I GAVE UP ON MEN UNTIL...
Mrs. Mercy Dada, nee Oyebor, is reputed for using her TV programme, 'Mama Nothing Spoil,' for advocacy and counselling, with a heavy dose of comedy. She speaks on her grouse with those she accused of imitating her trade mark, Mama Nothing Spoil; her new marriage and life generally in this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN
Where did you pick advocacy on behalf of the masses from?
You don't just pick it up. If you know what God has wired you for, it is easy to discover yourself. It is within you. That is why the lady who goes about as Mama Nothing Spoil will fail woefully. She can never be me, because I know what I do to still continue to be relevant on the job. Most of the times I am on the streets, mingling with the masses. I go to the people directly where they are. At times when I want to go out, I go on okada. I know what I want to do, and I know that there is more to life than all the money in the world. Why do you think a lot of artistes go into drugs, destroying, in a twinkle of an eye, the name they have spent years to build? When God gives you a calling, He gives you the money and it is not the car you ride that matters, it is who you are and what you are. The only thing that can make me happy is to see the common man happy, that's all. When it was becoming too expensive for the poor masses to afford the expensive beverages around, God gave some people the inspiration to manufacture what was called “Eruku Oshodi” (Oshodi dust – cheap sachet tea) and the masses had something to cheer. That is why when you make life miserable for the common man, God has a way of cheering him up.
When did you discover the talent in you?
I have always felt this way, even when I was younger. I have always been different among my colleagues. I know what I want and what I believe in. It takes somebody who really knows what he is doing to convince me that what I am doing is wrong. I want to look at what you are thinking, whether it fits in into my vision. It is you whom God has given the vision that will account for it before God. And whatever you need to keep alive the vision, He has deposited it in you. I respect gifts in people's lives and if you don't respect what is in me, I will tell you to go to hell. Again, I came from a family where most of us are in the media, we know what we want. I guess we pick it up from our mother, she always told us that we should hold on to whatever we believe in, not minding whatever anyone says.
You are perceived as someone who was rascally when growing up?
I was, even up till now, I am.
What turns you on and off in people?
What turns me off in people is arrogance and pride. I cannot stand people with these traits. Again, I hate lazy people. I like people who are highly disciplined. I don't like crafty and cunning people, they are very dangerous.
What has been the response of people to your advocacy programmes?
People love me a lot and a lot too hate me, but people who love me are more than those who don't like me. This is because I always want to be myself. I take the day as it comes. Though I am not the outgoing type, I appreciate good things of life, Nothing Spoil has survived for over 15 years, and it had been on before I came on Charly Boy Show. That is why Charly Boy stopped it when I left because it was a registered brand. I registered it three years before I came on his show. The programme was off air for some time before it bounced back.
But we have different persons for the character, Mama Nothing Spoil. Who is the original one?
What happened is that when I left Charly Boy Show, Charly Boy made Mandy to take up the role; then Mandy left, he replaced her with Vivian Ananen. I believe Vivian has stopped because there was a time my lawyer called her. But Mandy, I learnt, has not stopped appearing as Mama Nothing Spoil. She does not have the stuff, she cannot fit in, she can never be me. Anything she does in my name cannot stand. Apart from the fact that I am an anointed servant of God, oil has been poured on my head now for over 18 years. There was a time Mandy annoyed me so much that I sentenced her to years of affliction, which she went through. I hope she will not allow me to sentence her again. I am a very private person and you don't cross my path anyhow. She does not know where God is bringing me from, she does not know my journey through life and how Nothing Spoil came to be.
How did it come to be?
Nothing Spoil was given birth to after my many years of sorrow and unhappiness. You will never believe that I was once married to a very big-time naval officer and everything came crashing down, simply because he is from the North and I am Yoruba. I had to pick the pieces of my life again. After seven years, I could not afford to even put meat in my cooking. So the first day I bought N7 fish to cook egusi, I said “Nothing Spoil”. That is why I am annoyed about what some people are doing with my brand because they didn't know its source. I like Vivian, she has stopped. But anybody who knows Mandy should tell her to be very careful what she does in my name.
I was alone for almost 18 years, without anybody linking me with a man until God now gave me my own husband. It is true that everyone wants to stand with a success, but you must share what I believe. I don't take it lightly when people impersonate me and do all kind of things. Please, tell Mandy that my lawyer has her letter ready. I have enough money to sue her for impersonating me. If you know my younger ones, they will tell you that I am not easy. I don't forgive easily, but I don't take offence so easily too. See the glasses I use for my shows, I know what I went through before I could get it in Lagos. And when I put on my costume, another power comes over me completely.
What has become of your music career?
Ah, my music? When you take me out of music, it's like you are taking fish out of water. It is what I call Davidic anointing. It is grace that once you can act, you can also sing. It is not everyone who acts that can sing. I have two albums now. The first was called Jesus Bulala; and the second, I am guilty. I love music so much and you can always connect me with my music.
Can you say it is full gospel?
Yes, you can say that. But at times, I sing about the facts of life.
Where did you pick humour from?
Abinibi (in-born trait) is different from ability. It is there, and that is why comedy is not something you learn, you have it naturally. I know that whether some people want to accept it or not, I am the number one female comedian in Nigeria.
You talked about sorrow and unhappiness earlier, what was the problem?
What I had before with my first man wasn't a marriage really, but I thank God, I had wonderful daughters for a guy called Aku Stevens. I was involved with the guy from Jos. I came from a family where you are allowed to do what you want; but if yawa gas, don't come back and complain. He was a big guy in the Navy, but the relationship crashed simply because his people never accepted his getting married to a Yoruba woman. For many years, I was doing all kinds of things to take care of my daughters and myself. I was doing nails and all that to nurse the wounds of my crashed marriage. My involvement with the guy really stopped me from pursuing my musical career. After I was able to gather some money from doing hair and nails – and thanks to a wonderful brother, Segun Odegbami – I started to repackage myself. Initially, when I was coming out of the storm, I went to Charly Boy Show. But I left because I did not belong to his kind of programme. I have passed through a lot of storms in life, and that is why you don't toy with the vision of such a woman. I remember that even while my travails lasted, I kept to my vision.
Would you say that you made a mistake in choosing a man early in life?
I don't think so, I believe that no matter what you pass through, a road is predestined for you. I loved the guy so much because he was wonderful, but there was so much pressure on him for going for a Yoruba lady. They said that Yoruba women don't last in their matrimonial homes. For 18 years after we parted, I did not get married; I did not mess up with anyone until finally, my husband read about me.
Is it true that you lived in an uncompleted building for years?
Yes, because I could not afford to pay for a decent one. When I left my matrimonial home because of the heat from the guy's people, I decided to be on my own. In that uncompleted building, I was paying N300 or so; no toilet, no bathroom, we were just managing to survive.
But some ladies in your predicament would have done desperate things…
They would have, but I did not. And that is why I believe that when you pass through a storm as I did, you will understand the plight of the masses better. Where God built my house for me now, it is the biggest on the street; but I still remember what I passed through in the hands of landlords.
How religious are you?
I am a Christian and an evangelist, I believe that no matter what I do here, I will account before God.
Was that where you drew strength during your travails?
It was during my storm that I saw angels. I have seen Jesus Christ four times, and that was during my trials.
How was it like to see Jesus Christ?
I saw him and I started crying. It was not even a man that converted me, it was Jesus himself. The first time I saw him, I was drunk and the drunkenness disappeared. Jesus is so real.
You were talking about drinking…
Drinking? Drinking is different from being drunk. A little alcohol is good for your heart.
I want to believe you are enjoying your new marriage now…
Very, very well. In fact, my marriage to my wonderful husband has made me to delete the memory of my first marriage. The coming of my husband into my life has made me to forget my past experience because I never believed that marriage could be so exciting and wonderful again. I had really given up on Nigerian men and men generally. When I eventually met my husband, I wasn't really sure whether it was love or lust. The first one was lust and I thought it was love. Now that I know better, God deliberately did not allow the marriage to work. We were not really married. The guy knew my people, he wanted to take me to his people, but they said he should not bring a Yoruba girl. But now I am wearing my wedding ring and it fits me so well.
But did you ever think of meeting your husband in the dramatic way it happened?
Never. Something was written about me by Kemi Dayo-Ayetan of The Punch about a guy 'flashing' me – how I called up the guy and scared the hell out of him by telling him how I wanted to use him for contribution in my committee of witches. The guy started running from pillar to post, making sacrifices, in the fear that he 'flashed' a notorious witch. That was until he knew it was Mama Nothing Spoil that called him. It was after a year or so after Kemi wrote this that I got a call from a man who said he was Segun Dada. I said, so what do you want me to do with that, or is it a bank cheque? I didn't know that he got to read the stuff Kemi wrote about me and became interested. I knew that when he called me, I was hearing some waves in the background. Later I knew he was calling me from Guinea on the high seas. And he said when he got to Nigeria, he would like to meet me. I thought he was actually joking. He said, 'I read your story about claiming to be a witch. What kind of woman are you?' I said, we would 'chop' him too (laughter). I said, 'Who are you?' He said, 'I am a navigation officer bla bla.' When he called again, I was not serious. He had to call Kemi to tell her that the woman is not serious, please tell her that I am serious.' Kemi now drove down to my house and said, 'Aunty, why are you like this? Don't you think that you should get over the experience of your first marriage and move on?' I said I didn't care, I was enjoying my life. But Kemi kept coming and coming. Anyway, by the time the story of my marriage is written, the Lord will be glorified and I will remember Kemi. God really used her greatly because I didn't really want to get married again. I thought I wouldn't want to be tied down with a man because I had read a lot about TV personalities whose marriages had crashed and I didn't want that to happen to me. I don't believe that a woman should sleep around; and if she really has to sleep with a man, he has to be someone with whom marriage should be certain. I made a mistake first; should I even call it a mistake? My present husband had a similar experience; he had kids from a Calabar woman who never got married to him. So when we got married, we decided to move on. Right now, he is in Guinea and I miss him a lot.
Is he a pilot?
No, he is a navigation officer, he works on a ship.
Why this your penchant for naval men?
See me, see caterpillar o! I guess that when my first husband read that I was getting married to a navigation officer, he would know that the marriage would work. God gave me a husband whom I would not be seeing always; and anytime he comes around, he is fresh (laughter). He adds to my life and I have wonderful in-laws. In fact, God knew that it was because of in-laws that I didn't want to get married again.