Life sometimes throw us its challenges and when they come, it is our duty to try and wade through the water ensuring that we get …

to the shore. In this interview with BUKOLA BAKARE, Miss Commonwealth Nigeria; Amaka Oguchi recalls how she had to defer school for a year, the agony of growing up without her mother, preparations for the forthcoming Miss Commonwealth Pageant in September as well as the numerous challenges that lie ahead. Excerpts:

Born in the town of Kaduna, when Amaka Oguchi became Miss Commonwealth Nigeria, little did she know that there was so much in store for her as it was the dawn of a new horizon. When she was selected as Nigeria’s representative, she went back to her school, Igbinedion University, Okada, Benin, where she’s studying Microbiology and had a talk with her lecturers. “I told them I had just won a contest and had to defer school for a year!”, she said.

Deferring school was perhaps one of the toughest decisions she had to make but her dad was very understanding and supportive. “I lost my mum at the age of nine and it was really traumatic for me but my aunt who’s like my foster mother has also been very supportive”.

Miss Commonwealth Pageant is one that is hosted in all the fifty three countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations and each representative will have a chance to promote culture, tourism as well as engage in various works of charity. Nigeria is one of the members of the Commonwealth and it is a voluntary organisation that has as its guiding principle that all members are equal. Members are bound by a shared language and history. In other words, it’s not a commercial venture but more of a charity-oriented thing. The last one was held in the year 2001, and Amaka alongside beauties from the remaining fifty-two countries will vie for the coveted crown in September this year.

Selection for Miss Commonwealth Nigeria was different in terms of participation. Participants didn’t have to walk on the runway as entry was done online and the organisers were more concerned with the intellectual capability of each contestant, with a view to harnessing their innate talents.

A native of Anambra State, Amaka has four male siblings and her father is a Pharmacist.

“I went to Kadga Primary School in Kaduna but because of the Kaduna Riot of 1991/92, my family had to move to Lagos. Thereafter, I went to Federal Government College, Enugu and now Igbinedion University, Okada, where I’m studying Microbiology.”

Amaka is quick to add that there has been no major challenge as she’s been able to adjust to her new lifestyle free of stress and hassles that come with it.

However, growing up was laced with good and bad memories: “There were good times as well as sad ones for me. I remember vividly going out with my brothers and since I’m the only girl, it was always a trip to look forward to. I would also spend holidays with my cousins as well as my friends. My low point was when I lost my mother at the tender age of nine. That was really painful for me to put it mildly, it was really sad and I tell you, you don’t want to know that feeling. It’s tough growing up without your mother”.

In spite of the enormous responsibilities that come with being Miss Commonwealth Nigeria, the queen still finds time to unwind and relax. She said “Being with my friends suits me just fine and I also find time to play volleyball too. The last movie that I watched was ‘Yes man’ and it was very entertaining as well as informative. I see myself as a fun loving and easy going person and I think I’m very hardworking as it pays to work hard.”

While Amaka commends the high fashion sense of Nigerians, she feels that they can really compete anywhere in the world. Sadly, in her opinion, the industry as a whole is still crawling. “There’s a lot of politics going on and people are no longer following the trend, models these days are not doing the right thing and they are falling short of standard. Some don’t even have a Manager which makes the job more difficult. Fashion sense is very high but the industry still has that constraint of showcasing brands and products. That’s why most Nigerian models are moving to South Africa and France as well as other places where the market is really viable and booming. Style means being comfortable in whatever you wear and it’s just a way of expressing yourself. To this end, I love short dresses as well as corporate clothings too, I must confess that I’m not really particular about brands though”.

Everyone has someone or a group of persons that they look up to as role models and Amaka is certainly not left out of the pack as she admires the immediate past Director General of the National Food, Drugs Administrative and Control and incumbent Minister of Information, Professor Dora Akunyuli.

“I love her for her courage as well as her personality. However, my number one role model remains my father because he has taught me a lot of things which has stood me in good stead. I’m very proud of him.”

She quickly adds that she is truly African hence she relishes African dishes particularly banga soup, not forgetting rice and plantain too.

Change is surely inevitable but the volleyball enthusiast doesn’t see that coming her way so soon as she’s emphatic that she wouldn’t want to change anything about her for now. “I know that I’m not perfect as no human being is, but I think I like myself the way I am.”

To every Nigerian youth out there, Amaka’s message is clear: “First of all, they should believe in themselves, make sure that they’ve got values and goals and they should strive to really work hard. Things may be difficult but every journey starts with a step.”

She urged them to gradually avail themselves the opportunity to grow and be open to the things around them. She said they need to “Work hard and with time, you’ll achieve success.” This position stems from her philosophy and guiding principle that says it pays to work hard.

“My fear is not being able to give back to the society, so I intend to work hard at it.”.

In the not-too-distant-future, Miss Commonwealth Nigeria intends to dabble into Cosmetology. She recognises the fact that she has to undergo some form of training to do so. “I would also like to own a youth empowerment center where we would have various youth developmental programmes geared towards proffering solutions to their numerous problems.”

Bearing in mind that representing Nigeria at the prestigious competition is a Herculean task with her image and that of the country at stake, Amaka is poised to make Nigeria take her pride of place among the league of nations.

She said, “I’ve come to understand that the pageant is not for a commercial purpose. What they look out for is how well you can make an impact in your society. I’ve gone a step further by acquainting myself with happenings in Commonwealth countries because at the end of the day, you have to go out there and represent Nigeria. I’m grooming myself ahead of the big day”.

She’s also working on her project which is tied to sports. “We’ve donated some sports equipments to some public schools within the Lagos area; precisely Akoka. Later this year, we intend to host a sports tournament among selected schools. It’s definitely a big project and I’m mindful of the challenges that come with it. The cost implication is on the high side but we intend to take our proposal to companies and transparency groups to ask them for their support as well as intimate them with what we want to do, thus selling our ideas to them. Hopefully, they’d be able to help us morally, financially and help us by way of material needs”. Amaka likes people who are humble and Godly but abhors rude ones.

When asked if she has a man in her life, she quickly interjects by saying “I knew you would ask that question and I think I should really expatiate on that. “In the first place, I don’t have a boyfriend but at the end of the day, it’s not as if you are forced not to have one, it’s just to avoid scandal, unwanted pregnancy and the likes. You know you have to uphold your morals as people tend to believe that you could be loose but I think it’s dependent on the individual. You should know what to avoid in order to uphold your virtues. Modesty should therefore be our watchword”.