Stanley B. Linius popularly known as Gospel Alhaji, is an actor, stand-up comedian who delivers vibrant jokes with Hausa accent. He is also a comic actor and brand influencer. In this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, he hints that there is room for every Nigerian youth to make a difference.
Tell us a little about your family?
I am from Lau local area of Taraba State. I come from a family of two boys and one girl. My father was a teacher at Government Technical Science Secondary School, Jalingo. He was the head of carpentry department before he died in 2003. My mother also died in 2006.
What inspired you into acting and comedy?
Well, it all started from the Church when we used to act and perform during service. At a time, my pastor said from today, you’re to be called Gospel Alhaji so that people in southern Nigeria who haven’t seen any Christian in northern Nigeria acting in comedy, could see me as a typical Northern Comedian. The goal is to promote and portray northern Nigeria in comedy especially using Hausa accents.
What has been your challenges so far?
Life itself is a challenge, growing up in Nigeria is a challenge, because you don’t have the enabling environment to thrive. Although things are getting better for our kind of business with the coming of the internet, unlike before where you have to rely solely on shows, events to perform, and terrestrial television. Not only that, sometimes you perform and after performance payments become a problem. But now the internet has made things easy, social media has been helping and it has been a major boost for me and I intend to utilise it to the fullest.
What has been your challenges so far?
The major challenge in this industry is lack of investment. You need someone who believes in your talent and is willing to invest in the brand Gospel Alhaji.
I have no regrets becoming a comedian, though I have had some bitter experiences in the past. But I tend not to hold on to the negatives. Like they say ‘every disappointment is a blessing’. For me the past is in the past, now I’m more focused on the future there is a bigger and better Gospel Alhaji coming your way.
What are your fondest childhood memories?
I remember sneaking out of the house with my friends for swimming. I love to swim when I was a kid but not now as an adult.
Who is your mentor?
Late Rabilu Musa Dan’Ibro, a popular Hausa movie actor. I have learned a great deal of comical techniques and wisdom to deliver vibrant jokes to my audience.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
Fashion means everything in this industry. Although it depends on the kind of comedy you want to deliver. And you know a typical northern man likes to appear in ‘babban riga’ and love to be addressed as Alhaji. You now come to imagine me inside Babban Riga and people address me as Gospel Alhaji or Honourable.
What are the post-COVID measures you have taken to move to the next level?
Well, COVID-19 has taken away jobs and opportunities from many people. For someone like me, I believe coronavirus has presented me with an opportunity to work smart and extra hard to grow my career as a standup comedian. I’m hoping that by 2021, I will have investors coming to invest in my talent.
There’s no doubt that the entertainment industry so far has been the worst hit by this pandemic. The major way the virus can be easily spread, is through large gatherings and what is entertainment without large gatherings. And as we are all aware there have been a ban on large gatherings, and there have not been events, and with no events happening, there’s basically nothing for us to do.
Therefore, my team and I have so far been channeling most of our activities on social networks, and we are even working on a post-COVID awareness project. However, on a personal level, I always observe social distancing, I use face mask when I am in a public place and also observe personal hygiene. This is the best thing any one can do to himself and the people around him as a preventive measure.
What’s your take on the new normal, sticking to facemask at same time staying fashionable?
Everyone needs a face mask to survive COVID-19 era. Self-care is a necessary strategy to confronting the spread of this pandemic. You would agree with me that sticking to face mask and staying fashionable has really not been a problem, immediately after the broadcast by Mr President, His excellency Muhammadu Buhari, instructing and approving the use of face mask. We saw our top fashion designers rolling out clothings with matching face mask design. We evolved and adapted and embedded it into our daily fashion lives. So, it has really not been a problem. I’ll say, I took advantage of the situation and made good out of it fashion wise.
What’s your greatest challenge when it comes to measuring up with other comedians?
In comedy, location and gadgets, technical crew matters. A little investment in those areas can help to measure up in the industry. That is why I earlier mentioned myself looking for an investor. Before now, I’ll say having a platform to showcase myself, because you need those big shows and events to perform and show case yourself, but like I said earlier, technology has really made things easy for me. With the boom in social media, as long as you have the talent and resources, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. So, I’ll say having the financial resources can be said to be my greatest challenge, you need to have a good team, a good director, someone to shoot and edit your content and a good strategist. Without all these there’ll be no consistency in what you do, and right now the only thing that can keep you above your peers especially is this era of social media is consistency.
As a comedian from the north, do you have an edge over other comedians from the south, west and other parts of the country?
It all depends on the content you offer and your audience. Everyone has their favorite comedian due to type of content they offer them. I can’t say that I have an edge over anyone. I’m simply doing my style and I believe people love Gospel Alhaji. I am unique, nobody can do what I do, the way I do it. There’s is no two Gospel Alhajis out there. My comedy has a complete touch of the north in it. And not just the northern Hausa touch, I have other personalities. I can be a Yoruba man with a northern accent, I can be a complete Tiv man from Benue state. I can be more than just the regular Gospel Alhaji that you know. All these are unique qualities that makes me stand out and gives me an edge over other Comedians from other parts of the country and even the world. I am me.
What makes you happy and sweeps you off your feet?
Nothing makes me happy like sincerity. I’m happy to see people being themselves and acting very sincere in their dealings.
How do you unwind?
I unwind by staying indoors, enjoying worship songs because I love worship songs so much or in a lounge with friends, that’s how I unwind.
What genre of music do you listen to and why?
I’m a fan of gospel music. This is how I derived the name Gospel Alhaji.
What is your highest point and where do you hope to be in the nearest future?
I hope to expand my comedy career beyond imagination. The goal is to create a big live comedy show in Nigeria where people can travel far and wide to meet Gospel Alhaji on stage. The truth is that the full impact of the Gospel Alhaji brand is yet to be felt and it’ll interest you to know that there’s a lot of work we are doing behind the scenes and we are coming out with something big. I’m talking with a good management firm, we are coming up with a good common grounds where we can operate efficiently and effectively and we are working to rebrand the brand ‘Gospel Alhaji’ … Nothing is going to change just that we are coming out bigger and better, Gospel Alhaji is the next big thing.
What is your advice to Nigerian youth in general?
There is room for every Nigerian youth to make a difference. You must start from somewhere to get to the top. Let’s us continue to explore our talents and participate in the process of building a stronger society as One Nigeria.