I’m Now A Billionaire; Says Comedian, Ali Baba
For the acclaimed godfather of Nigerian comedy, Ali Baba, comedy is a passion and not hard, lonely and vicious. For a man who came to Lagos in 1990 after being rejected and disowned by his father who would rather prefer his son to become a lawyer, comedy has paid off.
TS Weekend bring you the grass to grace story of Ali Baba. It is a thriller! Ali Baba has shared the secrets of his success story.
Today, Ali Baba boasts of being a billionaire by every standard. Of course, it is not all about money, we will remember Ali Baba for starting a revolution that inspired a host of comedians.
“I came to Lagos to do comedy in 1990. Today, I am a billionaire and I have made people millionaires. It’s all about the passion. 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. Consequently, when he realized I wouldn’t budge, my dad rejected and abandoned me!”
Like every parent back in the day, his dad believed if the future godfather of comedy became a lawyer, he would be wealthy and be able to take care of his family. And so he insisted as early as possible and drummed it into his head that he must study Law.
“My dad felt that the best career for me was Law. I wanted to prove to him that comedy is better than Law. 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!”
However, Ali Baba was not discouraged. He picked up the pieces of his life and moved to Lagos armed with only the clothes on his back and a vision to excel. But his dream that his uncle would take him in evaporated like dew on a sunny morning when his uncle threw him out of his home. And so, young Ali Baba became a hippie as he was forced to move to the popular Lagos Bar Beach.
The year was 1990. Recalling those trying moments the comedian states:
“In 1990, I moved to Lagos to pursue comedy as a career. But my uncle threw me out of his house. I moved to the Bar Beach where I lived for a very long while. At the beach, I met Lati Kekere who was nice to me. He is still my friend to this day.
“He gave me a tent to sleep and I paid N5 per night in those days. After a while, things started to pick up and I went to my uncle’s place to take my things. My washer-man became my wardrobe; I left all my clothes with him. From there, I trekked to NTA every day. I was on Youth Scene, Youth Rendezvous and the Sunday Show. I was prepared, I wanted opportunity.”
Ali Baba disclosed that one thing he discovered early in life was the importance of communication. “I got a pager then,” he says, “there were no mobile phones so I was communicating with my clients on my pager. However, at a point, Bar Beach was no longer the, pimps and robbers were taking over so, I moved over to Yabatech. Every day, I trekked to NTA from Yabatech where I squatted with a friend. It was quite a distance but I had a dream that was bigger than the journey. I was committed to my dream.
“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.” Gradually Ali saved up enough money and moved into his own three bedroom rented apartment and before he knew it, he had started a revolution that would inspire the likes of Julius Agwu, Basket Mouth, Opa Williams, AY and TEE A among a host of others.
Rumours Tales that still baffles the comedian to this day were newspapers reports that he was living on his ex-wife. He quips: “I find it so ridiculous. People kept saying that I was leaving off my wife but it was not true. Yes, she had money, earning as much as N2 million a month where she worked but I was making more money. To this day, we are still very good friends and I still pay her.
“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. If you’re not where the opportunity is because you don’t have information, you’re wasting your time. My dad taught me this lessons as far back as 1977.”
According to him, there’s no excuse for youths to be laid back and lazy. Rather, they should look inwards and improve their lots by tapping into the unique talents God has bestowed on them. “I did not need government to give me an enabling environment; I created my own. When I started doing stand-up comedy, some people laughed at me.
“I remember late Mohammed Danjuma told me comedy would never work. He would rather stick to his job as an MC. However, as time rolled by, corporate bodies would invite us for events. Danjuma would be the MC and pocket N50,000 while I would go home with N200,000 as stand-up comedian. Within a short while, he realized that comedy was the way forward and before I could say Jackie Robinson, he was doing comedy as well.
“I grew up in Ojo Cantonment, Lagos, but I had dreams and goals and what I was going through did not matter. It’s all about the passion…. and I have moved to Queens Drive, Ikoyi, into a house I bought with my own money. You too could achieve this if you believe in your dreams.”
For Ali Baba, to make it in life one needs education, information, communication, humility, hard work, experience of others and opportunity to excel.
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