‘So tell me, how did a ‘small’ girl like you win the most intelligent girl in your school? Before I left, all those who had spoken did excellently well. What did you say that beat their own?’
You see, I was bored with the man asking me that question already. It wasn’t the first time he was asking, and didn’t look like it would be the last. Apparently, he needed to pretend to make conversation with me seeing as I was the main reason everyone was gathered. Only a dumb person couldn’t tell that he was more interested in the beauty queen seated beside me.
He was an Igwe who had been called to grace an intellectual competition organised by Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra state. He had left before the close of the competition for ‘pressing matters’, but not before Miss UNIZIK had walked in with a crown on her head, and he had specially requested her presence at the high table filled with distinguished persons.
‘What concerns Miss UNIZIK at the BRAIN FACIO competition high table?’ Some people around me had murmured.
The day after the competition, I was called to get dressed, because we were going to see the Igwe, I didn’t understand why. I had won the competition prize; the usual laptop that goes with academic competitions. A lady at the high table had been so impressed she offered me a scholarship. Were we now going to beg dignitaries to add more? I got dressed and went anyway.
I can’t say I was surprised to see Miss UNIZIK on the team headed to see the Igwe. In fact, when we arrived the Igwe’s makeshift palace (a hotel owned by him), and the girl who came in second place at the competition expressed her displeasure as to how the meeting was turning out, I knew I was in for an amusing night.
The meeting had absolutely nothing to do with us; this was about Miss UNIZIK.
The meeting ended with a ‘resounding’ commendation of the Students Union Government for organising such an intellectual competition. The Igwe was certainly impressed, he wanted to give them a cheque but you see, it was night, so they would have to come back… and oh! While returning, be sure to bring our MISS. She would need wardrobe allowances wouldn’t she? Surely, we didn’t want our Miss looking less than the MISS she was.
I read on Premium Times of how UNILAG students protested when the winner of an intellectual competition was given a laptop and 200,000 or so while Miss UNILAG won a brand new car and some associating items. And oh! How can I leave out the Centenary Quiz? While a young lady who had cracked her head right from the regional stages to the national, won one million naira, there was the story of some centenary queen winning a brand new car to be changed every five years and a salary for life.
Nigeria needs to set her priorities correctly. Since the current finance minister got into office, many Nigerians have expressed displeasure at her ‘incompetence’ while some call back for Ngozi Okonjo-iweala. But even if Mrs Okonjo-iweala came back and managed to restore the dying economy, for how long would we recycle the old for leadership while claiming that no youth can be found to occupy positions?
The belief by the older generation that our youths are only interested in frivolities or all want to be entertainers is misconceived. The present youths, just like any human are interested in reward. If the important things are rewarded, the youths will queue to achieve feats. We need to harness the brains we have by early mentorship and adequate preparation.
Currently, there is a call by Innoson Motors for yet another beauty pageantry and I wonder; what if it organized an intellectual competition instead and in addition to gifts, winners are offered internship with the company? Surely we would have more engineers capable of at least changing their light bulbs wouldn’t we? It is not enough to hand out cash prizes and leave them to fizzle out neither is the work of setting Nigeria on the right track for the government alone.
Our government as well as individuals must decide what we want our country’s selling point to be, and then we must take steps in the right direction towards achieving it.