‘It’s always difficult, especially when you are good with what you do’
Born and breed in Ajegunle, Lagos, he strove to the top with hard work and dedication to pave way for a better life. Omokhape Samuel Darlington, popularly known as Smilebaba, is one of the few Nigerians making the nation proud in Ghana. Adebukola Edah met with the humble showbiz guru and he led us into his world of success.
How did the journey into showbiz start for you in Ghana?
It all started in 2006, when I relocated to Ghana. I started doing real estate, then I figured out that I still had passion for broadcasting and like I had back then in Nigeria, and the best I could do was go get airtime at a radio station in Ghana, that was in Vibe FM 91.9, one of the trendiest radio stations then. They asked me if I had done radio before, am like wow! I’ve been on radio with late Steve Kadiri, and my men Kenny Ogungbe, Dayo Adeneye, Silaso Ellams, virtually everybody in Raypower back then. But Ghana has been good to me though.
What were the challenges as a foreigner in Ghana media industry?
It’s always difficult, especially when you are good with what you do. And you are from a different part of the world. Definitely, you will have some people that will be envious and some will like what you are doing. And it’s not every Nigerian that comes to Ghana that wants to do media or want to promote the good name of Nigeria. Most people tend to destroy the image of Nigeria, so when they see you in that light it’s hard. But with time they would understand, and you have the envy of some people from Ghana that would wish they were in your position doing what you are doing. Or even better than you.
How did you overcome these challenges?
It’s a normal thing. The best is you don’t go to where there is much gathering. You have to be yourself, do your thing. I leave the studio, come home and rest; I don’t go out that much, because you never can tell who is your friend or enemy.
You staged the Ghana/Nigeria carnival last year. Being the first of its kind in Ghana, what was the motive behind it?
I understand that the most vibrant people in Africa are the Lagos and the Accra men. The Accra man is like the Lagos man. Don’t forget the Gas’ in Accra are from the Yoruba speaking tribe of Nigeria and so I figured there was nothing really bringing these two countries together culturally. Why let us not exhibit the Nigerian and Ghanaian culture so that people can get to interact, integrate and of course get to know more of Ghana and Nigeria. That was why we decided to do that. And the response was great. The whole Oxford Osu Street was filled up. You can go online and see the pictures and videos. The place was choked with human beings and I really thank God. Though, we used our money to get that done, I enjoy putting a smiles on people’s faces.
What plans are you making to make this year’s edition bigger?
This year is definitely going to be bigger. I’m planning on doing that in December during the festive season because lots of people are going to be around then. Though we don’t have sponsors yet, we will definitely get when the time comes.
What is your take on the gap between the Nigerian and Ghanaian entertainment industries?
First, Nigeria is more populated; of course Nigerians are the “jaiye jaiye” type. They love life. The normal Ghanaian man would want to save his two cedis and eat kenkey. You can’t blame them, the economy is not too vibrant or as strong as that of Nigeria. But, I will say Nigeria is bigger, better and has that spending power. That’s why when you get to the airport, 99 percent of the airplane coming into Kotokoa from Lagos are all filled up with Nigerians. Nigerians are making this country big. They are building houses and real estates. Right now, this house where this interview is taking was built by me. So, Nigerians are doing great things in Ghana.
What do you think can be done to improve the Ghanaian entertainment industry?
If envy is off and they give room to those that really need to be there. I’ve noticed one thing about Ghanaians too, when you are in a particular place for a long time and you don’t want anybody to come in, you don’t want the younger ones to come on board, things will definitely be this way. Recently, there was an issue in the media, about licensing and the public were complaining about old programmes on their national TV, GTV, so you have to give them new things, what’s trending so they can be abreast with issues.
Can you tell us how your studio name, Smilebaba came about?
Em, Smile is also a name, in the sense that my mom gave me that name. She would say put a smile on your face my son, common smile and on and on. So, I decided to add that to my name. Though, Samuel Darlington is what people knew me back in school. A lot of people call me Smilebaba, you know how it is; “ha baba bawo ni, kin lo sele” so because my name was already Darlington Smile back in the days when I was singing, the song “begi begi”. So when I relocated to Ghana and I started the radio thing, it was easy from Smile Darlington to Smilebaba because a lot of people prefer to call me that.
Can you share your childhood experience with us in Nigeria?
Yes, I grew up in Ajegunle precisely in Amukoko. I was born in Amukoko, the ghetto area, and from there we moved to Ajangbadi. I’ve always stayed in the ghetto all my life. Then I moved to Festac Town, schooled at Ekum Nursery and Primary School, Jubilee Model Grammar School, Orile, Lagos. Then I relocated from there to Ajangbadi High School and went to Lagos State University, LASU. I came to Accra and went to Management Institute of Technology, but I didn’t finish from there. I went to Maryland School of Broadcasting and that’s where I graduated.
Are you married?
No, I’m not married. But I have a beautiful daughter. She is seven, the mom is from Zimbabwe. I met her in the United States when I was schooling. We are not married and not dating. She is just my baby mama. But I must say that fatherhood is great. I see my daughter every two months, and I see her when I go to the States, or sometimes she flies down to Accra to spend some time with me.
Who is your ideal woman?
A woman that would understand what I do. She must understand that it’s natural when you are on TV, or radio, it’s normal that you have lots of female friends and people will want to be with you. But that’s not me. The one that will love me for who I am, not what I am, not for my popularity, or money, but a woman that really wants to be with me. I am not in a relationship, I want to focus more on my career and daughter.
Are you the only child of your parents?
No, we are two. My sister is married with children. I’ve not seen her in three years but we talk on phone.
How come you sound and act more like Keke Ogungbe on your show Smiletime Africa?
My name is Smile and it’s my time and I am broadcasting from Africa to the rest of the world. Kenny is a friend, a brother, in short he is like a father to me. I remember back in the days I used to listen to him a lot on radio and I like his way of presenting Primetime Africa, two guys who are mentors to me. I listen to them several years before I even decided to go into broadcasting. They are my friends and you know some people influence you, so with the influence of Keke and D1, late Steve Kadiri, why not? For Kenny, we have the same voice texture, no doubt.
How true is it that you are the first to create a 3d studio with 3d materials in Africa?
Yes, it’s very true. I was in the US and I visited a friend’s voice over studio and I noticed what he did was with 3d materials, and I said wow! I would love to do something like this in Africa. He said it was going to cost me a lot, but I didn’t mind at all. I did some research and I invested in it and the result is what you see now.
Any plan aside all these?
Ha yes! We currently have a Smilebaba social networking app. Just like face book, twitter and all that. With the app, it enables you to connect and link up, chat and make friends. That’s another area I spend my time, because I have the S24 mobile app like a TV and a radio station, you have the power to control what you watch or listen to.
What inspires you to do all of these?
I watch TV and listen to radio a lot. And of course when I put it off, what I must have seen or heard, I regenerate and I want to create something bigger. I don’t just watch or listen for nothing. I believe I am a bigger world on my own, I create something out of what is in me, so the whole world can enjoy. My studio is owned by me, I don’t go to other stations to record
Any advice for your fans out there?
I have always told people that if you do not take a step, you might talk all through your life time, and never achieve anything. Just like when I wanted to start the radio and TV thing, I just decided because I already knew what I wanted to do. I could afford to pay for airtime because I had other investment that could provide the money to kick start it. And I wasn’t just doing it because I wanted to make money out of it, but because I had passion. When you have the passion, with time people get to see that passion and buy into it. And from there, other things start falling in place. But most important, you have to go to school first and from there you meet people that are in the same league with you. Then, you have to save and be diplomatic. You don’t just spend, but only when it is necessary. Don’t just eat, eat because you need energy. Do the best you can in the simplest way you can and of course with time you will get the result at the right time. Right now, we are building a studio in South Africa and we will be broadcasting from there by God’s grace. But if we use all these money we are investing to go clubbing or partying, we won’t get to those places. I always tell people invest and make noise about what you are good in on the social networks. Whatever you say to yourself is what you attract, so say positive things. Look at yourself and tell yourself, I am the best, I am world famous, and people will call you that, that’s more like it.
-ADEBUKOLA ADENEYE-EDAH (Ghana)