When Annie Idibia, actor, mother and wife of celebrated musician, Innocent Idibia was first asked to pair with her husband for our Love and Marriage edition cover, her response was totally unexpected; “I don’t like to do covers with my husband.”

“Why not?” I asked. “I am tired of being just Mrs. Idibia as if I don’t have my own identity” she replied. Then, she laughed,  adding, “I don’t want to be known just as 2Baba’s wife as if I am only a trophy wife.”

“I want to be known as Annie, an actor, a mum and a woman who empowers over 1000 people every year through a program that helps them develop skills.

“So why did you eventually agree to do this cover? I asked on the day of the shoot quickly squeezing in my question between make-up and fitting.

Smiling, she shrugged, “Innocent said to me; “come on Annie, are we in competition now? This cover is for both of us, not me alone.  That got to me!”

Annie and Innocent have been married for over 5 years and both admit that the first year or two together were very turbulent for them.

In innocent’s words – “Annie didn’t trust me; she was angry all the time and I couldn’t really assure her enough of my love. She always wanted to get into my phone to see if I was cheating on her.”

Annie corroborated that – “I was always nagging, I had lost my confidence and felt so insecure. I always accused him of cheating. I complained about everything. The stress took its toll on him and he became very moody.”

We both had to just stop or we would have destroyed our marriage.” by ISOKEN BELO-OSAGIE.

Creative Direction and Styling- Ifeoma Odogwu

Photographed by Aham Ibeleme

Make-Up- Mary-Jane Ohobu for Zaron

Hair- Royce Samuel for Ceezysstyling

Fashion Assistants- Tosin Abiodun and Vanessa Aneto

Location- Bnatural Med Spa, Landmark hotel Oniru Lagos

WARDOBE:

ANNIE- Mai Atafo, Uju Estelo, Lady Beellionaire Luxury,      Shoes-Donetti

Jewellery- Gbenga Art Smith

TUFACE- Morafa, Kamsi Tcharles,Telvino, Indulgence Company      Shoes- Monimorgan

-Isoken Belo-Osagie.

How did you know Annie was THE ONE of all the women in your life then?

(Smiling shyly as he reached down to touch the soil and tenderly play with the nearest plant) Wow! Matters of the heart…Annie is like the earth; she keeps me grounded. Without Annie to keep me grounded, I would have self destructed! I was very disorganized and didn’t have it all together, but she “arranged me”.

Annie confessed that the first year of your marriage was very turbulent; tell us about that.

Very turbulent! There was no peace in the house. Annie didn’t trust me; she was insecure because of my past. She was angry all the time and I couldn’t really assure her enough of my love. She always wanted to get into my phone to see if I was cheating on her. We argued a lot and we were both unhappy. It was affecting my stage performances and I was always moody. She couldn’t get over the fact that I used to be a lady’s man. Initially, I was stubborn too but eventually I understood. I couldn’t expect her to adjust just like that. I would have to give her time to find out that I was done with who I used to be. So I didn’t give up; I kept re-assuring her of my love and even stopped locking my phone so she could satisfy her curiosity.

At what point did you realize you wanted to settle down and marry?

As a child, I thought marriage was this big mysterious thing especially as I watched my parents. Then, when I got married, I realized marriage was just about two people who understand each other and are co-operating to build something bigger than the two of them. I found out that marriage is actually simple. You respect and love each other. There is no big secret about marriage.

Did it cross your mind that you could have made a mistake in the choice of a wife?

No, never. Though we had ugly moments, I didn’t think I had made the wrong choice. I always knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I knew I just needed to give her time. I felt very sad especially as I knew my hands were clean and I was doing nothing  funny. All the same I understood that I had to make her comfortable so I tried not to complain. Eventually, she also realized she needed to cut me some slack. I think in every marriage, the first one year is the most difficult because then you are getting to know each other properly as you settle into your new roles of man and wife and that you’re no longer the boyfriend/girlfriend you used to be.

This is an age of social media and couples tend to over share by putting their private businesses out there to impress their followers. How much of social media have you controlled in order for you to live a real life?

A lot, right from time! I have never been a materialistic person or a braggado kind of person and I think that has helped me in my social media control. Most of the time, I just try to be hilarious and pass any serious message whenever there is need but at other times it’s all about having fun or letting my fans know what I’m up to. My life does not depend on social media.

I don’t know many young wives who would happily take on their husband’s five other children as Annie has done; that’s definitely a plus for her.

More than a plus! That really makes me the happiest man on earth and it also makes things so much easier. If it wasn’t like that, I would have to be doing some things in a coded way and that would be torture for me. But her approach has helped me to be open and free with her. It has helped the marriage too.

Are you saying there will never be side chicks or other baby mamas?

No, none. Not anymore. Having so many children from different women at such a young age almost sent me into depression. I drank a lot because people laughed at me and called me names. Nobody cared that I was an artiste or that I had worked so hard. I was the butt of all the jokes by comedians. It was crazy I tell you. Plus, it started to affect me and my work. I wasn’t going to run away from my responsibilities but at the same time I’m also human, despite all my smiles, it gets through to you. At the end of the day, I just dusted myself up and didn’t let it stop me from going forward.

Awww, that must have been a dark time for you?

It was. I tried to cope by drinking too much…

You said there will no longer be side chicks but women don’t care if you’re married or not, they will still shoot their shot!

It is straight up, I’m married and it’s not hidden but if a person wants to be reminded then I will have to remind that person. Anybody smart enough would just know from body language that it won’t work. I friend zone them all the time.

There was never a time you were quoted as questioning the paternity of any of your children or asking for a DNA test?

They are my children. I don’t care about a DNA test. I love all of them including the ones that I am godfather to. My heart swells with a kind of joy that no one can understand when I see my babies. They were my main motivation; not just to be a good father but in all areas of my life including my music and my personal life. I never did any DNA test for any of my kids because if their mothers said they were my kids, then they were my kids. The kids know me as their daddy and everyone is happy. I may not have married their mothers but I love them and will do anything for them.

What’s fatherhood like? Do you get to spend time with your family at all?

It’s very difficult to find time and even more difficult as all my seven children don’t live with me under one roof. I wish I could see all of them more than I do now. When I am with them I make sure it’s quality time. When I’m home, I shut down from everything else and just concentrate on spending time with them.

When you have children outside of marriage, their mothers sometimes tend to want to rekindle old flames. How have you managed to keep your ex’s in the “mummy only” zone?

I think credit goes to the mothers of my kids. They respected my decision and have been really co-operative.  I do appreciate all of them and the fact that they respect the boundaries. It’s good for them and for the kids too. I’m just thankful that we all were mature and used our heads to think and solve the issue

When you look at your life and everything that has happened, what are you most grateful for?

I’m most grateful for my upbringing, for the way my parents raised me. The values they instilled in me have helped me journey through life and stay strong even when I fall.

You have stayed relevant as an artiste regardless of the revolution in the industry…what does it take to do that?

I would say it’s my approach to life and of course the quality of my music. My music cuts across all genres and both the young and old love it. I have been very fortunate that my music has created loyal fans that trust me to deliver. They trust me to keep working and reinventing myself. I never think that I have arrived! Instead, I just keep on doing music that I know will be relevant in the next 20 to 40 years to come.

Who are the music icons that you would say influenced your decision to become a musician?

My major music influence was Bob Marley, though growing up I listened to different genres of music because my Dad had a versatile collection of music from Jackson 5 to Michael Jackson, Fela, The OJs, The Temptations, Abba, Boney M, Sonny Okoso, Bongos Ikwue, Chris Okotie. You can see from these collections that I enjoyed a very varied exposure in my early stages of music but reggae music was the main music that got to me because of the conscious lyrics and the flow of the music. That is why in some of my songs, there is that reggae influence on it. Though I didn’t stick to reggae music, I just mixed a whole lot of genres

What is the one thing you regret about your life and choices you made?

This one is quite difficult because I’m someone who doesn’t like to regret the things I’ve done. I believe there is a lesson from every experience for me to learn. So, if I was given another chance or if the hands of time were turned back, there are some things I would have done differently. I’ve learned from them, moved on and now I’m just standing by the lessons. But if I’m to answer you honestly, I would say I wish I’d never started drinking because it affected so many decisions I have made in the past.

So knowing what you know now what would you tell your younger self?

Acquire and develop as many skills as you can while you are young. There is no limit to what your brain can handle or learn.

ANNIE IDIBIA…

How do you feel now about pairing up with your husband for this cover considering that you initially had reservations about it.

I’m happy I finally agreed to it. My reservations were not to suggest that I resented doing a cover with Tuface, not at all! It was just that in the first few years of our marriage I felt I had no identity apart from being 2Baba’s wife so I avoided joint interviews with my husband. People introduced me merely as Tuface Idibia’s wife or even an ex-video vixen. That really affected my confidence and made me feel as if I wasn’t good enough as a person and that my validation was only as his wife. I do believe there is so much more to me that I’m yet to unravel, rather than just being Innocent’s wife.

But you eventually got over that?

I think it was after having my second child. It was hard turning down some offers. There were some things that they would want me to do only if Innocent was in the mix. For example, once there was this major newspaper that I had always wanted to be on their cover, I got my manager to make some calls but they were only interested in interviewing both my husband and I. All these rejections made me decide that I was going to develop myself and wait for my own turn to come. And fortunately, in the last two years, it seems people are beginning to realize there is more to Annie than just being 2baba’s wife.

I’m aware that beyond being an actor that you also have other projects you are working on, what are these?

I’m a business woman. I manage a hair and eyelashes collection. I’m also a new producer on the block. I just shot an amazing film, a romantic comedy that will be out hopefully by February. I will soon release a children’s line for kids that comprise of a total package for kids and I hope to eventually try to create a kiddies TV show out of it. I have a foundation where I empower a thousand women and youths every year, it is called Annie Idibia I-care foundation. It’s a 2 weeks training program that trains individuals on 12 different skills and we empower the best students. One of my students, a makeup artist in the class two years ago is now a major makeup artist.

Do you find yourself in a place where you unwittingly have to prove merit?

Yes I do. Back then I felt a lot of people looked down on me and only saw me as Tuface’s wife. I always felt like I had to put in extra effort at work, try to achieve more.  I work hard; I’m also a mum, I’ve got a home to take care of and I still have got to slay! (laughs)  

Tell us about the home front.

I have seven kids altogether, yes. I’m a small mummy. I have two biological kids and between Innocent and I, we have four boys and three girls.

Most of us know the circumstances surrounding the children, how easy was it for you to take them on as your responsibility and what are some of the issues you faced initially with their mums?

It was never going to be easy! At first, I was scared to play Mummy. I kept checking myself as to whether I was under-doing or over-doing it. It was always like walking on egg shells. It was pretty hard but gradually the kids and I began to find common ground. I love them and they love me. I know it and I can say it proudly. Perhaps I’m a bit closer to the boys though, but that’s only because they live in Nigeria.

How did you finally “arrange” the family to make it one happy family?

To be honest, I wouldn’t give the credit to myself alone, I’ve had the help of Sumbo who has two kids for Tuface.  People always assume it is just Annie doing the whole work but that is not entirely true. Sumbo does a lot of work too and I know it’s not been easy on her either.  She’s been very strong, understanding and helpful. Any woman who puts her children’s welfare and feelings first is a great woman regardless of any other issue.

So she made it simpler for you so to speak?

The fact that her kids love my daughters tells a lot about her – she didn’t try to plant any discord in them. The boys call me Mama, they take me as a bonus mom which is a plus for me. I also know that my husband’s biggest dream is to be in the same space with all his children for longer than a few hours.

How did you know that Innocent was the one and that regardless of the baggage you were there for the long haul?

I’ve always known that Innocent was the one. I met him when I was just 16 in a studio in 1999. I was very young and naïve. I’ve always loved Innocent and the love I feel for him now isn’t the love I felt for him back then…Then it was a crush but now it really is LOVE. I was a young girl who had a huge crush on this guy and who didn’t care whether the feelings were reciprocated or not. I only knew I wanted to be around him for a long time, I didn’t even know the reason why! Now, it’s different. He is my husband now and we are in this together for the long haul. I’m responsible for him and I feel it is my duty to protect him.

Was there a time that you felt you probably made a mistake marrying him?

Honestly no, even though I’ve had really rough times with him in the past. The first year of my marriage was extremely hard. I wasn’t even sure we were going to make it through into the second let alone the third year.

What made it so hard?

Adjusting into the marriage and learning to trust him. I felt he really didn’t understand the concept of marriage. Men come with a lot of baggage into marriage which they proceed to try to clean up. We always had heated quarrels and he would drive off and wouldn’t be back until midnight. I would cry my eyes out until he returned home. I’m an extremely jealous woman; every phone call was a problem for me. I was just being human but now I wish I had been a bit calmer.

Did you ever go after him to fight off a woman?

No I never did. But there was a time in the first year of my marriage I thought I was going to lose him as a result of my temper. The first year, my temper was on high alert. I was always angry and was extremely possessive. I feared I was going to chase him away because men like their freedom. I nagged him and always tried to get into his phone. It didn’t help that I got a lot of bashing from the press. A lot was said about my marriage to him. You can imagine facing that outside and then coming home to face him too. It resulted in a lot of fights at home. I was trying so hard to prove to myself and to him that I knew what I was doing getting into the marriage.

And then what happened?

I noticed that every time I did those things, he was genuinely unhappy. He would be so moody. I also noticed that anytime I laughed in the house, he would be so happy and go out and buy things. His stage performances were affected too after every fight.  I was supposed to build him and not break him but I was breaking him and I needed to stop. By then Innocent had stopped locking his phone so I could be convinced   that he was not cheating.

Your wedding was a carnival, was that the plan?

It definitely wasn’t. I’ve always wanted a beach side wedding with a quiet reception on an island but everybody wanted to be at Innocent’s wedding because he is people’s man. It was very lovely though amidst the chaos.

In spite of the jinx surrounding celebrity marriages and subsequent divorces you have managed to stay together for more than five years. How do you think you have been able to achieve this?

Love is patient and the bible says it. I’m not saying be a fool I am just saying a good marriage requires sacrifice and patience especially if no one is being abused. It’s very important that everyone gets to really know and understand their partners very well before marriage. Friendship matters a lot and it’s something you continue to build and nurture.  As my husband would say, “I’m sorry” are very important words in a relationship as I discovered.  And when you are sorry about something, do not repeat that same stuff that made you say sorry in the first place. And pride has no place in any relationship or marriage that is destined to survive.

Do you have an issue with being a submissive wife?

Not at all. I’m sorry but I’m a Queen and not a King. A King should rule my kingdom that’s how I feel, no disrespect to anyone. It doesn’t make me in any way less than a man. It has been ordained that way by God. I’m not saying though that the king should ride on me and make me a slave. I think every man should allow the women in their lives do what make them happy, it would make them better wives and mothers.

Should we keep blaming social media for broken marriages?

When we put out too much information out there, then we are no longer in charge of our privacy.

Social media unfortunately can confuse a lot of people so we have to be careful what we put out there. There are a number of things I’ve done on social media that I’m not proud of as well. However, I keep learning to be more moderate with what I post. It has taken so much effort to build what Innocent and I have and I have to guard it jealously.

Should we say congratulations on the reconciliation with Pero who has three children for Innocent? It’s a good thing, right? Now, Innocent can achieve his wish to have one big united family without any rancor come through?

We have all waited for this moment of reconciliation; it means so much to Innocent. It is also such a good thing for him to be able to have access to all his children and for his children to come home to see their dad. I thank Pero for letting go of the past. It also means so much to me to see this day… At the end of the day, we have all had to put our sentiments aside for the sake of every one concerned.

And you 2baba? Social medial captured that emotional moment when Annie and Pero embraced each other. It must have been a defining moment for you?

I thank Pero and Annie for allowing peace to reign. I have prayed about this for years and I am so happy about this reunion. It’s good for all of us and more especially the children. I am so happy and that’s why I was so emotional.

*Don’t we all just love happy endings?*

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