Monday, October 31, 2016

Nigerians, Beware Of Beauty Pageants!

By Uche Ezechukwu
I was billed to officiate at a beauty pageant-cum award giving ceremony, last Friday at Owerri, as keynote speaker. I had written what I considered a good speech and had got an expert to translate it into Igbo, as the entire proceedings at the Asa Igbo pageant would be in Igbo language. It was that refreshing departure from the norm, as well as the assurance by the organizers that it was not going to be like the run-of the mill pageants, about which I had since become suspicious, that had made me to agree to participate fully.
*Chidinma Okeke
I did not only agree to participate but had also made this newspaper, whose editorial board I chair, to throw its weight behind the planning and execution of the event with publicity. We had publicized and popularized the event as professionally as we could. We were convinced that we were supporting a good course, because the Asa Igbo pageant would be an occasion to glorify and promote Igbo language, values and culture.

The paper I prepared was directed at that noble theme. I had since started frowning at the promotion of female cleavages and nudity as signifying beauty. Hence, in the eyes of the different organizers of beauty pageants in the West and which has been copied line, hook and sinker by Nigerian organizers like Ben Bruce and co., the most beautiful maidens are those that flaunt their feminine attributes best and most alluringly before male audiences and judges and most audaciously. As a typical African, this definition of ‘beauty’ appears very defective to me, because in our African milieu, the beauty of a woman, especially the nubile female, is defined more by inside, unseen values than by the outward attributes which can be cosmetically achieved.

In the other words, many of the Miss This; Miss That which most of our beauty pageants have been turning out might, in fact, be painted sepulchers with stinking inside attributes, which to the ordinary African, does not constitute the beauty of a woman.

The organizers of the Asa Igbo pageant had assured us that they had the same lofty objectives as I was espousing when I first discussed with Mike Akabueze, the president of the Asa Igbo Foundation, as a condition for agreeing to the partnership with The Authority. They had assured me that their beauty queen would be one that could stand out any day as the ambassador of Igbo beauty as defined by Igbo culture and philosophy. I was completely bought over and made up my mind to deliver a paper that would add some colour to the event. The title of my paper was: The Woman as the Glory of Her Society, which I would have delivered in Igbo as: Nwanyi bu Ugo Mba.

Actually, I had taken my theme from Obi Egbuna’s depiction of the woman (or a maiden, if you like) as ‘the mascot of her race’.
In little less than 1,300 words, I tried to depict how important and highly-cherished a well-mannered woman, in contrast to a physically endowed woman, is sought after and respected in Igboland, in the understanding that while the physical beauty soon evaporates, the intrinsic inner beauty lasts forever, and that it is the maiden with that inner beauty that the Igbo regard as a “beautiful” woman. In the paper, therefore, I exhorted our maidens to aim at that inner permanent beauty for it to count. I had also shown that like in the Medieval Europe, when knights in shining armour went out to fight for their ladies, the Igbo man is also very chivalrous to women who have the inner beauty, and who are, therefore, marriageable. That is why an Igbo could be going about in rags but would ensure that her wife is not bettered by any other. An Igbo man can go to every length to fight and provide for a woman with the inner beauty.

When a suitor is seeking the hands of a lady in marriage, scouts and spies are sent out to check out the intended bride’s background. It is not how physically beautiful she is that the spies look for, but rather how she behaves and carries herself under different situations. For, that to the Igbo, constitutes the real beauty. Therefore, I had opined, to the Igbo, only a marriageable maiden is beautiful.

Unfortunately, I was not able to deliver that paper because I was not able to attend the event for which I had finalized the arrangements weeks earlier, to attend. The organizers had made my hotel bookings and had communicated to me how I would get there from the airport. My airline booking on Air Peace had been made from my office for 10.10 am flight on Friday, which would have given me ample time to get to my hotel, freshen up and prepare for the function which was to start at five.

On the very morning that I was to travel, the Miss Anambra scandal and especially, its fallouts had hit the skies and I happened to have been involved by the parents of the victim that was Miss Blessing Chidinma Okeke, around whom the scandal revolved. Her case, especially as I got intimated on the other details that are not readily at the public domain, had spoilt my mind for the whole week. I instantly hated all beauty pageants in Nigeria and lost interest in the one I was going to participate in that very day. It was sad to me, but I could not help it as the organizers kept calling me till later that day, reminding me that my absence was delaying the start of the pageant.

I felt very sorry that I had let Mr. Mike Akabueze and his team at Asa Igbo Foundation down for which I apologize profusely, but I would have been useless if I had been there. I was so down and out over Miss Chidinma’s case, and I was grieving as if she was my daughter, especially over what the poor girl had gone through in the hands of people who she had trusted as the organizers of the pageant from which she had emerged as Miss Anambra 2015, and who had betrayed her and shattered her young fragile life. 

There have been a lot of stories of underhand and indecent t things that take place during these beauty pageants, and even though organizers are always quick to deny them, the stories persist with uncommon stubbornness. I was hopeful, because of the assurance that I had sought and got, that the one I was going to attend at Owerri would be refreshingly different. But how could I be sure? After all, who would have thought that a pageant organized by Anambra Broadcasting Service – the famous ABS, could turn out to be a huge scandal?

Actually I got involved with the Miss Anambra case when it came out that the embattled girl wanted to spill the beans of how she was drugged and set-up at a press conference but had to run as far as her fragile heels could carry her when she received repeated threats that she would be shot dead at the conference if she dared carry out her threat. I had made my mind that the assailants should get ready to kill me with Chidinma. 

However, as it now stands, it is not my intention to speak further on what my findings so far are because I have given my words to Chidinma’s family, speaking through phone calls, that I would hold my fire and not proceed with further action on the lurid issue of betrayal of a young lamb until the storm passes, to enable the poor girl recover from her mental, physical and mental torture. It was after one of my phone calls with her embattled father on my way to the airport last Friday morning that I cancelled my Owerri trip.

From what I know, and from what are being unearthed, I intend to carry out a massive and intensive campaign, alongside people of like minds, to make the different state legislative houses to pass laws making beauty pageants illegal. Furthermore, I intend to urge church leaders, parents and other members of the society to prevail on our girls not to get involved in beauty pageants, as it is obvious that what the organizers advertise on the surface is not what happens behind the public view.
*Mr. Ezechukwu is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Authority (ezechukwu1@gmail.com



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