Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomere a.k.a Alibaba
Born June 24 1965 in Warri, Delta State, to the Royal Family of Chief and Mrs Akporobomerere of Agbarha Otor in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, ATUNYOTA ALLELUYA AKPOROBOMERERE a.k.a ALIBABA started his primary education at Ojo Primary School. Because his father was a soldier, Alibaba later proceeded to Command Secondary School, Lagos.
He was to continue his secondary education at Ibru College, Agbarha-Otor. On completion, he went on to Bendel State University (now known as Ambrose Alli University) Ekpoma in 1986 where he studied Religious Studies & Philosophy.
While in his third year in the University Alibaba discovered his special talent for comedy, and then started showcasing that talent in night clubs on weekends. On graduation in 1990, he relocated to Lagos and delved full time into comedy shows. This put paid to his earlier plan to return to his Alma Mata to study Law.
In his early years as a comedian, Alibaba worked with the likes of Patrick Doyle, Charles Oputa (a.k.a Charly Boy), Danladi Bako, Bisi Olatilo, Sani Irabor, Mani Onumonmu and Dapo Adelegan of DP Lekki Limited. This was when stand-up comedy was virtually non-existent in Nigeria.
Through sheer guts, dint of hard work and creative dynamism, Ali Baba has carved a niche for himself as a comedian and master of ceremony for both corporate and non-corporate events. As the pioneer stand-up comedian in Nigeria Alibaba decided early in his career that “being funny is serious business”. He then went ahead to register a company known as Alibaba Hicuppuray 3rd in 1993. In 1998, he took up billboards in strategic parts of Lagos – Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island; Osborne Road, Ikoyi and the Marina. Since then there was no stopping Alibaba.
He has won many awards including National Comedy Award (2004), Enablers Merit Award (2007), Diamond Award for Comedy (2008), City People Entertain Ward (2009) and a host of others. He has also received many recognitions including being given the privilege of ringing the 2012 Year End closing bell of the Nigeria Stock Exchange and Johnny Walker Striding Man Society (2009). In March 2015, he was featured on CNN's African Voices where he spoke about his dream of making Nigeria comedy a business model.
But it was not an easy ride for Alibaba. He tells his own story in a piece entitled “My Story”. Read on.
“LEKKI Sunsplash was a crowd puller back in the days. It was the biggest musical concert. It was the biggest stage. It had the largest crowd. The largest number of artiste performing. Best sound. And it was a promising concert. Sad thing it had to die.
Edi Lawani had come to BENSU, EKPOMA and seen me in 1988… He came with Ras Kimono. And later with Charles Oputa Charly Boy… Edi Lawani then invited me to Lagos. And sent me to different places with a note. Roots Nite Club, a certain nite club at Pedro Palmgrove, opposite the police station, I can't remember the name, Peak Nite Club, Lords Nite Club, Klass Nite Club, and of course Jabita and Niteshift. The last two refused me. Ken Calebs told me his club was premium and did not need a comedian. Demola Sam-Adeoye and Kunle Akintayo STEWART tried to talk to him but he threatened to sack them. He then told his first man, one Ras Kimono look alike guy called Dave to throw me out. Not lead out. Throw out. And Dave did more than that. Story for another day.
Anyway, I went to see Edi Lawani after every follow up on the contacts he gave and he would review my performance after speaking with the contact. You should have said this, you didn't say that, do more of this and that, you should do more song jokes… And after his review I head out back to Ekpoma, on Sunday night from Maryland in an Observer newspaper pick up. On one of those Friday to Sunday trips, Edi gave me a note to Kunle Onime the Executive assistant to DAPO Adelegan. "Bro, pls help bearer. I think he will add value to your concert. He is a very good comedian" it was nearly the same thing he wrote on all the cards he sent me with.
Kunle was skeptical at first. I quickly convinced him with some jokes. He then took me to DAPO Adelegan who was on his way out. We met him in front of Phoenix Insurance car park. DAPO was concerned about budget. He said Geraldo Pino and Olisa Adibua were already paid. Kunle told him I was not asking to be paid. Go and sort it out. The concert was still months away.
When the date for lekki Sunsplash came, I got into Lagos anD went to see Edi and later Kunle, who then gave me 3 passes. Each for each day of the concert. I trekked from Maroko to Jakande. It wasn't so far then. I was very early. I got there at 8am. And it took a while before I saw Kunle, much later. He took me to Chris Ajilo the stage manager. BABA was too upset to even listen to Kunle because most of the artistes were late. We stood aside and waited as He was talking with the representatives of the record companies and threatening to cancel their performances. Kunle advised me to chill.
Some hours later, Geraldo Pino came and Kunle introduced me. He hit me on the chest… "You think you can face the crowd? This is no university show ooo". I told him I was good for it. Edi came about that time. And I felt relieved. He talked with Kunle and Chris Ajilo and I was on. So while the sound check was going on, Chris asked me to warm up the audience. Wrong move. Pino flipped. Apparently, it was his job to warm the crowd too. But calmed down when Chris Spoke to him. I was later to learn that Pino was Chris Ajilo's contemporary. Olisa ADIBUA too came in few minutes later. Baba had a briefing with him and Pino. And later introduced me to both of them officially. Pino was a core Port Harcourt man. Olisa was an Ajebutter kinda guy. I was both.
I was in my elements for those 3 days. So, I was at the beck an call of Olisa and Pino. Once the audience went array, I was called on to rein them in. I learnt crowd dynamics and crowd control very fast. I also learnt CGT well. I had read about it. Common Ground Technique was the ability to quickly find something 80% of the audience can relate with. Once you find that common ground, the other 20% will tag along. At that time, it was to yabb soldiers, police and government, talk of women, yabb the rich and powerful. Then, there were of course the Yoruba-Hausa-Igbo joke fillers. Not the main course.
I was not paid for the 3 days. But trust me, I would have paid to perform. Lekki Sunsplash was a confirmation that I was ready to take on this career tikpatikpa. It was a make or break opportunity. And I seized it with both hands. On the last day, there was a partner of DAPO Adelegan, Olumide or so, I think he was an architect or something like that, who was thrilled by my jokes, he gave me N20. I had some people give me monies back stage but trust me, I can not remember any of them.
When I got back to school, all of a sudden, it hit me! Bensu was too small. I needed a bigger stage and from that day on… The rest as they say is geography!”
*Alibaba lives in Lagos, He is married and blessed with three girls and a set of twin boys.