By Rotimi Agbana and Tolulope Abereoje
In recognition of his three-decade-long career that has spawned several other careers and made comedy a viable industry in Nigeria, popular comic icon, Atunyota Alleluia Akpoborome, a.k.a AliBaba has been honoured with an Award of Excellence for social impact and entertainment by the presidency.
The humour merchant received the award at the banquet hall, Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, during the second National MSME Awards, recently hosted by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
According to the official statement of the state house, Ali Baba was selected for his support for the entertainment sector, which was identified as a key sector of the government’s micro, medium and small scale enterprise initiative.
For nearly 3-decades, Alibaba has been the light-source for the business of comedy and developing a path that multiple generations have toed ever since. Whilst he was still growing himself, he took a number of comedians and comperes under his wings, many of whom have gone on to own successful entertainment businesses. The business of comedy has in its development and expansions, created (beyond the multimillion earning comedians) an industry with huge economic values, for Venue Rentals, Security companies, Deejays, Bands, Graphic artistes, Sound Equipment leasing, lighting, ushers, printers, outdoor advertising agencies, event planners, decorators, lawyers, funds managers, Realtors, Fashion Designers and corporate branding and market influencers strategists.
He has many firsts under his strides: first Nigerian comedian to perform on commercial flights, to entertain over 40 heads of governments, to ring the closing bell of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, first comedian on CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. First to be a Paul Harris Fellow, first to be inaugurated into the Johnnie Walker Hall of fame, to stage a 6-hour stand-up performance, among many other laudable landslides.
In recent years, he created Alibaba’s Spontaneity, a creative competition, to discover younger comic talents, providing them with a platform to earn a living from their gift. The program is now in its fifth year. Alibaba is also a broadcaster and media owner: one of his media products being ‘Alibaba Seriously’ which was at one point a daily radio show but has now gone on to be a weekly late-night television show.