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Saturday, 22 June 2013

Interview: Nike Osinowo Shares Her Plans On Creating A Queen In Nigeria

The name Nike Osinowo is familiar to most people especially in the social circle. She is a great celebrity and an ex-beauty queen. Few years ago she “resurrected” the “dead” Miss Nigeria beauty pageant which, was rested for  many years, by organising a successful Miss Nigeria beauty pageant. Today, she is also saddled with the responsibility of  crownning a queen for the country who will reign for hundred years. In this interview, Nike spoke about the mother of all beauty pageants and other issues.
What’s the centenary pageant about?

The queen will be chosen by all, that is why we have to be careful. So we are to start the scouting process from local government level, every one of the seven hundred and sixty something local government of Nigeria will participate in scouting for this young lady. Then we now go to state level. From state level they will choose one young lady to represent her state. In all, 36 young ladies will be representing the 36 states of Nigeria. We will then put them in a camp for two weeks where we will school them in the art of etiquette, poise and elegance. In the meantime, the two weeks camp will be turned into reality show for the whole of Nigeria to watch, so Nigerians will be able to vote on their mobile phones. The girls who survive camp now move to the grand finale where we will have a panel of judges who now chooses the first and second runners up and the Queen. There will be traditional wear segment. Which will be sponsored by every single one of the state.  For instance, Enugu State would have kitted out Miss Enugu so that she is wearing the very best of their national costume, by so you have a competition of states as it were. The states that wear the best traditional costumes get a prize. After that we have questions and answers and you have the evening wear segment. The interesting thing about the pageant is that there is no swim wear segment, so everybody can participate. Miss Zamfara can come in full hijab if she chooses and if the panel of judges choose that she is the symbol of Nigerian unity she will be crowned. The same way Miss Oyo can come, slim and funky if that is what she wishes. If Nigerians believes that she represent the symbol of national unity she will be crowned. Everybody is welcome. Once she is crowned then she is handed over to Federal government and she becomes really the property of Nigeria. When she graduates, we will all celebrate, if she fails she is in trouble because the whole country is going to wonder why she failed. When she get married, whoever is president will hand her over to her husband, whether Mr. President or Madame President because I believe that we will soon have a female president. We need to progress and for us to progress we need a female president. When she has children we will all celebrates, when she dies, we will all mourn her, the same ways the Argentines mourn Evita. So we would have our own Evita. The important thing is we have our own symbol of national unity and no one can talk rubbish about it.
What are the prizes for the winner?
I am a big advocate of education; my father always told us when we are growing up that the only thing he could leave us with in life was education. It was all about education. He brought us up to believe that education was our ticket out of everything- poverty, bad marriage and a sad life. If you have education, you can take your certificate and go get a job and earn your own income.
The first prize really is full-right scholarship to attend any institute of learning anywhere in the world. So that young, lucky lady, if she is smart enough to get into Harvard and she wants to be a nuclear scientist, she is going. The sky is the beginning for her. Her dreams becomes reality because she doesn’t have to pay for it. She has got people to pay for it.  I am very excited; I am very passionate and so honored to be running such a programme. I know that you know that I am a big advocate of women, especially young women, it’s such a privilege to be given and to be trusted with this kind of things and for them to let me take it and run with it, because we all know how government like to micromanage things. I am looking forward to a successful pageant. I am saying that confidently because I know what I need to make it successful. We need a good idea which we had, then I need for the press to buy-in, if the press had buy in, then they would make sure they inform the rest of Nigerians and if the rest Nigerias buys in, then it is successful; and I have a national queen who will be literally happy, privilege young lady who would grow up to be happy, privileged old woman. Its never happened before.  Also I am excited that this is the first time in the world this is being done. Very few people talk about Nigeria doing things for the first time, we usually copied other people. When I did Miss Nigeria, we were looking at doing it the way they do it in Argentina or America. This one, we are doing it our way. The way they do it in Nigeria, and we are happy with that because that is essentially Nigerians first, African citizen then world citizens thirdly.
If you didn’t make a good presentation, I would have been disappointed. Let me start by saying that the year that you were crowned, I was privileged to be in the crowd that day, and I remember like a typical pageant, not everybody would agree, this same one is even more challenging given the diversity of this country. Even in this room, for us to decide who among the four women here who is the most beautiful, is an issue. I don’t envy you in that respect. How you are going to manoeuvre the various and varying interests in this country to pick a queen. My second concern is, how are you going to finance all these, 774 local governments. Yes I know it’s a centenary project, therefore the federal government machinery can be deployed to get that job, but it requires some enormous funding no matter the level of  sponsorship you intend to get, advertising budget is shrinking worldwide, where would you get all the money?
That concern is about national  consensus on the most beautiful. It is easy I think because I come from that world. You are on the outside looking in. I believe that if we are able to set the criteria and hand it to everybody, we are not guessing. The criteria of judging the most beautiful is there in black and white. We have three different levels, from local government to state and federal level. Once they are able to adhere to that, we are fine. And then also you know we do something in Nigeria, I call this “too-do” we too dey do. I don’t plan to too dey do. I just want to crown a queen that is the symbol of national unity!  And once we crown her, we must all love her. We must all agree to love her. The same way when I was much younger, we had a national anthem, “Nigeria, we hail thee…”, and then we decided we are going to change it. People objected, but once that new national anthem was unveiled we didn’t object anymore. We love our national anthem because of what it represents. Really it’s not the process of getting there that is important, it’s when we get there what we do with that symbol of national unity, I think that is what is important.
That is granted. Whoever emerges, there is need to rally round her, but people will be much more concerned about the process. That’s where you come in. For instance during the camping, given our peculiar environment, if they are in camp its okay, I can rally my friends to vote for Miss Imo. Its more than that, you will have to rally a whole community to vote and that is where advertising come in. We have to educate them- the different state, the different local governments level chairman, that you must mobilize your people. The same way in Big Brother, if you like her then you vote her to stay in, if you dislike her, then you vote her out.
Remember that in the voting you don’t put your name there, it is short code SMS. One person can vote a million times. I have seen it done in this country, all these promo, people sit down in the night, buy different SIM cards and continuously vote that, a family can churn out 10, 000 votes and you see somebody who is unfairly removed from the camp.
No.That is why I am saying I cannot concern myself with those little bits, we will never do a pageant. That is why I said I don’t plan to too do; I plan to do my best, truly in the face of God. Then a few people decide to now wake up to deprive themselves of sleep to keep Miss whatever in all night, then they are on their own. I have done my best basically, maybe in another 100 years they will find a solution for that. But right now, I just want to find this symbol of national unity. Your second concern about funding, you forget who you are talking to, sir. I am very good at fund raising. I say it in all humility. It’s my forte. I did Miss Nigeria and I raised two Million Dollars. You know why? Because when I go to a sponsor, look at me I have come to meet you and you did not expect me to be this well prepared. The reason being that I have this face on this body but I have my father’s brain, by the time I combine it you are all at a handicap. I become a champion and the winner because you do not expect me to have this  brain. Again, I have a phenomenal team that will keep up. When you look at Miss Nigeria, have you ever heard of those kind of people sponsoring a pageant. First Bank are not interested in pageants nor frivolities, and I told them, “I want you, you are the first bank of Nigeria. Miss Nigeria is the first pageant of Nigeria”. My three years that I was contracted to Miss Nigeria that was how I worked. I had Shell, I had first line sponsors because I am prepared, and not only that,when you open that envelope you’d see what is known as value proposition. You see what you are getting in return for the money you  are giving me. You give me money and this is what I am giving you back in turn. Not always in tangibles but it is quantifiable because all these companies buy advertisements and basically I am able to give them that. In addition I give them the association, there are so many other things and different categories of sponsorship. For example we have a category called host state. It’s something I have done. I have a track record and for some reason I don’t know why. I think its God’s grace. Corporate Nigeria trusts me. When I say I am going to do this, I do it and, I will not lie and promise you what I cannot deliver. Maybe that is why I am successful. As regard fund raising I am good at it.
I don’t know how you will handle the government’s angle. Government’s come and go, this is the idea of the present government, and we have a tradition of not sustaining things. How are you going to tidy up that angle that, after this government there will be a buy –in of subsequent government?
We have a culture of non-sustainability, but I don’t have that culture. I have a culture of sustainability. That is number one. Two, the government of Nigeria is not Nigerian, they are just the government. And number three, I can give you examples, the government cannot decide that they no longer like the Nigerian flag. Once our people love the symbol of national unity, the government cannot decide that in five years time we are not going to give her car because they don’t like her, because we have signed an agreement and we signed an iron-clad MoU. At the press briefing, you will notice that even the statement from the representative of Secretary to the Federal Government refereed to this my agreement, not in a nice way at all, because I don’t think they thought I would come with such an iron-clad agreement. I have business mind and I put together the mother of all agreements that would last for 100 years, that is ironclad, that they would have to compensate. And I had the best lawyers put it together. You have to know who you are dealing with and then you work accordingly, and I am very good at working with government. I have worked with government for 20 years. I speak their language. I formed an extremely good partnership with government. In addition I have God on my side. I will close my eyes and raise the fund and you would wonder how i did it. I will do it, but you guys have to promise to do your part because I need you to help me project the image, the news and carry the information to all of Nigeria, corporate Nigeria, the girls, mothers, church owners etc, so that, one, they can allow their girls to participate. Again, so that they will feel like sponsoring, and third, so that they will support with everything they have. It’s important; it’s a huge message to carry.
If the Queen dies before 100 years, what happens?
In every pageant, if a queen is incapacitated, the first runner up takes over. If she dies, the first runner up is crowned.
We are talking about a hundred years?
We are talking about the rest of her life. You are in the news industry, I am in showbiz. When you say for hundred years, the whole world notices. Automatically we entered the Guinness Book of Record and automatically Nigeria will be in the Guinness Book of Record. Anyway I planned to be around in hundred years.
What is the age range of those who will participate in the pageant?
She must be between the age of 20 and 25. Usually in pageants, you are younger, between 18 and 25, but looking at her role when she is crowned, I believe the responsibility will be so much. If we go and crown an 18 year old, I don’t know how she will cope. We have to keep in mind that this is not just a pageant. From the day she  is crowned, the responsibility is going to be phenomenal. That is why I  decided to increase the age and make her already a woman.
Is this why you stepped aside from Miss Nigeria hosting right?
I didn’t step away from Miss Nigeria hosting right. I signed a contract for three years. The three years ended and I didn’t want to continue. I like new things. I like challenges. I had done the Miss Nigeria thing, I had done everything in the three years and surpassed every single one of my expectation. Even the second one was almost mundane; the first one I did was challenging because it hadn’t been done for God knows how many years. And the challenge was to get the name out of the gutter and put it on a pedestal. We thought it will take me three years to do but it took me one year, just one pageant to do it. I don’t know why but I say thank you. We did the second one and it surpassed the first one. There was no where else to go. This is amazing, when I dreamt it, put it together and presented to the committee, they were like all they expected was girl to just walk up and down. So the challenge was for me to raise sponsorship, get the fund in an account and allow it to accumulate interests and let it be there. We have banks that have been here for over 100 years and will be here for the next 100 years.
I think you need to raise the money for the queen, the monthly salary?
No,  I ‘m raising everything.
N250,000 is too small per month for life. She is queen of Nigeria, a centenary queen?
What I find from the queen I have crowned is, what they earned is nothing comparable to what they get. They keep getting, and it doesn’t stop because of the way I put it together and the way I form very good relationships. As such the queen benefits from that generosity  of those sponsors. The first lady crowned Miss Nigeria still enjoys the benefit of having been crowned through me. It can go on and on. Her reign was over but when she wanted to go to a particular school in America, we were already arranging that to be funded because really when you look at corporate Nigeria they are very capable. And once they buy into that project, they believe in it. They wanted it to be sustainable. They want to keep contributing to it as long as you don’t abuse the relationship.
What is the date, October 1?
No, because she must have been schooled to be able to participate in October 1, so the grand finale is the end of August. Then she has September. The grand finale of the celebration is first January. My timeline is very short so I have to fit everything in. They n