By Ifueko DIAGBARE
In many cultures, when a child is born, words are spoken over that child. Those words may be good or bad, depending on a myriad of factors. However, there are many who never get to this stage. Their otherwise amazing destinies are cut short before they are even given a chance to live.
An alarming incidence of abandoned babies in Cross River State motivated the wife of Cross River State Governor, passionate and amiable Obioma Liyel-Imoke, to launch her initiative — Mothers Against Child Abandonment (MACA) to combat this situation in 2007. Later that year, she created the Carnival Calabar Queen Pageant. The pageant was created with the aim of finding a young voice that would appeal to teenagers and young women to shun negative social attitudes such as pre-marital sex that could result in unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
For the better part of her reign, the Carnival Queen is expected to tour secondary schools and tertiary institutions across the state, advocating from the MACA standpoint, on abstinence as the safest way to avoid early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The pageant has produced four remarkable queens and is fast becoming renowned for its celebration of chastity, style, culture and African beauty.
The Carnival Calabar Queen Pageant is four years old. Its main sponsor, Oceanic Bank, has supported it right from inception. The lucky queen, in addition to being the face of MACA and tourism in Cross River State, wins a car, N2 million (kindly donated by Mega Hilton Hotels), a year’s supply of make-up from Tara, and loads of other goodies.
In this regard, young women across the country line up in droves to participate. Indeed, they come in different shapes, sizes and backgrounds — but all have one goal and that is to scale through the preliminaries… and win.
For the first time in the pageant’s history, auditions took place simultaneously in Lagos, Abuja and Calabar. All venues had a strong Oceanic Bank presence, including a little dance performance by Oceanic Bank’s representative, Christopher. However, did the contestants really have what it took? Most of them failed to make a good impression on the panelists, largely as a result of their ignorance of basic knowledge. There were a few who stood out though.
Contestants who made it were assessed on poise, diction, talent and general knowledge of MACA and Cross River State, said the panelists — Enuma Chigbo, Maurice Inok and Nollywood actress, Vivian Anani.
Now, how would one describe that whole experience? Actually, it may not be that easy to describe – disappointing at the low level of intelligence displayed by some contestants; humorous for some whose ignorance was laughable; pity for teary-eyed hopefuls who knew they did badly; and, for others a breath of fresh air. And, of course, Charles Aniagolu of Spirit Creations was there with his extra sharp lenses to capture it all on camera…
As an essential preparatory process, contestants are groomed for the grand finale. Venue for this is the Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort. The ambience can best be described as serene, cozy and luxurious. Here, grooming is intense, thanks to Tessa and Seth of South African Production Company Tramps and, of course, our very own Charles Hopst, who’s also a choreographer for the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MGBN) pageant.
The camp also had a strong UNICEF presence. Officials from UNICEF were there to educate the contestants on HIV/AIDS in a two-day workshop. However, that wasn’t all. Contestants were expected to meet with the governor of the state before the grand finale.
This event was certainly one which needed preparation. In camp, all hands were on deck and the contestants worked very hard to make carnival outfits, which they proudly modelled for the governor and his distinguished guests. It was an exciting evening — an evening laced with warmth and hospitality. Contestants paraded with grace and confidence amid sterling performances of poetry, which they wrote themselves. They also participated in the last dry run of Carnival Calabar. With all these, they were good to go.
As the day dawned on 23rd December, 2010, the excitement was palpable, and, of course, tension mounted. Some contestants were visibly nervous and, perhaps, little pep talks by the pageant coordinator, Enuma Chigbo of Minds of Creation, may have helped ease tension.
Then it was time! Over 1,000 guests converged at the exquisitely decorated Studio Tinapa to see who would be the next Carnival Queen. Bright lights beamed from chandeliers, which hung strategically from the almost 50-feet ceiling of the studio, on the carefully chosen blue, gold and silver decorations as well.
The judges were there too – internationally renowned make-up artist Eryca Freemantle, Fola Adeola, Sasha Pee, HITV boss — Toyin Subair and William Archibong, armed with calculators and stationery to carry out the daunting task of deciding who will be the next queen. Twenty-seven contestants bearing the names of the State’s tourists sites sashayed in front of them in different outfits — little black dresses by Calabar-based designer, Afi and rich, cultural robes and stately evening dresses by House of Dorcas.
And the winner is… Adaeze Aluke, an OND graduate of the Institute of Management & Technology, Enugu State; which also happens to be her state. Prior to winning, she was on industrial attachment.