“Did you not know that historical fact?”
“Like seriously? Didn’t you know that Stephen Keshi and some of his brother footballers played for New Nigerian Bank (NNB) football club in those days and had a challenge in the local league, which made them look beyond Nigeria to Ivory-Coast where they were warmly received and they continued to play first-class football? Didn’t you know that after many months at Africa Sports Football Club, Stephen Keshi moved over to Anderlecht FC of Belgium, where he continued to play top flight football? Didn’t you know that after settling down in Belgium, he began to invite his brother footballers from Nigeria to explore opportunities in the Belgian League. Many Nigerian footballers took his advice and relocated to that European country, which soon became the preferred destination for Nigerian footballers. Of course, many moved over to other football leagues after trying out opportunities in Belgium. What you see today of Nigerian footballers playing professional football in top leagues across Europe started from Stephen Keshi’s pathfinding moves. Alibaba did a similar thing for Nigeria’s humour merchants. He didn’t travel to Belgium for professional comedy. But he saw from the beginning that “Laughter is serious business” and approached it as such.
After embracing comedy as a serious business, giving it the requisite necessities to grow and become a successful line, he encouraged young comedy merchants to use his platform to hone their untested craft, gain valuable experience as to the nature and character of the comedy business, while encouraging them to own their own microphone, and stage when the time was ripe. There is no telling the reach and impact his pioneering example provided for the comedy industry in Nigeria.
Incidentally, his foray into serious comedy came on the back of a massive challenge for the organizers of an event at his alma-mater: Bendel State University, Ekpoma, now Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma. He was billed to perform at the show but simply went as a part of the audience, mostly students who wished to enjoy the performance of artists promised by the organizers. Unfortunately, some of the performers did not show up and the students became restless whereupon fate thrusted Alibaba onto the stage to calm the already restive students and make them laugh and forget whatever made them restless hitherto. Of course, his performance on the night was beyond everyone’s expectation. It announced his arrival as the pathfinder for what became Nigeria’s lucrative comedy industry. Like Stephen Keshi had done for Nigerian football some years previously.”