Sheddi Baba, as he is popularly called is a star comedian. He has thrilled lots of people on stage, on radio and television through his rib cracking jokes. First spotted on the Charlie Boy's show where he played the role of Funky Mallam with the distinct Hausa accent. Sheddi Baba has risen to great heights as a stand up comedian and master of ceremony at celebrity weddings. Recently, he spoke with Rachel Ogbu, reporter/researcher about his dreams, goals and achievements. Excerpts:
Newswatch: Many people see you as an amazing personality what would you say about yourself?
Sheddi Baba: I would say I am a very simple person, though a little bit on the stubborn side because I have found out as a comedian, if you make yourself too humble and quiet, people would step on your toes. So you have to be a little on the hard side. Another thing is that, good boy no dey succeed, so I am what people are to me. If you are nice to me I will be nice to you and if you are bad to me I will make sure that I show you. But the biggest policy in my life is to make people laugh and live long.
Newswatch: When was the first time you realised that you had talents as a comedian?
Sheddi Baba: That was way back in primary school. Then I was not as handsome as I am now that I have made some money. So it was humour that helped me make friends. Also when we did debates, I put in one or two jokes and people liked it especially the head teacher. So I knew it was in me to be a comedian, though I was more into music at that time, I used to write songs that never had much meaning.
Newswatch: Do you intend to do the comedy business for the rest of your life?
Sheddi Baba: Not really! I don't know if I will be going into politics but before I go into politics, I will have to go and finish my school.
Newswatch: Talking about school, what is your academic background?
Sheddi Baba: I had to drop out at a point in my polytechnic because my younger ones needed a way to get into school and through what I do I was able to get some connections to get them into universities and polytechnics in Lagos. So right now they are all in school and I am planning that I would go back to school because Tu Face sang that because he no finish school, some people wanna take him for a fool. Now he has money, he should finish school isn't it? So that is the latest. I intend to go to Unilag by the end of this year to pick up a part time course by God's grace.
Newswatch: How was your first show ever?
Sheddi Baba: My first show was funny. Not funny that people laughed but funny in the sense that I had all the jokes but there was no confidences to crack them. Ali Baba advised me that all I needed was control over the crowd. "Just have it in mind that you are the one gathering these people. They are here for you and that's the only way you can make them laugh. Even if there is nothing to say, just stand in a funny way on stage and people will start complaining and start laughing" he said.
Newswatch: You must have had good shows afterwards. Which is your best so far?
Sheddi Baba: My best show is nothing else but my own show "Laugh and Live Longer" which took place on the 2nd of July at the Muson Centre. To my surprise the day began as a dry one but by 5.30 pm people had started coming and were already seated by 6.00 pm. So I started the show. The place was filled to the brim and I was like God what is happening?
Newsatch: What made that show a success?
Sheddi Baba: I had been praying, you know with prayers you can go a long way. It's not just being funny and being a star, you have to believe and know in your heart that God is the reason why you are what you are. That really helped me. A lot of people came. It was a favour from God not because I am the best comedian.
I normally pray when I want God to listen to me, I kneel and pray at around 12 am. After I did that in the night I had this vision that I was writing down my jokes. So when I woke up I started writing them down and before I knew what was happening it became a book. I am indeed grateful to God it did not even take me up to 6 months to write the book but realising it took a lot of time. I think it was God trying to do something because I did not really have a direction about the book. I had titled it 'Time to Smile' but Daniel Wison advised me to give the book a little suspense like Time To… and give every joke a title as well like time to smile, time to cry, time to mumu, and time to igbo sense. I tried it and it worked.
Newswatch: What has your occupation as a comedian really achieved for you?
Sheddi Baba: Apart from putting money in my pocket and helped me train my younger ones, it actually gives me a status. The happiest thing that happens to me in my life is when people see me and burst out into laughter. Though naturally when you see me I do not look funny like Julius Agwu, I am more on the serious side when people see me and they do not believe I can make people laugh until they hear me talk. These days people just see me and then burst out laughing, sometimes I wonder if my dressing is funny. So I am happy when I make people happy.
Newswatch: What is your ultimate dream?
Sheddi Baba: My ultimate dream is to build a charity organisation; I am actually working on one now titled "Appreciating the Motherless."
Newswatch: What is the concept behind this organisation?
Sheddi Baba: Appreciating the Motherless is an NGO that I am bringing up. I intend to bring motherless babies to a known vicinity, maybe ten each from the homes every last Friday of the month. In as much as we that are able to do the popular 'thank God is Friday' thing I am trying to inculcate that into the motherless babies home so that they can bring in ten people to a place like cubes at the Silverbird Galleria starting from August. The reason is because a lot of Nigerians do not even know where these orphanages are. Now bringing them out to a place where you can meet them and give them a reason that there is hope for life. If you have stuffs you want to give to them, you can bring it there and give them directly, if you want to make an adoption, you are very free to do it there legally because their managers will be there.
Newswatch: How far have you gone in actualising this dream?
Sheddi Baba: I am still talking with the social welfare to give me addresses of the orphanages so we can write and invite them for this programme.
Newswatch: As a child what was your ambition?
Sheddi Baba: I never knew I would become a comedian. My biggest ambition was to become a musician. I always dreamt I'll sing like Michael Jackson because I was also a good dancer. That's one aspect people do not know about me. Over time I decided that dancing was a part of exercise for me because it helps me keep fit. Right now I do not have a pot belly. I was looking forward to becoming a musician but destiny has its ways. The will of God has been done.
Newswatch: What are the pains of your job as a comedian?
Sheddi Baba: One is that people do not take you seriously. When you tell a girl you are in love with her, she would think you are joking, even when you get her pregnant, tell her I am in love with you, she won't still believe, even when she gives birth, she will still not believe that you love her.
Newswatch: Are you speaking from experience?
Sheddi Baba: Yeah! Sort of. There was this girl I was involved with, but we did not really get serious. Before we could start saying let's tie the knot and get married, we had separated. And that is one thing I learnt about marriage. You do not have to be infatuated; you have to weigh the pros and cons.
Newswatch: So when do you intend to get married?
Sheddi Baba: One thing I know about marriage is that you have to know you guys are compactable. There was this situation that happened. One lady called me two weeks after her wedding and said I should refund the money she paid me as master of ceremony at her wedding. I asked why and she told me it was because they had divorced. I laughed. You know it could be funny but that's the truth. So a lot of people really have to check and that is what I am trying to do, I don't want the situation whereby I would get married and then discover it is not worth it.
Newswatch: How long do you intend to check?
Sheddi Baba: Well I do not know, right now I am happily single and I am still praying.
Newswatch: What is your relationship with other comedians like?
Sheddi Baba: The best place to be is in the midst of comedians, but I have been fighting with some comedians for sometime now. The reason is this: a lot of comedians do not appreciate each other. They are jealous of one another and I am like why? There are over 50 weddings every Saturday in Lagos; only one comedian cannot do Mc for all, so why do you have to be jealous of your fellow man. The market is big enough for all of us. Nigeria is about 150 million people, so I mean for the fact that you're a comedian and you can stand in front of Nigerians and make them laugh does not mean you have to hate anybody. Why can't we do what we preach on stages? Let's love one another? There was a time I wanted to bring up this association for comedians, up till now it has not been possible because some 'big comedians' feel that they are not supposed to be part of it.
Newswatch: Each time you pick the mic to perform what do you seek to achieve?
Sheddi Baba: My goal is not always to leave when the ovation is loudest but to preach a message. It's not all the time that I go on stage to crack jokes, sometimes I talk about very serious matters despite the fact that I still have to crack jokes. I always try to preach a message of unity that would bring Nigerians together.
Newswatch: Do your own jokes make you laugh?
Sheddi Baba: At times it does but not when I am performing. The only time I laugh while on stage is when I crack a dry joke and people are not laughing. Then to make up I do a funny laughter and then they start laughing. Sometimes when I watch my video and see the funky mallam thing I feel it's really stupid.
Newswatch: You are always spotted in Silverbird Galleria and Extreme. Are these the only place you hang out?
Sheddi Baba: Ben Murray Bruce is like a father in all ramifications. I feel like going there. It's a place I can hardly resist, everything is there and my house is just close by. Then Extreme just seems to be the best night club to me in Lagos because I always feel like dancing, I go there to free my mind after a stressful day. I also get jokes from there especially when people get really drunk.
Newswatch: One would think you work for NTA. What's your relationship with the station?
Sheddi Baba: As an entertainer I started from NTA, way back in 1995 and since then NTA has supported me till I became a star. NTA is like a father, no matter how bad your act is they would still promote you.
Newswatch: What was the most extraordinary moment in your career?
Sheddi Baba: At times I just look back and say, Father Lord, I thank you because there are some events you go and you stand in front of ministers and governors. Like when I anchored the 50th birthday of Air Commodore Emeka Omerua. I was like wow! So God can actually make me stand in front of kings and queens like He promised.
Newswatch: In a few years from now, what should your fans expect from you?
Sheddi Baba: In a few years from now, I want to be able to bring up comedians to overcome their illiteracy. Most of them cannot speak good English, I am not saying I am better anyway but I'm looking forward to a time where a corporate organisation will call my company and say Sheddi Baba, please give us two literate comedians and I will have people who can flow with the items in the corporate event and still comfortably fix in jokes. Then I am looking at my own charity organisation Appreciating the Motherless in ways that I could bring up even if it's two people in my life. Because growing up with parents I knew how hard it was so I can imagine those who do not even have parents at all.
Newswatch: What was the most difficult experience of your life?
Sheddi Baba: Well in 1994 I was in an accident that claimed 15 lives. When I came out I had no complications and I said Father Lord thank you, though I couldn't find my shirt. When I stood up to go a girl I had been talking to before the accident called my name and said "Shedrack, are you going to leave me here? Please be prayerful." I held her hand. It's a really difficult one, and then she died in my arms. When I moved to the road I saw blood everywhere, two toddlers survived without a scratch and that is how I understood how innocent the blood of a child is. That is why I am seriously against abortion. Why do you think I am afraid of getting married? Look, any girl that comes my way I'm like look if you want us to settle down you must get pregnant first because you find out that most of our girls are very heartless people, some have done 10 abortions and you will find out they don't even have a womb anymore. Tomorrow when you get married you start pursuing Pastor Chris and Pastor Joshua.
Newswatch: So what was the best time in your life?
Sheddi Baba: The best time in my life was staying alive that day, January 3rd 1994 because if I had died I would not even have had the privilege of Newswatch interviewing me.
Newswatch: How challenging has your job been?
Sheddi Baba: It has been so challenging in the sense that a lot of work has to be done. Cracking joke is not just about going to stand on stage without anything and start talking. I have found out that it's very tasking, because a lot of times I have to stand in front of the mirror to check my gesticulations, my moods and facial expressions. I also have to write down things, sometimes I just enter a molue to see if I can find something funny. At times I just park my car and climb Okada. I may choose to ask the Okada man what's happening in his area and when he talks I could get a joke from his story. So this job is tasking, even the confidence to stand in front of people and make them laugh is something