It was the 16th day of April, a Saturday morning, and I was alone in my office, trying to tidy up the last stanza of a short poem on The Plight of the Abducted Chibok Girls. The more I tried to focus on the subject, the more a silent voice fielded worrisome questions that I could hardly find answers to, sad questions that halted my creative flight and invaded my ideal world, my secret world of poetic romance.These were the questions echoing from the depth of my mind:
Is our world really coming to an end? Why is there so much hate and wickedness in the world today? What has happened to all our cherished values of age, culture and morality? How did we inherit these frightening cultures of hate, violence, terrorism and kidnapping? What kind of parents gave birth to these unwholesome and monstrous beings that derive pleasure in suicide bombing and in shedding innocent blood? How long shall we fold our hands and tolerate a frightening situation where fathers are turning against their children and children against their fathers? A world in which children are denied the pleasures of childhood.
These questions kept pouring out from the pores of my mind as I imagined the kind of suffering and misery the Chibok Girls must be undergoing at this very moment.
As I struggled with these questions, a sudden knock on the door jolted me from the Olympian height of creative engagement to my familiar world of bread and butter. The knock on the door was from one of the responsible students of my department Miss Vivian Adaeze Nnamani, who was recently crowned the Miss Nigeria United Nations, a beauty contest organized by Miss United Nations Nigerian Pageant, at Hilton Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, on the sixteen of May 2015. Miss Vivian’s visit was no doubt purposeful. She had come to present to me complimentary copies of her autographed exercise books bearing her Queen of beauty image with her brand boldly written:
VIVAN ADAEZE NNAMANI
MISS NIGERIA UNITED NATION
DIRECTOR: SPRING PALM DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Her visit was very much cherished by me even though it disrupted my quiet moment. What impressed me more was the sense of passion and commitment with which she defended and justified her interest and love for beauty and fashion related activities. Before divulging my brief conversation with the beauty queen, let me confess that before now, I was one of those with a huge sense of distaste for fashion parades and beauty pageantry.
My dislike for such festivals of surface beauty arises from my belief that women shouldn’t be valued primarily for their physical appearance, for this very reason, I was not an advocate for beauty events, but my brief encounter with Miss Nigeria United Nation today turned me into an instant convert of such constructive engagements. Here is the transcript of my brief dialogue with her:
G.N.N: Vivian, thank you very much indeed for these exercise books, and I hope this is not all you have to offer to the world for this crown?
VIVIAN: These are mere souvenirs, Sir we have a lot of programmes and projects.
G.N.N: Tell me precisely, what are some of the duties you carryout as a beauty queen?
VIVIAN: My NGO, the Spring Palm Development Foundation has visited over twenty schools carrying out motivational programmes, in most of the rural schools we visit, we try as much as we can to repair broken or disused infrastructures, we also provide textbooks and exercise books for poor students. When we visit Motherless Babies Homes and Prison Yards, we donate toiletries and provisions for the inmates.
GNN: In what way has this crown contributed to your positive development as an undergraduate?
VIVIAN: This award in a way, bestowed on me the status of an ambassador, ambassador of United Nations for that matter. Since I won the contest, I have become deeply conscious of my image and personality. I cannot endorse any unprogressive activity or act in any manner that will tarnish the image of the International Organization I am identified with or do anything that will mar my integrity and image as a distinguished Nigerian.
GNN: Critics of Beauty Festivals are of the view that beauty is a gift from God and for this reason, it shouldn’t be rewarded as an achievement. What is your reaction to this Vivian?
VIVIAN: If their views must hold, then we should stop rewarding all other God-given attributes and endowments like dancing, musical talent and oratory. Is athletic potential not a gift from God? Is intuition and emotional intelligence not a gift from God? Is creative or artistic talent not a gift from God? God is the giver of all gifts and we must not forget that beauty contests are not usually won by the most beautiful girls. A lot of brilliance, character, intellect and even emotional intelligence are required for one to emerge tops in a beauty contest.
GNN: Is there any Nigerian Beauty Queen you know that can be considered as distinguished as Ndi Okereke Onyiuke, Ngozi Okonjo- Iwuala, Chimamanda Adichie, Asha the Queen of musical minimalism or Dora Akunyili?
VIVIAN: Yes of course! Agbani Darego and Bianca Ojukwu are in all ramifications highly distinguished Nigerians. For instance, when Darego won Miss World competition and became Nigeria’s First Global Queen of Beauty, the whole country, including Mr. President and all the distinguished Nigerian women you mentioned earlier also joined the rest of us to celebrate her as one of our best.
GNN: What is the core motivation for your current development oriented projects?
VIVIAN: The honour and respect that this crown bestows on me. The more I enjoy incentives and respect for my hard work, the more I am challenged to be dutiful and responsible. Honestly Sir, this singular award has created a huge opportunity for me to do great things that I hardly could have dreamt of.
G.N.N. Vivian, let me take you a bit outside your interest.
VIVIAN: Go on, Sir.
G.N.N: Why is there little or no value for human life in our country today? Why is there so much shedding of blood, suicide bombing, kidnapping and Ritual Killing by young nigerians today?
VIVIAN: These social ills are rampant because most young men and women are misguided, frustrated and hopeless. Some are not constructively engaged, others are not properly educated or guided, Young people have no sense of belonging as far as sharing of the dividend of democracy is concerned. The youth of this nation are poorly educated, deprived, frustrated and relegated to the backgrounds.
And for as long as we live them to wallow in their state of ignorance and joblessness, they will embrace idleness, and develop strong appetite for alcohol, cigarette and drugs. It is in such jolted state of mind that they are lured into all kinds of criminal and terroristic acts.
G.N.N: What in your view would be the best way out of this situation?
VIVIAN: The Government must, as a matter of urgency, create viable skill-based programmes and enduring activities for our young men and women. Such programmes should provide for them constructive means of livelihood, it must also be a process that will re-train, re-focus, re-educate and de-radicalize them, consequently, turning them into agents for peace, progress and development.
G.N.N: Will that be an easy task for Government to accomplish?
VIVIAN: Yes of course. But the Government that will accomplish this must be a Government that leads by Example, a Government that has the political will to put in place those structures and amenities that will win the confidence of our young men and women and compel them to fall in place.
G.N.N: I agree with you Vivian if young Nigerians are properly educated and meaningfully engaged, if the Federal and State Governments embrace them, and give them a sense of belonging, it will be difficult to radicalize them and recruit them into terrorist Cells. Thank you for finding answers to questions that bugged my mind.
GREG NNAMDI NNABIKE MBAJIORGU is a Nuresdef Laureate and a Senior Lecturer in the department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Mbajiorgu is the editor of the World’s First Published Anthology of poetry on water and the first in African to publish a Mono drama.