Kazeem Abimbola, popularly called Jigan Babaoja, is a talented actor, musician and a comedian. The originator of sho mo age mi, that has gone viral, tells Ademola Olonilua how he came about the slang
How did you come up with the phase, Sho mo age mi?
I have actually done several skits but it’s just that God had mandated that I would become popular with this ‘Sho mo age mi’ slang. I was on a movie location with some of my friends when we started talking about our actresses that were celebrating their 40th birthday; we said that some of them were either not up to 40 years or they were above the age. That was how we started arguing and I cited myself as an example, asking them if they knew if I was up to 40 years old. That’s how I started asking them if they knew my age in Yoruba. From there, something urged me to do a skit about it and that’s how it went viral.
Did you ever believe it would become this much of an internet sensation?
I did not know it would garner such attention online. It never occurred to me. Of all my skits, it had the highest amount of views and that was when I knew that it was going to be a viral video. I also have to thank Tunde Ednut because each time I make a skit, he always reposts it and that gives it more mileage online.
Don’t you feel bad that since you have been singing and acting, fame came accidentally through social media?
This is a dream come true for me; it does not matter how I attained fame either it is through my music, films or comedy, I am just happy that one of my initiatives has made me a brand. This is something I have been dreaming of all my life because I started my career as a musician. I have been doing music since 2001. I released some songs and visuals for them but I noticed that I was just spending money and I was not getting anything in return. So, I decided to put music on hold and joined the movie industry. I felt that if I had a big breakthrough in acting, I would return to music. I never knew it was going to happen like this; through a one-minute skit.
You have already done a song for the viral trend, what are some of the feedback you have been receiving from fans?
The comments are very interesting and it is motivating me to do more.
How did you meet Davido?
I was wowed when it happened. I was home one day posting some of my skits on the same trending topic when I received a direct message from him. I was so happy and while I was still basking in the euphoria, I received a call from my manager, Danku, who told me to hold on for Davido. In his distinct voice, I heard him say, “Hello, Sho mo age mi, sho mo age mi ni,” then he laughed and invited me to meet him at Lekki. I went to meet him at Lekki and he told me he appreciated my work. He was travelling to America on that day but he still made out time to receive me.
People are actually interested in knowing your age. How old are you?
The whole idea behind the skit is the suspense I have built around my age and I have decided that I am never going to tell anybody my age. I am going to keep it to myself forever.
When it comes to the internet trends are quick to come and go; how do you plan on sustaining the momentum in order to remain relevant?
I am working on something new. I am coming out with new music and I also plan on doing a film about ‘Sho mo age mi’. I have more than a hundred contents on the ground, so I know I would remain relevant.
We see you limping in your skits, is it part of the act?
It is not part of the act; I actually have some problems with my leg. When I was a young boy of about six years old, I fell ill and I was taken to the hospital. I was given an injection at the wrong place. That was what happened. I was not born this way.
How do you feel about the development?
It is by the grace of God and I feel very overwhelmed by the love and support I have received so far. Before, I had 42,000 followers on Instagram but when I became an internet sensation and as I speak with you, I have over 100,000 followers and the number keeps increasing. As I speak with you, I have seen so many souvenirs about the trend ranging from clothes, fez caps; some people are doing different skits about it while others have done different songs just because of the trend. My face is on so many tee-shirts just because of the phrase ‘Sho mo age mi’. The feedback has been so touching but all I need from them is to come and partner with the brand.
How do you feel about the fact that some of them did not seek your permission before printing these shirts and fez caps?
I am actually working on trade marking the phrase; once that is done, anybody that does that without my consent would face the law.
Why did you open an Instagram account?
As an actor, you need an Instagram account to connect with your fans.
But did you ever believe that through Instagram, you would attain fame?
I still cannot believe what is happening to me now. It all seems surreal; it is something like a dream. I do not think it has ever happened in the history of Nigerian entertainment industry. My slang is not just viral in Nigeria but it is global, I have seen the Chinese version and several other languages. It got to a stage that I started crying; I have really cried about this a lot and I am still in shock.
Now that you are popular, how have you been coping with messages from fans especially women?
I now get so many messages from fans especially women that I cannot reply them in six months.
What kind of messages do you get from women?
They send me normal messages that they appreciate my work and that I should keep on the good job. I am married, so I cannot entertain any naughty message from women.
Have you started making money from the trend?
Not yet and that is why I am calling on people to partner with me and support the brand.
Since you started this trend, have you received negative comments from people?
I feel that anything that goes viral, there would be positive and negative comments; it is left to the originator of the trend to be motivated by the negative comments and put in more effort in his craft. The few negative comments I have got are from people who do not understand the language and some that do believe that I am not funny. However, as it is now, I feel everybody has accepted the trend and they are enjoying it.
Do you block people that send you hate messages?
No, I don’t. I talk to everybody based on the message they send to me. I spread love when people show disdain towards me.
Although you engage your fans on social media, do you think you can maintain that trend especially when you become bigger?
I appreciate my fans a lot and I would talk to them at any little opportunity I get. I would be very happy if I could attend to all my fans across the world.
Have people accosted you on the road simply because of this slang?
I almost got injured at a mall. There was a man who was driving by and immediately he spotted me, he parked his car, ran towards me and started shouting, ‘sho mo age mi’. While he was yelling, he carried me all of a sudden and I almost fell down; he insisted that I must tell him my age.
Before you became an internet sensation, were you ever frustrated to the point that you wanted to quit entertainment?
When you keep doing a certain thing and it is not progressing, there is no way you would not have second thoughts about the venture. Sincerely, I have always been dedicated to my craft because I knew that one day, something good would come out of it.
Some people feel that one of the funniest Sho mo age mi skits is the one Oga Bello and his son, Femi, did. How did you feel when you saw their skit?
I cried the day I saw the skit because I could feel the love they have for me. Immediately I called Oga Bello to thank him. I also asked him to pray for me because he had done something good in my life by endorsing the trend. Even though he was fasting, he took out time to make a skit with his son just to support me. I just had to call him. A lot of celebrities have called me to celebrate me and Saheed Osupa is one of them. He has also done a skit about the trend. I appreciate everyone that has done a skit about the trend.
How is your wife coping with your new found fame on the internet?
She cannot believe it as well and she has received thousands of calls from friends and family members that her husband is everywhere. She is proud of me. I also had a talk with my wife that we are now on another level, so she has to change the way she ‘packages’ herself. I also advised her to try and keep away from the limelight because I would want my private life to remain private. I would not want my family in the full glare of the public.