Atunyota Alleluya Akpobome, aka Ali Baba’s grown up first daughter, Xsara is a sweet-looking young woman speaks about her warm relationship with her dad in an interview with Punch.
What can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a student of the University of Derby, UK, where I am majoring in media studies. My father has five children; three girls (Xsara, Brandi, Valerie) and two boys (Ejiro and Tejiri, who are twins).
Did your dad influence the course you’re studying?
Yes. Seeing as I grew up around entertainers and the media, I sort of gravitated towards it. I’ve never seen myself doing anything else. As a child, I actually wanted to become a musician. Anytime artistes came to our house, we would dance to their songs and we were very fond of that. I never thought of being a comedian or an actress because I used to have stage fright.
How would you describe your childhood experience?
I would say it was interesting and I don’t remember there being a dull moment. If we didn’t have guests, we always found a way to entertain ourselves. My dad used to buy us board games like chess, scrabble, draft, monopoly, among others.
Can you remember some of the interesting places you went with your dad?
We used to go to a place called Funtopia frequently. We also used to go to several resorts and game centres in Lekki where we would swim and generally have fun.
How often does he spend time with his children?
We see him quite often. No matter how busy his schedule gets, he tries to create as much time as possible for us. If he knows that he would be very busy and we don’t have to go to school, he would take us along with him to events and rehearsals. And when he needs to go on stage, he would assign someone to watch over us. Sometimes, we spend the whole day with him at the office, or we could just drive around Lagos with him. Even when we’re in school, he comes to see us as much as he can.
Does your mum usually go with you on those trips?
Not really because she also has to go to work. They’re usually father-children bonding sessions.
How do you feel whenever you watch him on stage?
Sometimes, it is overwhelming because I look at him and I see all that he is doing. I see how comfortable he is on stage, and as much as I am happy that he is doing well and has achieved so much at a young age, I also think about the big shoes that I’m expected to fill.
Did you get preferential treatment from teachers and other students because of who your father is?
Most people just express surprise when they know that he is my father and they tell me they want to meet him. But most times, I try as much as I can not to let everyone know who he is. I want to be treated the same as other students and get the same experience.
Did he ever sit down with you to discuss your career path?
Not really. He just told me to go after what I’m passionate about because if I go into it for just money, I would never really enjoy it. And I wouldn’t even be able to put as much effort and passion into it. Meanwhile, if it is something I love, I would be able to reach my full potential.
Does any of his children have talent in comedy?
I’m not sure about that; though we’re all funny in our different ways. I think Tejiri is the funniest though not in a stand-up kind of way.
How did your dad discipline you as kids?
I would not even hide it; he used to beat us a lot. He used to get us whatever we wanted, such as snacks and movies. But he could not stand children being rude and undisciplined. It makes him mad. Sometimes, he would ground us, and if that doesn’t work, he wouldn’t spare the rod. He could also restrict us from doing certain things like watching TV, having access to electronic gadgets, among other things.
Who disciplines you the most between your mum and dad?
It’s undoubtedly my dad. If he hears ‘Your children have been very naugh…’ he wouldn’t even wait to hear the end of the statement before calling for us.
Who are you closer to between your dad and mum?
That would definitely be my dad. He is like my rock.
Do you often spend time talking with him?
Yes, I do that every morning when I’m home. We talk about anything and everything, ranging from social media to current affairs, and even things that I witnessed. Sometimes, I come up with jokes, and I run them by him for brushing up, as well as business plans. Apart from comedy, one other thing I respect about my dad is his intellectual prowess because he is so smart. If you take any problem to him, he would be more than willing to help you.
Does he talk to you about boys?
Not really. I think that is one area that he would just prefer not to touch. As much as we talk about a lot of different things, when it comes to that area, he would always see me as his little girl. One time, he talked about people sending their applications to Warri if they were interested in me, but it was just a joke.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve heard or read about him?
I once read an article about all the comedians that he had helped in one way or the other; and they were about 12 in all. I felt if there was space in the paper, there would have been more names, and I was inspired that he is part of the success stories of so many people. I just hope that one day, I could also double the amount of people he helped.
What’s the worst thing you’ve read about him?
I once read online that my mum is the breadwinner of the family. I just laughed because people just look for things to say, whether it’s true or not. If someone charges nothing less than N3m for a show, you can imagine how much he would make per month if he attends about five shows per week. Sometimes, he could even charge up to N10m. It doesn’t even matter who makes more in a marriage because it is a union and two have become one.
A lot of comedians cut their teeth under your dad, which of them do you remember seeing around your house as a kid?
Igos, AY, D Don, Lectura, Jedi, Laff Up, among others. It was very interesting having them around and that’s one of the reasons we were never bored.
Who are his best friends?
That would be James Adjarho and Onome Obruthe; they usually visit every Sunday. He used to have a best friend called Efe, but he is late now, sadly.
Does he buy you gifts?
Yes. In fact, I would be getting a brand new laptop today (Friday). On my last birthday, he also bought me an Iphone 6.
Do you also buy gifts for him?
Yes, I try to do whatever I can. It’s one thing to buy gifts, and it’s another to buy gifts that would last. Whenever, I want to buy him gifts, I always make sure that it would be durable, so it has to be of high quality. Though he would gladly accept whatever gift you get him, but I just want them to last longer. However, one of the best gifts to buy for him is a book. He reads all the time.
What was the last gift you bought him?
It was a wristwatch during his birthday.
What are some of the most important lessons that your dad has taught you?
He has taught me to be myself at all times; he doesn’t believe in fake life. And I think the most important lesson is to never settle for less. If you know your worth, always insist on it, no matter what.
How would you describe the relationship between your mum and dad?
I would say they are my relationship goals. They have been through it all and they are still going strong. They started off as friends and that’s why everything seems so easy. They have their ups and downs like everybody else but they deal with it so well that we, the children, wouldn’t even know about it. They relate with each other like best friends.
Have they ever told you how they met?
No. That is actually something I’ve never asked about. I think they met in the bank though while she was managing his account.
How romantic is your dad?
He can be very romantic. There was a time we were in London and it was very cold outside. We didn’t know it would be that cold so when we stepped outside, we didn’t really dress for the weather. My mum was freezing and my dad took off his shirt and wrapped it around her. Meanwhile, all he was wearing was just a vest. And when her leg is hurting, he would carry her up the stairs so that she wouldn’t have to walk.
What would you say makes your dad unique?
He is always there when you need him, and he is very social media savvy. He has a lot of followers on social media and he puts in a lot of time into each post he uploads online. Most fathers I know just post pictures occasionally even without captions, but my dad often takes his time to put up meaningful posts.
Does he follow you on social media and tell you about the type of posts you should put up?
Yes, we follow each other. He wouldn’t tell me the kind of posts I should make but he can express his opinion on a post.
What are his likes and dislikes?
He likes gadgets, books, and spending time with his children. He loves trucks too and is obsessed with royal purple colour. He dislikes dishonesty and sluggishness.
How would you be spending Father’s Day?
I cannot tell you that. But we usually try to do something special for him on that day like bringing him breakfast in bed. Even though we treat him like a king every day; on Father’s Day, we give him double dose.