MBGN: An Event of Joke By Airhunmwunde, Matthew
Beauty cavalcade holds a special place in any culture. Regardless of the fact that the phenomenon is prevalent around the world, the modern beauty pageant’s conventions and implications are accredited to American responsiveness. Pageants are often disparaged for ranking women like prize horses and creating a hypothetically unattainable ideal beauty. However, over the previous era, pageants have developed a character to augment this meat market denigration. With the introduction of more than a few media including television, attributes of the beauty pageant have been immortalized on a nationwide level, using television etiquette to promote a pre-established philosophy of universalization, nationalism, and womanhood. The genre exploration is deeply interwoven with its investigation, the Miss Nigeria Pageant, and explores the pageant’s current modifications for a new, digital, and universal community.
The Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, MBGN, event organized by the Silverbird group has not only been a canard but has unabatedly and repeatedly misrepresented the Miss Nigeria and the nation at large. For some of us that is rarely conversant with these events. I pluralized the word ‘events’ because there are two of these in Nigeria except that one (MBGN) is impersonating the other (Miss Nigeria). Let me quickly rejuvenate our memory from the point where this masquerade called MBGN originated from.
Prior to now, the Miss Nigeria (as it was known and still recognized as a brand all over the world) is an annual pageant exhibition which showcases positive attributes of Nigerian women and presently awards university scholarships. The winner or the champion depicts exemplary qualities and serves as a role model for youngsters in the country. The pageant is currently coordinated by Beth Model Management Africa. Under Daily Times (the original organizers of the Miss Nigeria pageant franchise), Miss Nigeria consisted of contestant competing in Zonal contests in different parts of the country where the winner, first and second runner-ups were selected to compete at the grand denouement in Lagos. This pageant started as a photo tournament in 1957. Participants mailed photographs of themselves to the Daily Times headquarters in Lagos where finalists were shortlisted; those qualified were invited to compete in the live final which formally did not include a swimsuit contest at the Lagos Island Club.
Subsequent to the downfall of Daily Times and rivalry with Sliverbird’s MBGN, Miss Nigeria became extinct and ceased to be the country’s most significant pageant and thereafter began to diminish towards the nineties. In the middle of ninety eighties, Daily Times had lost its license to convey representatives to Miss World, Miss Universe, etc. In this milieu, no winner was crowned after Clara Ojo’s conquest from 1994 to 1998 due to the organizer’s inability to organize a pageant during those periods. After the new millennium and several age scandals, Miss Nigeria became an apparition of its previous self, and Daily Times consequently scrapped the contest in 2004.
On the other hand, MBGN was previously known as Miss Universe Nigeria; it was retitled Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria after Daily Times lost its license to send delegates from rival contest Miss Nigeria to Miss World and Miss Universe. It is and has become a pageant organized by Silverbird Group with the focal purpose of sending representatives to international competitions.
MBGN concentrates mainly on physical beauty unlike Miss Nigeria which is excluded to advance inner beauty with a descent girl-next-door image, conjoining vintage glamour with modern elegance. Presently, MBGN winners spontaneously become representatives at international pageants while Miss Nigeria acts as a cultural ambassador. Capacity, ability and talent is another significant segment in Miss Nigeria while at MBGN this is notably absent, but still a prerequisite as winners are expected to compete in the talent competition at Miss World. The disparities between MBGN and Miss Nigeria have been contrasted with Miss USA and Miss America. Whereas MBGN delegates contest at international level, Miss Nigeria winners no longer have this dispensation. In 2010 Miss Nigeria was relaunched as a scholarship programme while MBGN persist to operate as a commercialized event
Commentators and critics have portrayed MBGN pageant as a parade of beauty with no brains. A competition based on a young woman’s physical appearance alone is disgusting and portray nothing but empty vessels. It is most infuriating to see girls on stage after two weeks in camp, and having much fun, with little or no question and there after being declared winners. Give the girls of MBGN barely 8 weeks after the competition and ask her the same question, she won’t only fidget but will be unable to answer, and then one would wonder how she obtained the crown.
It isn’t amazing that the whole process of recruiting these girls is not only faulty but perpetuates insensitiveness. Calls and advertisement for the sale of forms are announced for every tom, dick and harry, all over the nation. In other words, if you are unable to meet that singular criterion, whether or not the form is sold in your state, you would have been disenfranchised already. Mostly, this is where I find the MBGN as a laughable event; where these girls are expected to represent a particular state whether or not they are indigenes of such states. How can someone impersonate her state origin and claim to be the most beautiful girl for that state even though she has never been to such state? Silverbird is given the impression, though erroneously, puerilely, and pejoratively, that every girl is representing their state, when in fact, four or five of the participants at a time, are from a particular state.
One would have thought that a competition of this magnitude will be thorough in its affairs; especially the fact that the essence is to brand the state and the nation in general. This is another aspect where I find the MBGN repulsive. Nneka is representing Adamawa, Okorie is representing Nasarawa, Odetayo is representing Imo, Ogbebor is representing Kaduna, Osemudiamen is representing Katsina, etc. Ordinarily, this is supposed to be a joke, a child’s play, and an affair of kids in kindergarten. It is even baffling that the organizers have unabatedly failed to see any misconstruction in this singular process and they do this with impunity. Even some supposedly prominent individual in the society has never thought of this yet they accolade the affair as though nothing is amiss.
Guy Murray-Bruce, who took up the baton from his brother as pageant director in 1992 once told The Guardian: “… getting the girls to come and participate was hard, and we literally had to beg them to participate”. Admittedly, the country has a conservative standard in certain states, especially in Northern Nigeria, yet, this is not a justification for misrepresentation. There are a thousand and one individual in the said Northern states that are willing to participate. Times have changed, and we with time. The Silverbird group ought to know better and they are simply not doing enough to turn from this joke other than a money making business for them. Now, don’t misunderstand me. Every business goal is to maximize profit, and Silverbird is not an exception; but maximizing profit is not a yardstick to toil with people’s sensibility. If it wasn’t just about making money, why has Silverbird failed to organize this competition, as it used to be or supposed to be? Competitors from every state competes in their states of origin, where the winner, first and second runner-ups are sent from each state to the grand finale. Undoubtedly, the deprivation accorded will to a large extent be brushed off, and the ideas the organizers have of the so-called Northern states will be reformed. On the contrary, if it is so glaring that it is impossible in certain states; such states should not and should never be represented in the competition. It is better to let the public know that there is no participant from a particular state than to impersonate with someone from another state. If Silverbird’s excuses of not using the entire states in the federation is bothered on issues of traditions and religion or because they prefer not to offend the sensibility of such states, it is even more infuriating and exasperating to the indigenes of such states, when they later see that their state is being represented by say, an Ibo or Yoruba with a bikini on stage. .
It would be recalled that in the late-nineties, after MBGN failed to make the Miss Universe and Miss World, the organizers placed height and weight limitations on the contenders’ entry forms, and judges were told not to choose the woman they found most attractive, rather the one with a greater opportunity of winning at international pageants. What does this connotes? It didn’t only represent restrictions for those with such features but tend to show and prove that the judges were merely tools and employees (so to say) in the hands of the organizers and are bound to do exactly as they have been told. At such, the standard and benchmark of the judges is completely inconsequential as a yardstick for their judgment rather “what they have been told to do”. No doubt, this has affected several judgments made in times past. And the pendulum swings to the direction of what the organizers decides for each year and not what it entails.
Bear in mind that Silverbird has continually unlocked grounds for cheating by these girls with their age. Why shouldn’t the girls? All they needed to do was to simply buy the forms, fill exactly what they want and how they want it. With little or no investigations, these girls are automatically accepted for the events with the weak criteria’s for qualification. This would have been averted if the girls were initially scrutinized in their state of origin before the grand finale where no one has an iota of how the girls became a finalist.
Notably, all international competitions on this pageantry, from Miss World, to Miss Universe, to Miss Tourism, etc., are represented by “Miss” of every country. None of the countries in the world is represented by “Most Beautiful Girl” as it is in Nigeria. It is only logical that Miss Nigeria represents Nigeria in the Miss World as against MBGN. Otherwise, how come, these girls are never called “Miss Nigeria” like the one that just ensued on Saturday July 20, 2013? She cannot be called Miss Nigeria; rather she is referred to as MBGN. Yet, the organizer presents “MBGN” as though she is “Miss Nigeria” to represent Miss World. For those of us that are not familiar with this pageant, there is actually a “Miss Nigeria” different from MBGN. It is “Miss Nigeria’ that ought to be representing Nigeria and not “Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, MBGN” organized by Silverbird. If “Miss Nigeria” is not representing Nigeria why will MBGN represent Nigeria claiming to be “Miss Nigeria” in the Miss World pageantry?
It is no surprise that just after Agbani Darego’s victory at Miss World, Miss Nigeria 2001 Amina Ekpo, initiated a legal action against her MBGN counterpart who was accused of misrepresentation, affirming that Darego had fraudulently presented herself as Miss Nigeria at the international pageant, and had not been certified to use the title. Past Daily Times managing director Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, who had famously described MBGN winners as “lowly-rated queens” supported the $10,000,000 lawsuit, claiming that he will not allow anybody to misrepresent “Miss Nigeria”. Even The Guardian was beleaguered for misrepresenting the Miss Nigeria brand in 2011 when Theatre Arts student and past MBGN runner-up Sandra Otohwo was depicted as Miss Nigeria 2009 by the publication. Sandra Otohwo, who had epitomized Nigeria at Miss Universe 2009, posed for photographs wearing a bikini at the beach which infuriated the Miss Nigeria organizers who had endorsed their swimsuit-free pageant as a decent institution, and noted that the competition was inactive from 2004 to 2010, and so making it impracticable for the organizers to have crowned a Queen in 2009. However, The Guardian later apologized by printing Nike Oshinowo’s(Miss Nigeria lead Organizer) grievance in the following issue.
Additionally, let me use the last two winners of MBGN to depict the practical joke of the organizers of MBGN. It has been revealed by observant at the live show that virtually all the girls who were short-listed for 2011 year’s MBGN competition etched lower than 50 percent in spoken English. In point of fact, one of the trendy stories in town that year was that all the 34 girls knew how to do just a thing and that was ‘slaughtering of the English Language.” Recall that when Guy Murray-Bruce asked one of the girls how she feels about winning the MBGN, Her response was “I feel exciting and happiness.” Ultimately, Miss Taraba, Sylvia Nduka,(a Southerner representing Taraba) an accounting student of University of Lagos was chosen. Even the eventual winner was a sham.
It will be recalled that at the interview with Vanguard Newspapers, published on August 7, 2011, the MBGN winner (Sylvia Nduka), responded to the question why she was apprehensive while reacting to her question at the event. She declared that it was her first time in any pageant and on any stage. She didn’t stop there; she affirmed that she won because of her looks and activities at the boot camp. Blatant lies! Sylvia has been fingered as one of the contestants at the 2010 edition of Miss Nigeria in Abuja and represented Miss Kaduna. She has also been known to have participated in etiquette training where she was appropriately trained to present herself properly on stage and to an audience as well as other vital lessons in public appearance. The same Sylvia has equally partook in the media etiquette training with Jemi Ekukubor of Vanguard style magazine, Allure. As noted by Nike Oshinowo, Sylvia had subsisted the eviction process of the Miss Nigeria reality show and she was there at the grand finale in Abuja. With evidences from video and other sources, Sylvia failed to make the top ten finalists in the final parade, yet she came out with such blatant lie and won MBGN. My question is if the Silverbird groups were not just clowns, how can such errors goes unnoticed? The fact that she had represented Kaduna before and thereafter Taraba, shows that the organizers of Silverbird are habitually misrepresenting and deceiving the public concerning what the participants stand for. It is even worse that the day after the grand finale of 2011, the pageant judges of MBGN complained that the name announced as the winner was not the one they had picked. She was most an underserving winner, yet she won. Judges were meant to compute what is required of them, while Guy Murray- Bruce and his cohorts announce the name they so desire or pleased.
In the following year, 2012, the winner of the MBGN, Isabella Ayuk alleged to be twenty-six when she contended, until reports implied that she had faked her age, thus giving the notion that she was younger than her actual age of thirty years. Ayuk even stated that it was an attempt to blackmail her. The tattletale (call her whistle-blower if you like), stated that Isabella’s younger sister, her classmate, was already twenty-seven. Recall that the pageant director Guy Murray-Bruce stated that (notwithstanding a public outcry) she would not be ousted and will continue to serve as the reigning queen. Nevertheless, for unrevealed reasons, she did not represent Nigeria at Miss World that year. Now that the truth was finally told, which the organizers of the MBGN, the Bruce family knew from the onset before Sylvia even joined the participants! Yet, choose her to be the winner. Several sources have revealed that she was actually dating Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker House of Representatives and also thaws the bed of Henry Imasekha, a business mogul and close ally to James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State. It is pertinent to ask what kind of country do we live in that even the pageant industry is much more filled with corruption? Undoubtedly, corruption is now a way of life in Nigeria and as such corrupt practices are found in any and everything in Nigeria.
2013 isn’t different either. Critics have noted that it wasn’t a coincidence that the Governor, Dickson made Anna Banner the winner, a common 18 year-old, his special adviser for culture and tourism. Her juvenile experience was mostly sorted for by the state Governor. How laughable! Does it mean that there were no capable individual for that position? Will it be a happenstance that her emergence automatically created that position? What is the Governor’s aim of making a teenager his special assistant? What possible advice, will this teenager unfold to the Governor? The position has been left vacant with the intention of relinquishing it during the MBGN. No doubt, several stories will soon emerge for the precedent of the MBGN 2013.
If the truth be told, MBGN is creating its own formalities with little or no consequence for promoting healthy environments for girls’ well-being. MBGN is doing inadequately to teach about healthy sexuality, giving the impression that the beauty of a woman consists only of her physical attributes and are not normally mandated to display any talent during this cavalcade, except for one or two repeatedly rehearsed questions. Youngsters are continually deceived by this charade and are unlikely to engender a clear understanding of their sensibility. And when young girls fall victims due to this devastating imagery, to be valued for their looks and their bodies in particular, it’s time to act. Moreover, these charades of beauty without brains perpetuated in MBGN reinforces the notion that girls and women in general should be appreciated primarily for their physique, and this will undoubtedly put tremendous burden and demands on women to conform to conventional beauty benchmark by spending time and money on fashion, styles, cosmetics, hair styling, aesthetic surgery, rather than incorporate personality, talent and a descent girl-next-door image.
Airhunmwunde is of Nasarawa State University and wrote through email@example.com
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