ALI BABA: PURSUING HIS PASSION; MAKING NAME, FAME AND MILLIONS
When nobody believed he could amount to anything in life doing comedy, he set out on the path of comedy. He was passionate about it. He was unrelenting. But was it easy for him taking the career path when people that matter to him have different expectation from him? Not at all! Hear him, “People thought that I was crazy then to have chosen to do stand-up comedy. I remember late Mohammed Danjuma told me comedy would never work.” He met with fierce opposition in the pursuit of his passion and use of his gift; but surmounted them and now boasts as a billionaire and maker of millionaires in the world of comedy. BROJID.COM EDITOR, JOSEPH DINWOKE,chronicles Ali Baba’s story: his beginning, his travails, his achievements and success secrets.
Ali Baba (whose real name isAlleluya Atunyota Akporobomeriere) started comedy by chance at the Ambrose Ali University in 1988 where he was paid fifty Naira (#50). From then he has not looked back in his business of making people laugh.
After discovering his gift, he passionately wanted to be a comedian but his father was bent on his being a Lawyer. When the two cannot tango, he left his father’s house for Lagos in pursuit of his passion. He disclosed “Once upon a time I chose to pursue a career in comedy, which was in contrast to my father’s dream for me. He wanted me to be a lawyer but I wanted to do comedy and I was passionate about it.”
Despite his leaving his house for Lagos to fulfill his passion, his father who believes that law is the best course of study for his son, rejected and disowned him. “I am a graduate but I chose to pursue comedy because I had a dream. As soon as my dad realized that I was hell bent on pursuing comedy, he disowned me. In fact, he stopped sponsoring my education!”
But Ali was unrelenting and persistent in his pursuit; weathering every storm on his way per time. When his uncle whom he went to stay with in Lagos in pursuit of his passion threw him out of his house, he tabernacled at the Lagos Bar beach from where he meet someone that gave him a tent to sleep with at #5 per night. For a long time, he lived there from where he went to NTA to participate in a youth programme on Sundays.
However, when the bar beach and the life there started turning dirty, he relocated to YABATECH from where he treked a long distance to NTA. Was it fun trekking that distance? “It was quite a distance,” he admits, “but I had a dream that was bigger than the journey. I was committed to my dream.” He continues, “On the side, I made money doing stand-up comedy and by virtue of my pink forms at NTA, by 1998 I had earned over N50, 000.” From there, he rented his own apartment and properly set out on his comedy career.
Though he has become successful in his chosen career as an icon of comedy in Nigeria, billionaire and very influential, he maintains that the size of success he has become was a surprise to him as he did not expect it in that measure. He recalls: “I thought that I was going to make it, but I didn’t think I was going to make it this big.”
Unlike today that comedians are generally very busy with shows, making money and enjoying special recognition, he and his co pioneers in the comedy industry “were fighting for survival and recognition.” Ali reavels. He was unrelenting in his pursuit of success at least to prove those that had predicted his failure wrong. “I had vowed and told my dad that I was not going to fail and worked against everything that would have made me fail. I worked hard and made sure I proved people wrong, that I was on the right path.” Ali Baba recalls.
What is the secret of success and survival in the industry? He puts is simply: “For anybody to survive in a market like ours, with so many competitions; you have to be dynamic, creative, original, and fresh all the time.” Ali Baba came to the industry, saw it and conquered becoming a father of many comedians. He not only became wealthy but has committed to making others rich and lending them helping hands for progress. His former personal assistant, Ay of AY Show fame, testifies, “As a matter of fact, he(Ali Baba) encouraged me and even gave me a platform by allowing me to open shows for him. By doing this, people started to accept me and not quite long, I started comedy professionally.”
Having recorded great success, he is creating room for others in his industry to experience success and breakthrough. It’s this spirit that made him reject some shows so that a void will be created for the upcoming comedian to make money for their gift. “You know when you retire from doing those small shows, you leave the platform for the younger ones to survive, because if you continue to do shows that are going for say 400 – 600 thousand (naira), then you stifle the market for the young ones.” He says.
Having struggled, been rejected and disowned by his father, ridiculed by the public yet turn out to be a success in his passion, he waxes philosophical: “Where you’re coming from has nothing to do with where you’re going to. It is your sheer determination that will take you there. Identify the tools that you need. The only way you can make it is to be prepared so that when opportunity comes, you will be ready.”
For the unemployed youths who complain that government has not provided them with enabling environment, he disclosed his secret of success despite the discouraging environment, “I did not need government to give me an enabling environment; I created my own… I started doing stand-up comedy, some people laughed at me.”
Like everybody, Ali Baba has his happiest moment. Was the day he made his first million? Gave birth to a baby boy? Appeared on TV? No. None of those! It was the day his father forgave him after fifteen (15) years of disownment. “I bought him a Mercedes Benz SLK and took it to the village along with my friends. We moved in a convoy of cars. He was surprised when I told him, ‘dad, this is your car,’ and for the first time in 15 years, he finally recognized my success when he shouted, ‘Ali Baba! Ali Baba!’ That was my happiest moment.”
However, Ali Baba, though had a broken marriage because of “irreconcilable differences…” he had long remarried to his present wife whom he was attracted to because “ she is very down to earth. She’s practical, appreciates some things that I do and contributes to them greatly.”
Ali Baba admits that he will one day take a bow from after playing his role and will like to be remembered. For him, “I’d like to be remembered as a catalyst for change and development in entertainment… I would like to be remembered as somebody who created happiness or a pool from which a lot of people succeeded in creating happiness for others.”
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