The beautiful love story of Nollywood actress, Mercy Johnson, and husband, Odianosen Okojie, is one that reinforces the saying, ‘true love conquers all.’ In their most candid interview yet with PUNCH, the couple opens up on the thrills of marriage
How did you meet each other?
Odi: I met Mercy for the first time in 2008 on a flight from France. We both flew Business Class and I asked for her number but she refused. She was very down-to-earth even as a celebrity. I know how a lot of them behave but she is different. Being very focused and a go-getter, I did everything I could just to have her including her number after I set my eyes on her.
Mercy: After the flight episode, he came around to Surulere where I was getting my hair done at a saloon. Somehow, he had gotten my number and we spoke. We talked and later had dinner.
Was it a case of love at first sight for both of you?
Odi: Yes, it was. I realised in no time that she is homely and everyone who comes in contact with her just loves her.
Mercy: I love his personality and I am in love with everything about him. He knew I was an actress but he didn’t know I was that popular. I remember the very first day I got to his house, he asked someone to buy some condiments for me to prepare soup for him. Then, I said, ‘You must be joking, my name is Mercy Johnson’ and all he said was, ‘I know.’ That simple action drew me closer to him.
How did he propose?
Mercy: During a conversation, he suggested that we take our relationship to the next level. While we were dating, I knew we would get married because he became a part of my life and we were very passionate about each other. There was a day we attended a wedding and he said, ‘I think our wedding cake should have a tint of this colour.’
Any jitters when you were going to meet his parents for the first time?
Mercy: I met his parents on our third date and his mum liked me— she is a fan of my movies.
Were you prepared for the attention that comes with being married to a celebrity when you decided to marry her?
Odi: Yes I was. As a matter of fact, she was a star when I met her but not as big as she is right now. I have decided to remain on the quiet side and watch her excel in her career and I am extremely proud of her.
Was he comfortable with your movie roles?
Mercy: He wasn’t comfortable with the romantic scenes. I stopped taking up such roles in 2009 when I realised we were getting serious and headed for marriage. I was so in love with him that I started adjusting my lifestyle and personality to suit him. He is enlightened and well-travelled. He understands the demands of my job and has no problems with my career. He simply gives me space to fly.
What sacrifices did you make for your marriage to work?
Mercy: I learnt how to speak his language, Ishan, in less than a year. It wasn’t difficult for me because I was crazy about him. I bought CDS and Ishan literature and my husband also spoke the language to me whether I understood or not. I also wanted to be part of the discussions as well. It didn’t take me up to five months and I already knew the basics before we wedded. Also, I cut down on my nude dresses. He made me understand that with age, you have to let go of certain things because life is a phase.
Do you watch her movies?
Odi: No. That is because I don’t really have time to watch Nollywood movies. I would rather watch the news and a little bit of soccer whenever my busy schedule permits me.
How do keep the spark burning in your union with the birth of your children?
Odi: We crack a lot of jokes and play together because she is my best friend. I confide in her always and she is also supportive of me as well. We go to quiet places together and also attend family engagements. With the birth of our kids, I haven’t loved her any less; in fact I call her my daughter.
Mercy: I buy funny cards, which I slip into his pockets, and then he would jokingly remind me about the fact that I have two children. I also dress skimpily in bum shorts and parade in the room whenever he is around.
What attribute do you admire the most in your spouse?
Odi: My wife is an extension of myself and vice versa. When I met her, she was not a strong Christian but now I can say she is stronger than I am. She does all the praying for the family and I am very proud of her.
Mercy: It is hard to choose because Odi is the human definition of perfection, I can’t explain it. He completes and makes me a better person in all ramifications. I might have made a lot of errors if I hadn’t met him—I see some of my old pictures and cannot believe I dressed skimpily. You may think you are living the career but you are making errors. Our daughter, Purity, will grow up someday and see those things and I will have a lot of explanations to make.
What do you not like about your wife?
Odi: Absolutely nothing. She does everything I like and that has kept us strong.
Mercy: My husband is too truthful and that gets me upset sometimes. He doesn’t pretend at all.
Why did you name your daughter Purity?
Odi: My wife has a heart of gold—she is kind and pure. She is without blame or blemish. I decided to name her after the qualities I see in her mum.
How do you handle disagreements?
Odi: We hardly disagree but since we wedded, I don’t think we have had any reason to invite a third party. We play a lot and handle issues maturely.
Mercy: He apologises in funny ways. Since I had the baby, whenever he offends me, he will play a particular CD and then teases me. He simply does things that make me laugh.
Do you run a joint account?
Mercy: He is concerned about the welfare of the family and has been like that from the outset of our relationship. While we were dating, he would give me money to make my hair and buy make-up irrespective of the fact that I also earn my own money. He does things that every husband should do for his wife. It was his idea. I am the sole signatory but my money is not in the account.
Odi: I love her dearly and I just want her to be independent and have access to funds whenever she desires without my permission.
You wedded at the peak of your career. Was it a difficult decision to make?
Mercy: A lot of people asked me this question when I was getting married but at that point in my life, there was nothing too big to let go, even now. I am willing to let go of everything to be with him and be happy. I am not in competition with anybody. I want to be married, I want to be with a man, just the way God has asked it be. I don’t want to take his role as a helper. He is an introvert and can stay at home all day when he isn’t working but I am the extrovert and we complement each other perfectly.
Odi: My wife has maintained a good reputation in the industry by the grace of God and I played a little role as her husband.
What is the most memorable moment in your marriage?
Odi: We celebrated our last wedding anniversary and her birthday at the Virginia Beach in the USA. It was a very good time together.
Prior to your wedding, an ugly incident threatened the existence of your union…
Odi: It was quite unfortunate. We thank God that we are happy and everything is well. Some people always say that our marriage will not last. Truth is, our love is built on the solid rock of Christ and based on that, we will keep waxing stronger.
What are some of the lessons learnt from the incident?
Odi: I learnt a lot and only people who are close to me know my story. The propaganda was from people who do not know my family or me. What God has joined together, no man can put asunder.
Did it test the strength of your love for your husband?
Mercy: Yes, it did and I did not lose any friends because I never really had any. I got to understand the mindset of people who believe it is hard for you to be happy for someone when you don’t have what they have. They criticize what you have, yet they pray everyday for it. It taught me to always think of myself first because people will always have opinions.
What has marriage taught you?
Mercy: Patience and it has changed everything about me— this is a brand new me. It is possible that my husband attends a party and my movie is being shown. I have to do things that represent him well at all times. Ever since I had my daughter, I learned to appreciate other children and humanity the more. My husband and children are top on my priority list at the moment and acting is secondary. I would let go of everything for them.
Do you have similar friends?
Mercy: I don’t have friends at all and Odi is my best friend. As a policy, I never lie to my husband that is why I can’t hide anything from him. We have acquaintances but no close friends.
Can you cheat on your spouse?
Mercy: Never! Moreso, I have absolute trust in him.
Odi: God forbid that I do such.
What does Valentine and love mean to you as a couple?
Odi: Love means Mercy. We plan to have a quiet outing and take my family out to dinner. If I have any reason to love, then I must love her over and again in my lifetime.
Mercy: God is love but if I have to give love a second definition, I would say, love is Odi.