By Tony Ogaga & Damilola Fatunmise
No gain saying it, actor, moviemaker, dancer and musician, Sani Musa Abdulahi a.k.a. Sani Danja is one of the most popular Nollywood practitioners from Northern Nigeria making him an icon to millions of youths. In this chat with Entertainer when home products manufacturers, Aspira Nig. Ltd. launched its latest product, Viva Plus Detergent in the commercial city of Kano, Kano State recently, the thespian who as a consequence of his achievements and contributions to society was turbaned by the Etsu Nupe, Yahaya Abubaka, as Zakin Arewa in 2018 opened up on his humble beginnings and how he found success among other interesting issues.
Let’s talk about growing up. Were you born with a silver spoon?
No. no… but growing up was cool until I lost my dad at age 13 and then life become very difficult. We are a family of seven and I am the last born. After dad passed on life wasn’t easy because mum wasn’t doing anything so she just had to standup for us.
Did you have to hawk on the streets?
No, but I worked. I started working immediately I left secondary school in order to support my family and from there I went into music. I am a dancer and singer as well.
After your dad passed on, was there any support from his family?
Not at all; there was no support! He was a manager with a big company but his entitlements were not paid until after some years. My dad’s death threw my family into poverty.
Okay, let’s go back to the beginning; did you see yourself becoming this big?
My vision when I joined the entertainment industry was not about looking for fame or money; it was about passion. I am passionate about sending positive messages to people and the society at large. I knew that going through the entertainment industry would be an easier avenue because I am not a politician, governor or a commissioner that can impose himself on people so; early on I realized that through music, I could easily send positive messages to people. I am talking about messages that if applied by individuals, society will benefit. That was what really made me go into entertainment but when the fame started coming, I wasn’t really ready for it. One day I just realized that I was so popular. However, I have not lost focus as I continue to churn out positive messages for my fans and Nigerians through my art.
At what point did you decide to go into the movie and music industry and how did you discover your talent?
I have been a music lover ever since I was a child. In fact, it was the people in the industry that called me to join Nollywood. Before then it was music all the way for me. However, some of the movie marketers back then in Kano came to me and said they wanted me to go into movies. Then I didn’t see movies as the dynamic tools they are but one fact was that I wanted to continue sending positive messages. I quickly accepted but I was still very much into my music because with music you can pass several messages in seconds but movies involve a longer process. In music it is just you and yourself. Once you put it out there it just flies on its own. So when the markets came to me I suddenly saw yet another opportunity. I was very popular doing music already hence they wanted to work with me. I normally performed at birthday parties, weddings and clubs events. I am a very good dancer also. I have a group so you see; I was already popular based on my music before Nollywood came calling.
Your family was not in support of your career choice, how did you change their minds?
That is another story. It was a big thing for me when I was paid the sum of N60, 000 for a performance! That was about 19 years ago. Even then even if they paid you N500 for a show, it was a whole lot. That was my first big show. Before then there were plenty of discouragement from my brothers, mum and more. You know in northern parts, they look down on musicians and actors like they have nothing to offer. They see us as people who are just wasting their time in society. Back then music and movies were not as popular as they are now. Today people actually make money and even politicians are now relying on singers and actors to drive their campaigns. From the moment I made that N60, 000, everyone around me just started calming down and started accepting it and here I am today (laughter).
Can you share with us your most uncomfortable moment with a female fan?
I have so many experiences. There was a time I traveled to Niger for a shoot. After finishing our work, our car got stock in the sand on our way back to Nigeria. We had to spend the whole day fixing it. So many people in that town came out and later took us to the house of the head of the town. As I was coming out with a bottle of water in my hand, I saw over 70 pretty ladies waving at me. I was like wow! Then one asked me for water so I said ‘okay, let me get you water.’ I wanted to go get her another one but she insisted on taking my own. When I was about giving her, all the other women suddenly lunged at me and grabbed my hand as they scrambled for the bottle of water which fell and splashed all over me. I was like wow! I had to run away (laughter).
Could you tell us about your ambassadorship deal with Aspira Nig. Ltd?
For me the ambassadorship didn’t come as a surprise and I am so delighted to be part of Aspira Nig. Ltd because their products are used by millions of Nigerians, most especially average Nigerians. And then there is the issue of quality; you get quality and value for your money. What really amazed me was that when I went to the company to discuss my ambassadorship deal, I saw thousands of youths working and I was very pleased and that very minute I decided to join them even if they wouldn’t pay me a kobo! And you might ask why, this platform is employing so many Northern Nigerian youths. At a time of youth restiveness they are positively engaging the youths and that is huge against the backdrop of terrorism and Boko Haram. I am passionate about empowering youths. My deal with Aspira Nig. Ltd is all about youth empowerment.
Talking about giving back, how are you reaching out to the society?
That is one of the major reasons I am attending this event today. I want to team up with Aspira Nig. Ltd to put smiles on people faces. The Sani Danja Foundation for Good Leadership is dedicated to grooming the youths in leadership skills because they are the leaders of tomorrow. While I was growing up, it was all about hustling so you could have legacy unlike now that our youth are distracted by money. We need to let them know there is more to life than money.
What is your happiest moment so far?
When I see people gather and are happy because of me.
So, do you have any regret joining Nollywood?
No, no regret at all.
What is your advice to the younger ones?
Focus on whatever good you are doing. Consistency really matters a lot. In anything you do there must be ups and downs but just stay true to yourself and you are good to go.