alleluya Atuyota Akporobomeriere is one of the pioneers of stand-up comedy in the country.
How I started
When I was in the university, I suspected that comedy was going to bring me a lot of money because my allowance at that time was N120 and when I did shows in school, I was paid N100. After I left school, I was already earning up to N150. So, I knew it would get higher in the larger society. Now, we have reached the stage where we receive N1.6 million for an event. My wife even thinks I am an armed robber because she works for 30 days to earn what I earn in one day.
Nigerians find it very easy to switch from being frivolous to being serious. For example, when I am asked to perform at an event and I quote my price, almost immediately, the smiles would vanish on their faces. Meanwhile, I donít get any discount at the market simply because I am a celebrity, I pay the same price as anyone else. People should not think that because I am jovial, I would allow myself to be short-changed. There are over 40 big society weddings that take place every weekend in this country and I cannot perform at all of them. So, if you want my services, you must be prepared to pay my price. As the forerunner in this particular area of the industry, I have a responsibility to establish ethics.
How I develop myself
My wife helped to make my home a real haven because she knows what a happy home means to me. My habit of watching many movies is not just for my own entertainment only but also to be constantly aware of what is happening in the film and TV industry. I also read newspapers to stay abreast of current affairs. All these are essential to make my jokes relevant to the reality of our society and the larger world.
When you become a public figure, you mortgage your private life. All you can do is manage it. The media write all sorts of things, like the story about me following women for money and the likes.
My wife, Mary and I are not just husband and wife but soulmates. We enjoy a very playful relationship. We also share strong domestic values and are most happy when we are with our children. Like any other couples, we have had our problems but we always overcome them. It is an old truism that for a marriage to be successful, love is not enough; you also need to have someone who is able to support your dreams and be a companion as well as a spouse.
Kids also keep you young and help curb selfish instincts because their needs come first. The consciousness that they are watching carefully to emulate you is a humbling feeling which makes you think twice before you do anything wrong. Your kids are the most precious priorities in your life. This is because you can get divorced and remarry but you can never change your children; they are in your life forever.
My kids and my job
Actually, my kids see my job differently. They think I am unemployed! Once, when they were on holiday and saw me on TV, they asked me: ĎDaddy, donít you go to work? Donít you have a job? But as I tried to explain my schedules to them, one of my daughters smiled sadly and nodded: ĎOh, I understand ÖÖ.so you are joblessí.
All the glory has to go to God, because the content and the structure of our brains are purely his making. He gave each of us gifts and we have a duty to develop and improve on them. This is most crucial for every comedian otherwise he/she will stagnate and become stale. Everything in the world has a funny side to it, if you know how to find it. Even the Bible deals with issues that have humour. The materials for laughter are inexhaustible, provided you keep abreast of the news.
Me & Obasanjo
It all started with my two Egbon friends, Chief Olabode George and Colonel Tunde Soluade, whom I have known for years. One day in 1999, Chief George called to invite me for a small birthday party being organized for President Obasanjo. So, when it was time for me to talk and I picked the microphone, the President looked suspiciously at me, he wasnít familiar with me.
But, I really made him laugh, and we have since been getting on well. I recall one day, he took me aside at a function and asked: ĎDidnít they tell you that I was the one who said you should perform here today? I said they had and he demanded "so where is my cut?Ē On another occasion, he gave me his personal phone number and told me to call him. I felt really honoured by that gesture. This was why during tragic experiences like the death of his wife, I called him to cheer him up. However, whenever he needed to draw the lines he did. But I can assure you that he can also laugh at himself. He has told me that before he leaves office, I must ensure that I compile all the cartoons and yabis done about him in one big book and he will write the forwarsd to it.
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