Mercy Johnson-Okojie is one of the best actresses to have ever emerged from the Nigerian movie space. Born in Lagos State to a Naval officer, she hails from Okene, Kogi State. The actress, who was recently made a Senior Special Assistant to the Kogi State governor on Entertainment, Arts and Culture, spoke to Newton-Ray Ukwuoma about her career and family. Excerpts:
You have been on the ground since 2004. What would you say after thirteen years of acting?
I have progressed. I’m fulfilled. And it has been awesome.
In 2004, you were a young lady just leaving secondary school and moving into the movie industry, did you have any fears while starting out?
Yes, of course. You know, the regular ones though, like uncertainties: would l get roles? Would I make ends meet here? The normal jittery.I was and still the usual girl next door. I was a young girl trying to make ends meet. That was nothing extraordinary about me back then.
What do you think has built your brand?
I think a lot of experience has sustained me. I have learnt so much and I am still learning. Other factors are: God, perseverance and practice.
Besides being an actress, you are a mother and the Senior Special Assistant to the governor of Kogi State, how do you marry everything?
I will say God has been very kind.
What is your work schedule like as the SSA?
We have a number of projects we are working on. We are trying to revamp the state in line with the set agenda of the governor, especially in entertainment and culture. Right now, we have a talent hunt in acting and singing. After that we will be moving onto culture and arts. We also have plans on shooting historic movies around the local government areas. I believe that culture existed before religion. We want to bring our culture back to the system. We want to teach the young ones our history and roots, so that they can accept who they are as a people. All the governor wants is progress and he sees human development and empowerment as key. He has embraced these projects 100 per cent.
Do you see yourself making lots of impacts while in government?
Well, in the end, I believe we would have made a lot of progress. I believe in making impacts; in instituting positive change and bringing the dividends of democracy to the people. And I think the governor believes and thinks along that line as well. So, we are doing everything possible to make sure people are safe, that life and property are protected and projects are going on smoothly. We do not play with human development and empowerment. I really hope that we’ll make progress.
During the week, you were in Asaba [Delta State] for a movie production?
Yes. But I am back now.
Considering your many hats, what is Mercy Johnson’s regular day like?
It is all about priorities for me. I have things done based on my scale of preference. Everyday, I put God first, my family next and then work.For instance, at the moment, I am in my husband’s family house in Edo State. It is like an hour thirty minutes to Asaba. In the morning after cooking, I go to Asaba at 10 O’ Clock, I shoot and at 6 O’ clock and I am heading back home. I make dinner. After everyone has eaten, then I can face other things.
[Sounds of children playing in the background] (As you can see, they are playing now.) Sometimes, when I am not working, I stay with them, you know, to be the home-mom that I am. Like now, I chose to work outside Lagos because my kids are on holiday and we wanted to see grandma.
By grandma, do you mean your husband’s mom?
Looking at past events in the entertainment industry, what would say is the biggest challenge with having a good relationship with mother-in-laws in general?
I don’t know. I am simply African. My mother-in-law is like my mother. I don’t see any difference. If you treat your mother-in-law nicely and respect her, she will probably reciprocate. You must also make sure to avoid all forms of competitions or rivalry.