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Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu: Beauty shares track with political sagacity

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YES, Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s beauty speaks, yet she has other things that speak more for her. Unlike her contemporaries who faded into oblivion after their reign as beauty queen, for Bianca, a multiple pageant titleholder, it was the beginning of a milestone.

It could be argued that right from the onset she knew what she wanted and traded that path. Her hope, belief and convictions were never found wanting. Coming from a conservative family, strong-willed but not renegade, she strolled into the world of beauty pageantry as a stepping-stone for a journey into significance. Her father, a lawyer, politician and later, governor of the old Anambra State, had wanted Bianca’s life to revolve round legal practice.

Some people may have different opinions about her but close encounter reveals simplicity, beauty and sophistication. What you see is a woman down to earth. She carries no air of do-you-know-who-I-am. Her political pedigree, none in her class has attained such height. Till date, she remains the most popular and influential former beauty queen in Nigeria.

The sixth child of Christian Onoh, former governor of the old Anambra State, and Caroline Onoh, Bianca attended All Saints School, Enugu, from where she went to Queens School, Enugu, briefly before going to Ackworth School in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England to continue her secondary education. She obtained her Advanced Level papers at St. Andrew’s College in Cambridge.

From there, she proceeded to the University of Buckingham. She later transferred to University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she obtained her law degree and thereafter, went to Nigeria Law School. She also holds a master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Alfonso X el Sabio University, Spain.

While in class four at the Ackworth School, Bianca told her dormitory mates as they watched Miss World contest, “one day when I go back to my country, I am going to contest and I am going to go to Miss World.” During her studies at Cambridge, she took part in the Miss Martini Contest, organised by the Beverage Coy Martini Rossi and won. The prize was a year’s modelling contract in Tokyo, Japan.

Her uncle at the time was the Deputy High Commissioner in Scotland when Nigeria had a mission then. He dissuaded her from taking up the modeling job and concentrate on her studies.

Bianca became known in 1988 when she won the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant. The following year, she contested in the Miss Africa Pageant, which took place in Gambia, and to her surprise, won. By then her father had began to accommodate her interest in beauty pageantry.

That same year, she became the first African to win Miss Intercontinental. She represented Nigeria at the Miss World pageant held in Hong Kong that year, as well as the Miss Universe Pageant, held in Cancun, Mexico. She was also at the defunct Miss Charm International in Russia where she was a semi-finalist.

Her father who was always in a position where people say to him, “are you the former governor of Anambra State” came back from travel one day and said to her: “Do you know I was at the airport, somebody walked up to me and said, “Onoh, are you Bianca’s father?” Bianca said her father called some of his friends and said, “Can you believe? Look at this little girl, somebody had the nerve to come and ask if I was her father. But I knew really that it was a proud moment for him.”

Thereafter, her father gave her moral support and financial assistance to contest in other beauty pageants. He would say, “Whatever you want just let me know.”

Another watershed in her life was her marriage to Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, which union produced three children. Of her marriage to Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu she said, “I consider myself lucky to have had him. He loved me tremendously.”

He was not just a husband, he was also a friend, a mentor, and I was very protective of him. We had such a strong bond, and I was involved in every aspect of his life.”

Her appointment in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan  as his Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs marked her entrance proper into the political scene. In 2012, she was named Nigeria’s ambassador to Spain. She was honored with the Certificate of Merit by El Mundo Diplomatico, Spain, for her efforts towards providing effective platforms for constructive engagement between Nigeria and Spain.

In 2014, The Voice Magazine, Netherlands, voted her Africa’s Outstanding Ambassador. The Government of Anambra State honored her with the “Ambassador of Excellence” in 2016. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA).

On women holding forth in male dominated terrain, she says, “if you are a woman who has a sense of purpose, regardless of the fact that you operate in a terrain that is dominated by men, once you can hold your own, it will be difficult to fall into that quagmire where you feel you are being propositioned, or your gender is playing a derogatory role.

“Once you are not making excuses for bad performance, or not looking for a man to cover for you, for your inadequacies, once you are able to let your work speak for you, it’s a lot easier to survive and live a life of dignity. And once you don’t present yourself as a weak and defenseless woman, one to be pitied and really cuddled by a man just by virtue of being of a weaker sex, then it’s much easier to live a life that is not being truncated by those pressures.”

 

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