I know many Nigerians would wonder who this Mariette I am trying to compare with Miss World is. Let’s cut the suspense and state right away that she is a female, a young girl who probably by virtue of her age, is not reckoned to deserve the same media attention as Agbani Darego who has just won the coveted Miss World title. She also lacks the wherewithal and skills of utilizing the best of public relations to sell herself to the world.
Mariette Ohumunwe is my Miss World. And I do know that many families pray to the almighty God to bless them with such children whose talents, skills, brilliance and intelligence are being recognized even outside the shores of our nation. Surprisingly, she is just eight years old, younger than Darego by ten good years. In fact, she is a pupil of the Montessori Nursery and Primary School of Igbinedion Education Centre. Precisely, February last year, she, in far away Japan, Asia, a considerably distant continent from Africa, emerged the recipient of the Biennial World Children Arts Exhibition. Her artwork is said to be one of the 46, 421 entries from across the globe. In fact, entries were received from more than 114 countries. And yet, this innocent looking and impeccable young girl is amongst the best three in the world.
This is therefore in commemoration of the first anniversary of this global success of the young girl who was not given a red carpet reception back home, nor could she dine or wine with the mighty at any of the powerful arms or government, not even the type of enticing hug given to Darego by Present Olusegun Obasanjo. In fact, she neither received special presents for herself nor family nor was she shown on a live network programme for even a few seconds, not to talk of hours or days. She could not even be considered as the Child of the Year nor to talk of a Personality of the Decade.
It took a few media houses after the award in February last year, to announce the accomplishment of this rare genius, whose success came through self discipline and improvement on what she learnt in school. For a feat to be adjudged by professionals and world acclaimed art critics as the best, is a clear testimony to hard work, artistry, and legendary talent. The caliber of the panel clearly indicated that the competition was not a game of chance whose rules and criteria are shrouded in mystery depending on the disposition of a few personalities at that particular time in specific demographic location.
She is surely not the first Nigerian who is not well recognized at home. Many are still making waves in the world scene without attention drawn to them for emulation. It may be recalled that it took the visit of President Bill Clinton to Nigeria for most of our countrymen to know that one of the most respected computer gurus in the whole universe is a Nigerian.
It will do us a world of good, if our best, especially amongst the young ones, are promoted and given the best of encouragement and motivation to become good citizens. For children, who have no voices of their own and can form no unions and associations to push for their rights and privileges, there is the need for special bodies to protect their interests. Since there is neither a Minister of Children Affairs nor Special Adviser/Directorate of Children Matters, it will not be out of place if Mrs. Stella Obasanjo’s Child Care Trust or even the Mrs. Titi Atiku’s WOTCLEF organization is urged to take the right step in promoting the ingenuity and resourcefulness of youngsters
Such a body should be charged with bringing the best out of children through regular competitions and effective monitoring. They should not be carried away by the so-called modern craze where fashions of nudity and utter abuse of morality are put forth as the source of attracting investors to our nation. How can such argument be tenable when the world itself is fighting against sexual exploitation and spread of HIV? Our girls, young and elderly, should be told the whole truth that black is beautiful but not when displayed as a kind of doll for negative cultural exploitation. Though nobody is against foreign husbands and foreign boyfriends, what we really need are true and honest investors who would not be looking for girls they may end up using for such ugly indecent movies and western craze of modelling, but would harness our country’s potentials, vast mineral resources and manpower for social and economic development.
Afterall, most of the world beauty pageants, Miss Universe, Miss intercontinental and Miss World recipients inclusive, do not have the real value of African womanhood as a requirement for selection. The African femininity, without exaggeration, enables one to mirror oneself from unblemished and fleshy cheeks, women who are healthy and full of life, exhibiting in enticing physiques. An African must also be dark, thick and robust, devoid of a skinny, bony and tiny body frame. Artificial makeup and expensive attires are not what make the natural beauty.
Some few years ago, some Indians vehemently protested against the hosting of one of such world pageants in their country, with some committing suicide, in opposition to the exhibition of immorality and cultural imperialism on their soil.
If Nigerians still buy the idea of hosting the Miss World, it will be fair if we can first invite the organizers of the Biennial World Children’s Arts Exhibition, which award we won earlier. The participants may also be invited to see the art works of the paralyzed man in Lagos who uses a pen in the mouth to draw portraits of some of our leaders and also that of the crippled woman in Kano who uses her feet to design beautiful images and scenes.
The benefits of such worldwide exhibitions on our soil, apart from showcasing the mastery of those less privileged Nigerians, would be dollar-earning ventures from the auctions of such works. What a better way to attract investors to our human skills and greatness! Afterall, none of our religions, Islam, or Christianity, professes and promotes indecency and pornographic exposures.
The same article was published in · Post Express February 16, 2002· Daily Trust February 18, 2002· National Interest March 6, 2002