At the mention of Nigerian movie industry, one of the names that elicit admiration from fans from far and near is Mercy Aigbe, the ever-bubbly light-skinned lady with a magnetic personality.
Recently, she remarried an old-time friend and business partner, Mr. KAZIM Adeoti, a development that drew praises from some quarters and criticisms from others. The announcement of their marriage on social media sparked off controversies, one you’d may literally say had ‘set the media space ablaze’.
In this encounter with the Media Room Hub crew, the new power couple refuted some speculations against them and set the records straight about their union.
The screen goddess reminiscences on her journey through life and bares some other salient details of her career in this interview.
THE MERCY AIGBE INTERVIEW
Q: We’ve often heard you use the word the ‘owner’ and the ‘owned’ in describing yourself and your husband, tell us, what is the name about and how did it come to be?
MERCY: I’m sure you just got to notice me use the ‘owned’ recently, but for the ‘owner’. I have been using this for a long time—people have been wondering who the owner is. The owner is a pet name I call my boo (husband). I came up with the name because of the way we connected—the undiluted happiness, joy, and peace he makes me feel. As a result, I said to myself ‘this is my Adam’ and I am 100% sure that God took me out of him and he is the right person. So, that’s why I gave him the name ‘The owner’.
Q: Can you share with us your experience of finding real love when people thought you won’t ever walk the aisle again?
MERCY: I don’t want to get emotional (she giggles) Before now, I had a very bad break-up. So, after the bad marriage, I had made up my mind to be on my own, focus on my career and my kids, and boom! This good-looking man comes into my life- I felt the connection, the chemistry, and the companionship anytime I was with him so much that I didn’t ever want to leave when I was with him—it felt good, and when he asked me to marry him, I was sceptical at first, I just wanted to run. I didn’t feel marriage was a thing, I didn’t just want to go through what I faced in my previous marriage anymore because I’m a very emotional person. For three years or so, my focus was on my career and kids. My husband brings me so much joy and peace—he is a good man and I tell him that all the time not just because he is here with me. So, when he told me to marry him, I accepted because I didn’t want to lose this beautiful experience, I always had with him. The connection is divine so I said to myself, let me just give it one more try and I know this is my final bus stop and I can tell it from my guts that this is a forever thing. It’s a decision I took, and I’m glad I took it because it has been blissful all the way.
Q: Tell us, how were you able to commit her to accepting your proposal being aware of her last breakup with the former husband. What did you see in her that made you decide to spend the rest of your life with her?
KAZIM: Mercy has always been a business partner and I’ve always seen something very special in her. The first thing that got me attracted to her is that she was very open and she was very truthful to me in the first transaction we had together—when I gave her some money to produce a movie, she had to return some money back to me after incurring the production expenses. This was something I never experienced before. Till today, no one has ever come back to return money to me because it was excess to demand. Mercy did that and I was wowed. I was impressed so I said to myself ‘this is somebody I really need to keep up with in terms of business relationships. When she had a bad experience from her previous relationship, it was in the open, everybody saw it. When I heard about it initially, I was even advising her in the usual African way—admonishing her to be calm, to be patient that everything was going to be fine. I advised her not to leave her marriage and she was furious and asked if I were her sister, will I advise her to stay in an abusive marriage? When she asked that question, I just knew I had to step back—I said I was sorry. Additionally, I was in the US when that happened, I even saw it on the internet. I had to let her be—to be focused because I didn’t really like the kind of response, I was getting from her at the time. So, when I came back from the US, I asked her if we could work on a project together, and she said she was not interested in any sort of production at the time but just her kids and business, so I left and worked with other producers but we still kept in touch occasionally. At a point when she was ready to get back into production, and the title of the movie she produced then was ’77 Bullets’, in fact, she never got any money from me, she produced the movie from her own pocket and I was worried if she didn’t want to work with me anymore because I advised her about her marriage at some point. She said she didn’t want to sell the movie to me at first, according to her, she wanted to start having her own content and I respected that. I just said, anytime you need my help, do well to let me know. So, after some time, she called and asked if I would buy her movie if I’m willing to buy it—I said OKAY and she sent me the movie and I previewed it and liked it. That is how the business relationship started again after two to three years. But after that, she did another movie and sold to another marketer by name Corporate Pictures and I thought I had lost my relationship with her because I was trying to advise her about her previous marriage and she took an offense—to me I felt I didn’t do anything wrong. So, after some time, she came back and asked if I could buy the movie and because I was not really happy with her, I had to price the movie very low. I cared less about it and she was furious I negotiated a price so low. I was like, you don’t have to sell to me and I do not have to buy from you- I told her she can sell to whoever she wanted. After all she just sold a movie to Corporate Pictures. A month later, she came back and asked if I really liked the movie and I said yes. She asked how much I would pay once again for it, but I still stood by what I negotiated the first time and she said Okay, and asked how I was going to pay. I said half now, and a half after the sales. And really, the movie did very well on DVD, internet and all other platforms. After that, I had to send some money to her as appreciation because it would have been unfair for me to swallow all the money on my own and give her just chicken change. So, because I’ve always had her account details, I transferred some money to her and in the narration, I put ‘gift’. It was a gift because we had a deal, and I had paid for the movie without owing anyway. She was surprised and appreciated me. Another striking thing is that for most producers and actors we buy from, after seeing that the movie is doing very well, they always come back to ask for more money because the movie is doing very well, but Mercy did not do that. On my end, I was transparent to her on how the movie was doing because she was very supportive, she even helped in promoting the movie across all her social media platforms—that moved me because the movie has become mine, so she could have chosen not to promote it as well. At the end of the day, that was how we reconnected and afterward, we went for dinner. So, I’ve always known that Mercy is a very truthful person and very hardworking, very reliable, and she is somebody you can confide in, she is not someone that can betray. She is a very loyal person. Whatever she says is what she is going to do.
Q: How long have you been in this Business Relationship?
KAZIM: Ten years, the first movie we did together was in 2012 or thereabout.
Q: Was there ever a point where you and Mercy’s ex-husband, Lanre Gentry, were friends?
KAZIM: We were never friends and we are not friends. I have met him a couple of times, but then we have never been friends. He is an older person to me, so there is no way we can connect properly. The picture that is circulating on social media was taken about eight or nine years ago during his 40th birthday and a whole lot of other celebrities were invited, the likes of Jide Kosoko, Femi Adebayo, Oga Bello, Ibrahim Chatta, and a host of other Nollywood superstars were invited and she came with her partner just like Sola Kosoko came with her partner and we just happened to take a picture together. It is normal you could walk to any celebrity and take a picture with the person anywhere—it could be in the mall, in the open, it doesn’t mean you know the person too well or you both are friends.
Q: Were you ever a friend to your husband’s first wife before you both got married?
MERCY: We were never friends. People just came up with a lot of false narratives.
Q: So, you are trying to tell us that your wife and Mercy were never friends?
KAZIM: They were never friends; I am categorical about this and I am very certain.
Q: There is a story out there that Mercy snatched you from your wife, what do you make of that?
KAZIM: That is not true. There is nothing like snatching, I’m a full-grown adult.
Q: There is a story told everywhere that you are separated from your wife, is that true or false?
KAZIM: My family resides in the US, and I shuttle between Nigeria and the US because my business is here in Nigeria. If people say we are separated, maybe it’s because my family is not here with me in Nigeria. So, I’m good with my first wife, we are good together. Though there were issues initially, we are good now, everything is fine and back to normal. I am a Muslim and I am entitled to more than one wife—now I have two wives. I have two beautiful women and I’m glad.
Q: Tell us about your love for the industry. Where do you see the industry in the next five years comparing to Hollywood and the rest?
KAZIM: I strongly believe that we are making progress, though it is not at the pace with which we want, it is slow and steady and I believe that if we continue like this, we will get there because a lot has changed from when I joined the industry when you’d have movies practically on DHS, VCD but now people can subscribe to Ibaka TV and watch from all over the world. That was not how it used to be. Before now, we used to request for VCD to be sent to us before we could watch movies and if you see the kind of contents we produce in Nigeria now, it is matching the global standard.
Q: Tell us about your journey to the industry—the hurdles you faced and how you overcame them?
MERCY: My journey so far has not been so easy. I’d faced a lot of hurdles especially when I started in the industry. It was not easy for me to be accepted, a lot of people didn’t believe in me enough to give me a chance and platform, so it was very challenging for me to prove myself, to prove that I have the talent and want to share it with the world—that was part of the challenge I had to face when I just started in the industry. Also, when I started, there was no money in the industry and before I joined Nollywood, I was working in a financial institution, I was earning money and then I had my daughter to take care of. So, at some point, I decided to quit my job to venture into Nollywood fully so you can imagine you leaving a place where you are sure (secured) of your salary to where you are not sure of what you are going to expect, you are not sure whether you will make it—it was like leaving a greener pasture to somewhere you are not sure of, that was a unique bold step I took to resign from my work. Sometimes I will go for the audition and I would be shortlisted and sometimes I won’t be, and even if I was shortlisted, the director would still have to decide whether you are good for the role or not. I kept going even when I was faced with all these because I had a deep-rooted passion for the job. I am a professional to the core, I studied Theatre Arts at the University of Lagos—I was in a polytechnic, so instead of going back to the Polytechnic for my HND, I decided to go to the university to study Theatre Arts because I wanted to understand the nitty-gritty of the job so that it will help me. I wanted to be fully equipped. I remember when we used to queue at Winis hotel in Surulere to get roles and scripts. I started with the English genre and a friend of mine advised that English is saturated that I should try the Yoruba movie industry instead so, I took her advice—thanks to God I took her advice. I will say the movie that brought me to the limelight is titled ‘Ara’ and it was produced by Remi Olupo in Ibadan, when the movie came out, it was really accepted and I started getting scripts. There is a movie set I was in, and we shot that movie for two to three weeks—there was no place to sleep so I slept in my car. I didn’t have money to take a room. I had to beg for water to bathe and after that, the producer gave me 5,000 at the end of it all. I collected the money and was crying and at that time almost regretted leaving my job at the bank. I faced some sort of harassment as well, but the good thing is that I didn’t give up at the end of it all.
Q: There is this belief that there is a lot of sexual harassment in the movie industry against the young and good-looking ladies, is that true?
MERCY: Yes, that’s true. There was this particular movie they called for an audition and this director was like a very big name in Nollywood at that time because he had blockbuster movies then I joined the school of drama and auditioned for a role which had the first, second, and third stage and truly I got the role. So, when I went to the office to get my role, a guy called me inside his office and told me that he is sorry that I lost the role- an audition I took so much time to prepare for. He told me that the director does not know me. So, I was like, if you were looking for someone known, why did you audition for the role. Prior to this time, the guy had been asking me out and he said if I had accepted his proposal that by now, the director would have known me. Before I knew it, he wanted to start touching me and I rebuked and told him am not interested in the role again and walked out on him. Even though I felt so bad because I knew I deserved the role. Funnily enough, on the day of the shoot I was called to come to VGC because the girl that was playing the role was not delivering, I said No—as a Benin girl, I get pride. Although, deep down I was feeling so bad with myself for rejecting the role. There are somewhere I was already cast in the movie—I’m already playing a prominent role, and the producer says if I don’t give him what he is asking for, he is going to yank me off the movie—a lot of time I was devastated, but to God be the glory, so far, it’s amazing, God has been gracious
Q: What advice do you have for the upcoming actors?
MERCY: That is why I am sharing my story. I want them to stay focused. Believe in yourself, it is only when you believe in yourself that you can convince others to believe in you. I keep telling them if you have an opportunity to play a role in a movie through an audition, give that role your best shot. Just kill the role! I also advise them to make use of social media. It is a tool for success. I always advise them to stop trolling people and just leverage on it to build their brands and talents. We have a lot of celebrities that came to be through social media, and we have a lot of skit makers that are making millions off social media content, and they buying houses and leaving fine. So don’t troll, use it to build yourself, celebrities are not your problem. Just create good content and tag as many people as you can, one day someone will take a chance on you. I repost for a lot of people and I know a lot of other big celebrities who do that too like Don Jazzy and Funke Akindele. So, stop being a savage on social media—trolling with fake pages. Staying up is a lot of work.
Q: How were you able to integrate into the Yoruba movie industry considering the fact that you are from Edo state and 90% of your colleagues are Yoruba?
MERCY: It is even now that people are beginning to know that am not a Yoruba woman. They thought am 100% Yoruba asides from my name. I keep saying that Yoruba people are very welcoming, this is not an attempt to sound tribalistic, but it is true. Like when I got into the Yoruba movie industry, they welcomed and embrace me—they saw and celebrated my talent. That’s why, no matter what I do, no matter where I go to, I can never forget the Yoruba movie industry no matter where I go or do, because the Yoruba movie industry made me what I am today. They didn’t discriminate against me. There was no segregation whatsoever. I kept getting scripts. They didn’t say I’m Yoruba or not Yoruba. Let me tell you when I started in the industry, my Yoruba was not fluent, I learned on the job. I want to use this medium to shout to all the Yoruba movie producers I have worked with, especially in the early days of my career. They were so patient with me and even taught me. I always want to thank the actors I worked with, someone like Yinka Quadri in my first Yoruba movie which I played the role of his wife, he had to teach me all those Yoruba parables, some other actors will give you attitude, but he took his time to teach me. I also want to thank Aunty Shola Sobowale for everything she taught me when I had the opportunity to work with her. She’s a firebrand. In my own little way, I try to support the young and upcoming actors too—Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Q: How are you able to joggle roles being a mother, entrepreneur, wife, and brand ambassador?
MERCY: It demands a lot of hard work. I get overwhelmed at times. I can’t even lie—I have to create content as a brand ambassador for my brand as a brand ambassador, and that takes time—also as an entrepreneur, my fashion store is the most followed in Nigeria and my customer reach and the base is wide. Everybody loves Mag Divas Clothing and store, that’s what my store is called. I have to meet their needs. I have a child in Canada and here in Nigeria. It is not easy because I have to keep up with what my child is doing in Canada and also here in Nigeria—also I have my big baby (Husband) to take care of. I think the grace of God has been helping me. My husband has been very supportive, even if we just started and that has made it easy for me to marry all these important roles together. Whenever I send him to help run an errand for me, he never refuses, he does it for me. He has been amazing. My mother has been amazing too. Am just blessed with dependable people around me and that makes my job easier.
Q: There are also speculations that you married your current husband for money
MERCY: (Giggles) I am not poor to start with. I work very hard, and I wonder why people don’t see my hard work. I’m one of the most misunderstood people. I work so hard and hardly sleep. I have assets—my child is abroad and I pay school fees in dollars. I change naira to dollars, and I have been doing that before I got married. I don’t know how people got that notion that I married because of money. It is not like he is poor, I’m also rich. I’m extremely comfortable to God’s glory. I married him because I love him, not because of money. I married him because he is my best friend. He gives me peace; he makes me happy. I didn’t marry him because of money, in fact, I’m working for him because we are business partners. We complement each other, so I also brought something to the table—it’s not like I just walked into the relationship without any value. I’m not a gold-digger, I work hard for my money. All those influencing jobs you see me do, I charge huge sums of money—and my store is also the most followed on Instagram, so I make a lot of money from that too. I have over 10 million followers on Instagram. I have been doing business for years. I am the first set of people that made so much money from influencing before it became very common and we made a lot of money. People are always judgmental; they don’t know the true picture.
Q: Mercy is known to have two houses in Lagos, now that you are both married, is she going to be staying in her house or with you?
KAZIM: The most honourable thing for a woman that is married is to leave with the husband, for now, we live together.
Q: What was your kids’ reaction when you told them you are going to marry again?
MERCY: The first person I spoke to was my daughter and she came home for holiday. I told her I’m going to give marriage another shot, and that will be my last. At first, she asked if I really wanted to do that because she is a very emotional person. We have gone through a whole lot together. We have cried and laughed together. She has watched me go through a lot of trauma.
Q: You are a very confident woman and it is very obvious, what then happened in your previous marriage?
MERCY: Yes, that is true. But for the physical abuse, I was ready to stay in the marriage. I think insecurity contributed to the problems we had. I was ready to do anything for the marriage to work. People just spread false narratives. Even when you come out to say your own side of the story, no one still wants to believe your story. I love my life so I can’t stay in an abusive marriage, someone can just push you, and you hit your head and die. Nobody was in my shoes so they won’t understand. If I died, they will still complain that I didn’t leave on time.
Q: You are known to be a practicing Christian who has been spotted in a church located at Ogba numerous times, are you still going to practice Christianity now that you are married to a Muslim?
MERCY: I believe that we serve the same God actually. I believe that whatever religion we fall under, it is the same God that we serve. But I’m now Alhaji’s wife. The reception I’ve been getting from Muslims has been overwhelming—someone sent me different kinds of gifts—a praying mat, a Quran, and other things even when I have not declared to become a Muslim and that is making me want to change my religion. But I don’t know sha. It is my choice. My husband is indifferent.
Q: Should we be expecting kids from this union?
MERCY: Together we have six beautiful kids and we are blessed. I am 44, a baby girl for life. We have six and we are good.
Q: Tell us about yourself
KAZIM: My name is KAZIM Adeoti as you know. I was born in Lagos about 48 to 49 years ago and my parents were natives of Oro in Kwara State, and they are both late. I started my education at Oro nursery and primary school—it was a boarding school at a very tender age. After that, I attended Surulere secondary school. After that I gained admission into the university of Jos from there I relocated to the U.S. I worked as a security man for a while. From there, I went back to school to gain a mortgage license so I’d practiced as a mortgage broker in the state of Minnesota for almost a decade before I got back to Nigeria to start the business of movie productions. Ibaka TV is not just mine, I am a co-founder, but I am the chairman of Ibaka TV. But I started Adekaz production, but later on, when we realized that we needed to upgrade because the world was becoming digital—we needed to be proactive. So, I met with some of my directors and they all contributed their ideas. I can say that we were doing good at Adekaz but we are doing way better at Ibaka TV. The MD of Ibaka TV is Blessed Idornigie, we have a director called Ayodele Awolaja who is based in the U.S, and another person called Dr. Olaniyi based in Canada.
Q: How true is it that you are considering politics?
KAZIM: Yes. I want to believe that every individual is a politician—irrespective of age, class, religion, or whatsoever it is our responsibility to be part of politics because it is all about governance. As you all know, democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. So, we just have to be part of it whether we like it or not, it is all about us. Be it active or inactive, we are all politicians. I love my community so much. I got some pedigree from my father. My father was someone that loved his community so much and he did so much for his community as well. I believe in carrying on in my father’s dream and legacy—the good works he was doing. It’s something I had been doing for a long time before now. I’ve always been around for my people in my native state of Oro in Kwara.
Q: What do you have to say about your marriage so they can leave your wife alone?
KAZIM: I want to believe that people have accepted her as my wife. The last post I made on my wall was greeted with a lot of congratulation and acceptance—it was all about love and positive vibes. It is my choice, and we are happy together. Whether people like it or not, they have to accept it.
Q: Did Mercy crash your marriage?
KAZIM: She never did. Like I said earlier, I am blessed with two beautiful women, nothing has crashed. We are good. I am blessed, no shaking.
MERCY: I just want to tell Nigerians that I am not the first person to be a second wife. It is my choice to be a second wife, and I’m happy with it. If you can be happy for me, please be, if you are not happy, it is not my fault. They should just leave me alone.
KAZIM: I want to use this medium and also educate some people. A lot of married men out there are fornicating, keeping multiple sex partners and their wives are aware and pretend as if they don’t know. So, which one is better to marry and do what is morally right or to fornicate? It is wrong and dangerous spiritually and health-wise. A lot of people are hypocrites. When you are bold enough to do the right thing, they complain. I know I have done the right thing.
Q: So how did you both celebrate Valentine?
MERCY: We had a great time. A very sweet and lovely time. I feel like I should go back and live in those moments.
Q: So, what should we be expecting from you going forward?
MERCY: I just took two to three days off to be with my man, but I’m back to work fully. I have a lot of works in the pipeline. I’m looking at doing a cinema job this year. I have an amazing script am working on with a strong social message that is very entertaining. I have not done a cinema job in a very long time, it’s been seven or eight years since I last did a cinema job, and from then till now, everything has changed. I have a couple of projects I‘m working on with Ibaka TV and Adekaz production. I have a movie dropping very soon title J.B.O, after that, I am going to be working on ‘Aya The Owner’. So, in the movie, you all will get to know all you need to know.