Why did you decide to come to Nigeria?
I have always wanted to come to Nigeria. But being Miss Nigeria Florida gave me the opportunity to finally do it at this time. I wanted to come here to make a difference. My plan is to help support young people like myself in their education, which I believe will create a brighter future for them.
You paid a courtesy visit to Miss Nigeria 1965?
Yes. I have heard so much about her, she is truly an inspiration. I thank God for the opportunity to even see her, to learn so much from her wealth of experience.
What were your thoughts about Nigeria before you came?
Though I have never been to Nigeria before, I knew that the people are lovely. I am always around Nigerians from different cultures and tribes, not just Igbo and Yoruba, different tribes. I had a pretty good idea of Nigeria from them. I knew that there was more to Nigeria than the food, the movies, the music and the soccer.
Do you want to name some?
Nigeria has an amazing population of talented young people, the beautiful culture and the lovely people generally.
How did you win Miss Nigeria, Florida?
I was the youngest to ever win the competition. Going into the competition, I wanted to truly be myself. And I felt like whatever it was that I wanted to do to represent my culture, I had to put my all into it. I believe that was what I did.
Why did you decide to participate in the beauty pageantry?
It is a long story. I initially didn’t want to participate in the competition, but my coordinator and my mother pushed and encouraged me to represent my culture in the best way that I can. And also, I had to look at myself and the role models around and how I was brought up. I came to the understanding that everyone is not the same: there is good and bad to every situation, to every people. I know that all Nigerians are not bad; all Nigerians are not fraudsters; all Nigerians are not corrupt. I wanted to be an example of a Nigerian that would not follow the wrong way; that would make a name for myself and not just a gist. That’s why I am in Nigeria at this time.
Now that you are here, does your present view of Nigeria contrast with your previous views?
Nigeria is a beautiful country. I do see that there is a lot of potentials here, a lot of things that need to change, and can be changed. I have very strong believe despite what the country presently looks like that Nigeria can be great, much greater than it is now.
If you had the opportunity, what would you change?
If I had the opportunity, I would like to change the system of government and how things are done here, most importantly in the education sector. I have come to know based on what people told me that you have to get approval to even help students. I also would like to change the cleanliness. I don’t like to see the thrash littering around, though I don’t see it everywhere. But the street can be much cleaner. Where the children are going to school, the buildings are very sufficient and efficient for them to properly study, I feel like the areas should be a bit cleaner. There is also need to preach unity among all Nigerians.
Would you like to relocate to Nigeria to change them?
I have already made up my mind that I will relocate to Nigeria. But I am not sure when that will happen. I don’t think it will take anything different from now for me to relocate to Nigeria.
You danced to an Ijaw song during your cultural dance, what influenced your choice of music and dance?
My dad is Ijaw, while my mum is Yoruba. I have two middle names, one of my middle names is Funmilayo. Most of my family members in the US are Yoruba, but I wanted to display the other side of my culture. I am so interested in learning more about my Ijaw background as well as my Yoruba origin. That was why I thought it was the best choice to do that song.
What state are you from?
How did you learn the dance?
My mum, my four other sisters and I came up with a dance routine four nights before the actual competition. We stayed up to about 2am to do it. We were inspired to free style and come up with our own stuff.
In your opinion, what do this beauty pageantry in the US try to do with the competition?
I believe they want to build an empire of beautiful young women that are well-rounded and have an understanding and knowledge that it is not just about how you look, not about your appearance or who you know, your popularity, but it is just about your understanding of your culture, your understanding of what it truly means to be a phenomenon woman. That is what I believe they are doing.
How long have you been the queen?
I have been the queen for two years since 2016.
What have you done in order to impact Nigerians in the US?
I have done my best to not only inspire Nigerians in the US, but also people that do not understand the culture, people who are non-Nigerians. During my time as Miss Nigeria, Florida, I went to schools and while at school, there were a lot of non-Nigerians, Ghanaians, African Americans, Jamaicans and Haitians and I took the opportunity to display the culture of Nigeria through dancing.
How do you feel being Miss Nigeria Florida?
I am very glad. I am very happy because I believe it has opened doors for me. It has given me opportunities that I would probably not have had at this point in time. It has pushed me to do more and to do better, not just for myself but for others and for the whole of Nigeria for those who are coming after.
What are your thoughts about jollof rice?
I love jollof rice, but I am more of a swallow person.
Which is your favourite?
I have had pounded yam, amala, fufu, semovita, but fufu is my favourite.
Do you speak Ijaw?
A little bit, but I know some of the songs.
Where have you been to since you came to Nigeria?
I have been to Ikeja, Lekki and some days back, I went to Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
How was growing up in relation to the Nigerian culture?
It was fun. There were many times that I was whipped. My dad is a disciplinarian. I have a lot of siblings, if one child misbehaves or breaks something, we all got whipped. The main people who got the most whips were the eldest, my elder sister and me. My parents did not allow us to show our skin. No. We were always told education was key at early age. Though my dad is Ijaw and my mom Yoruba, they speak Pidgin English more. My dad might say a few things in Ijaw and my mom Yoruba, but it was more like a family of Pidgin English because we had family members that are Igbo. So, we had different cultures in my family, so Pidgin sufficed in my house.
Do you speak pidgin?
How do you feel being a young Nigerian in the US?
Originally, when we were younger we were like many Africans strange to whites. Only those who were exposed would tolerate you. So, we got jokes poked at us because of our last name. There were times I wished I had a simple name like Johnson because Nigerians have names like Johnson or Brown or Smith. But as I got older, and as I got more involved in the culture, I got to love who I am and love my name for what it is. I respect the fact that most Nigerian names have meaning and there is nothing you can take away from that.
If you are to talk about unity, what will be your message?
Unity is key. That is pretty much how I can summarise it. Because a house divided against itself cannot stand. When you are not together as one, nothing good can come out of it.
What are the things you will be doing if you relocate to Nigeria?
I want to get involved in music. I want to be involved in politics. I know politics a lot, that will take years, but I want to familiarise myself with Nigeria itself and my areas of origin.
The post What I will do if I relocate to Nigeria — Miss Nigeria Florida, Queen Martha Ogionwo appeared first on Tribune.