Godfather of Nigerian comedy, Ali Baba, has shared the secrets of his success story with TS Weekend, revealing how his wealthy dad rejected, abandoned and finally disowned him over his decision to pursue a career in comedy, a sharp contrast to his father’s plans for him.
The comedian disclosed that his father wanted him to be a lawyer and would stop at nothing to make his son one but his passion for comedy put both of them on collusion course.
Things finally got so bad that he had to run away from home to Lagos, to actualize his dream. And when Ali Baba finally hit Lagos, he sought and got sanctuary in an uncle’s home but was later kicked out from there. He recalls: “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!” Parental opposition 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 the dream that his uncle would take him in evaporated like dew on a sunny morning when the man 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: “After 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 him N5 per night. After a while, things started picking up and I went to my uncle’s place to take my things. My washman 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.” Information age Ali Baba disclosed that one thing he discovered early in life was the importance of communication. Then, there were no mobile phones but pagers were the rave and he knew that if he had to succeed, he would need to have information at his fingertips and so he went for a pager.
A while later, however, Bar Beach was overtaken by miscreants and he had to relocate. “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 peaceful haven it used to be. Lati had left and prostitutes, 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 a 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 baffle 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 living 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, earning as much as N2 million per show. I bought her an SUV and made sure she had everything she wanted. To this day, we are very good friends and I still pay her. “Where you’re coming from has nothing to do with where you’re going. 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 these lessons as far back as 1977.”
According to Ali Baba, though the country is going through some difficult times, it’s no excuse for youths to be lazy and laid back. 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 a stand-up comedian.
Within a short while, Danjuma 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. We want people to do things for us but what have you done for yourself. As I speak to you, I have a property worth N300 million for sale in Lekki 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. “Believe in yourself. You have to decide on charting a course.
Your journey must achieve its purpose,” he says with passion. Best of friends Today, Ali Baba and his dad are the best of friends. The comedian disclosed that it took 15 years for his father to forgive him. Relating the anecdote he said: “My father and I were not on talking terms for 15 years. My decision to follow my heart was responsible for that. People will tell him, ‘your son, Ali Baba is always on TV. He is making a lot of money. Why don’t you forgive him? But he would reply, ‘Ali Baba is not my son. I have no child by that name.’ The time for reconciliation came in 2005. 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, my dad finally recognized my success when he shouted, ‘Ali Baba! Ali Baba!’ That was my happiest moment.” To the comedian, success goes beyond the individual. “If you are successful and you’re not touching lives, you’re a failure,” he says. “If you’re a millionaire and you’re not making millionaires, you’re a failure! AY has made more comedians than I have made. The same thing goes for Basket Mouth and they all stayed with me once upon a time.” My success principles Ali Baba goes on to reveal the 10 principles that a person must stick to, to achieve success.
Hear him: “What I am about to reveal to you are the secrets of my success which my dad taught me in 1977. Corporate bodies pay me millions to share these secrets with their staff. Number one is that your career must provide shelter for you. Two, your career must put food on your table. Three, your career must give you fame, respect, dignity and appreciation.
Four, your career must maintain your life style. Five, your career must make you charitable. Six, your career must give you good health. Seven, your career must give you job satisfaction. Eight, your career must match your personality. Nine, your career must take care of your future. And 10, your career must make you make heaven.”