Mr Ajebo turned his comic talent into a career
By making people laugh, Mr Ajebo is selling ideas and influencing people, and he thinks other young Nigerians should make their talents work for them too.
Mr Ajebo is a stand-up comedian and entrepreneur. He wants his story to be told, to encourage others to use their talents and follow their dreams… and to show that it doesn’t always have to be serious.
It’s in the blood
Mr Ajebo is the popular name of Aaron Emeka Nehemiah Kalu. The young comedian says that he was born to be one. “I always knew my path was entertainment,” he says. “I was the one who would act and cause parents to fall off their seats. In fact, by the time I was ready to go to the University, I was seeking one that offered ‘Comedy’.”
Comedy wasn’t available, so Mr Ajebo studied Mass Communication instead, which gained him entry into a different world, his animation company – House of Ajebo. He develops animated cartoons that are all the rage online, and his company handles PR and advertising for various brands, helping them capture and retain audience attention through the use of humour. He also plans to launch an educational and entertaining cartoon for children.
A lesson in presentation
But this is a far cry from his humble start: “My first job was at 16 years old. I was paid 4,000 Naira (about 9 Euros) to anchor a wedding and, although I dressed in the full Ibo regalia in order to look older, the first response I got was one of contempt.” Undeterred, Mr Ajebo kept going and by the end the audience was right behind him. His first professional dabble into comedy stands out for him as the time he began to recognize the potential of the craft.
Conquer the fear
Mr Ajebo, however, did not focus on comedy as a profession until much later, and it was a brave move. “Do not be afraid to change environment, as it spurs growth,” he says. “I resigned from a successful career as a radio host after nine years because I knew it was not encouraging me to grow.” He encourages others to be brave too, and follow their dreams: “Do not be afraid to start something new; whether for fear of what people would say or fear of hunger.”
The charm of laughter
In common with many young people trying something new, Mr Ajebo faced bias when he set out: many people thought that comedians would just come and disrupt their events. A charm offensive helped to combat that, just as he had won over the audience at his first gig. And in a country where there are so many problems, Mr Ajebo is sure that comedians are needed to keep people sane. They rekindle hope by connecting with people and their situations, making lighter of situations that people ordinarily take too seriously.
Crafting skills from talent
Mr Ajebo is also encouraging to young people, especially because he started out at such a young age, but, “I always tell them that ‘Talent is not enough.’ It accounts for just about 40% of what is required for success,” Mr Ajebo asserts. “Work ethics and character are equally important as you cannot earn a living out of talent alone.” And ‘talent’ – anything ranging from conflict resolution to cooking – is just a raw material anyway; it must be converted to skills.
Keep developing yourself
Mr Ajebo’s advice to those just setting out is: “The worst thing you can do to yourself is nothing. You need to constantly endeavour to discover yourself.” He believes that everyone has multiple talents and is a product of his or her environment, therefore you should keep an open mind to discover new things about yourself and learn. Then, when you eventually find your career path, you will find that it can be followed effortlessly. “Know what you want, and go for it regardless.”
Mr.Ajebo‘s story is part of the multiyear campaign, kicked off on International Youth Day 2019 by the Empower Youth for Work program and the Work in Progress! alliance. The campaign aims to support the national influencing work of the respective programs by joining forces with local role models. The ripples of #Iwasthere are spreading out around the world and these stories are proof that change can happen anywhere – we hope they will inspire you, too, to become an active citizen.
Why these stories?
There are more young people today than ever before in the history of the world; 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 worldwide, and 90% of them live in low-income countries. . Harnessing the energy and strength of young women and men to become active citizens is core to Oxfam's goal of transformational change.
With their energy, skills and creativity, young people have the potential to be the driving force for social change, strong economies and vibrant democracies.
Oxfam is working jointly with youth to challenge barriers that prevent them from
Enjoying their rights
Participating fully in society
Being an effective voice in decision-making processes
How youthful dreams become reality.
These stories are proof that change can happen anywhere -
to inspire you to become an active citizen.
- The Netherlands
“Development is more than just economy or infrastructure, it’s all about humans.”
“As activists, we have to be patient. Without patience we can’t do anything, we just struggle.”
Jesse van Schaik
“I hope other people think ‘if she can do it, then I can do it, and then it won’t be that hard.’”
“Youths must work every day to be the change they want to see.”
“The only thing that I cannot do, is child bearing and breast feeding. This is not naturally gifted to men!”
“My goal was to capture the essence of the vital advocacy work that goes on within powerful institutions. But in a light and approachable way.”
“We are young, we are prepared. We have many things to do.”
“The biggest challenge wasn’t informing them about modern farming techniques but persuading them to abandon outdated methods”
“Work is never defined for men and women, it is us who creates this differentiation. There are lots of people in rural areas who are not getting enough medical support, I want to do something more for their advancement by engaging the youth of our community.”
“Fear is not part of my life. I conquer the fear itself.”
“I did not have any computer knowledge prior to this time; I only used computers for watching movies!”
“We should create an environment where people can support one another and raise local funds together to buy clothes and food for poor children and mothers.”
“Work ethics and character are equally important as you cannot earn a living out of talent alone.”
“I believe young women have the capacity to change their lives if they are provided with a safe environment and support from their family, community, and government.”
“Once we overcame our initial hurdles, we felt confident about managing more events, and soon established a good reputation in the city.”
“Even if a person supports you and teaches you how to do a thing, without passion on your part, it’s a ‘NO’!”
“Without a book on my lap every day, I don’t know where I would have reached today. One day I will realize my dream of bringing all Sahil people into the library.”
Habiba believes that other women and girls will be inspired by seeing her at work.
“Seeing my success, many people are now convinced it’s OK to assist women.”
“We aim, one day, to scale up our start-up to a national level”
He started working from home to save money, providing computer support to the community, especially women.
“The beauty parlour industry is exploitative, and because women workers lack awareness about their rights, they pose little to no resistance to unfair work policies.”
“Poetry is art and expression, and has been in my blood since my childhood. If you want people to develop their country, young people are the starting point – they have the drive and stamina to pioneer changes”
To ensure the continued success of her business, she keeps up with the latest fashion trends online, adjusting them for the cultural and religious tastes of her clients.