“Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.” –Zora Neale Hursston By CHIDI OBINECHE He comes as hard as he looks. When he talks on a hate- subject, deep furrows form on his foreface. As a non- career Comptroller- General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali…
Aside being an entrepreneur and politician, Idris Aregbe’s passion has always been to promote African values, identity and pride. His firm, No 1 Heritage Solutions, is the brain behind My Heritage, My Pride and Sisi Oge. Having weathered the storms, Sisi Oge pageant would soon celebrate 10 years of promoting our rich cultural values for national development. Aregbe spoke with Sunday Sun recently about this prestigious pageants.
For 10 years, you have been surrounded by beautiful girls. Don’t you feel tempted at times and how have you been able to cope?
Like I said, it’s been ten years of labour and excellence. Based on this, management has been able to separate business from distractions. That has been our strength over the years. When we talk of values, we must also be seen representing those values. That’s how our fathers lived and it helped them and it’s also helping us too. The essence of the pageant is not to mess around with the girls but rather prepare them for challenges in life.
What’s your motivation for these pageants?
I’m not just a pageant promoter, I also believe in African values, identity and pride. So, being able to groom and crown a cultural ambassador is a means to satiate my beliefs. That’s why raising beauty queens that would compete and become our cultural ambassadors around the world and impact their generation is our mission. That is the whole essence of it.
Does your childhood influence what you do?
It’s imperative to note that my passion is beyond the pageant. It’s one of various beautiful means to drive my passion. My passion is to see and utilize culture and tourism as a veritable tool for nation building.
The concept consists of different unique aspects including art exhibitions, fashion, dance, drama, music, special recognition awards for social workers and all.
Growing up around those who appreciate our values has had a great impact on my life today and I’m glad to be a cultural ambassador and not just a promoter of cultural pageants only.
There have always been controversies around pageants in Nigeria. How have you been able to stay the course these 10 years?
We have not been involved in any controversy over the years and that’s, because when you promote African values, you must be able to stand by them. We have a lot of problems in this country today because we are losing our culture, values and identity, but if you stand by these, you should be able to know the son or daughter of whom you are and where you are coming from. We are losing these things, because people are not going towards that direction.
Who has influenced you most, your mum or dad?
Both of them did well, but I benefited immensely from my mum. She taught me so much about entrepreneurship, African values and also influenced my love for politics and governance. She is a sweet mother, an active political leader in state politics and may God continue to give her strength, because I am still learning a lot from her.
What has life taught you?
It has taught me to always move on, dig deep and believe that with God, impossibilities don’t exist. Life has taught me creativity and how to be unique with my signature.
What are misconceptions about the pageant?
The misconceptions about pageants nowadays are as a result of what these pageants represent.
People are tired of seeing ladies with postures only; they want to see values of being a beauty queen. So, owners of pageants should have direction. For example, the Sisi-Oge Pride of Africa Pageant goes beyond looks and physique. It’s about so many issues like African values, celebrating our heritage and research on our dignity.
How many pageants possess these qualities?
It’s high time we knew that pageants are beyond beauty. We must work as a team to propagate our values.
How has the pageant impacted participants over the years?
It has helped young ladies discover themselves and has also bridged the cultural awareness gap. Well over 4,000 ladies have passed through Sisi Oge and they are all doing very well in their careers and private lives.
After 10 years, what do you look forward to?
The good news is the international partnerships we have entered into.
We have been able to export our culture and values to other countries in the past 10years through creativity and consistency. There are plans for an African Youth Cultural Heritage Exchange Programme in partnership with the AD King Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.
This year, members of the late Martin Luther King’s family including Naomi King, who’ll head an American delegation, will grace our 10th anniversary celebrations. The future for us is hosting My Heritage, My Pride and Sisi Oge in other African countries and building more cultural exchange partnerships.
What special activities do you plan for your 10th anniversary?
Apart from the fact that we have always been known to promote African values through music, dance, pageants, art exhibitions and festivals, this year, we are celebrating ten years of promoting the African culture and heritage and our word is our bond. We are also boosting our content having planned it for about 2 years. Over the years, this cultural event has garnered value and attained premium status promoting cultural values and the celebration of unity with focus on youths and connecting them with their roots.
We will be sharing the African story, culture and values to our pertinent audience through various activities including performances and displays. Foreigners never tell the African story like we want.
We charge Africans to brace up, tell the genuine African story to the rest of the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with our culture, what is wrong at times is people’s presentation of our cultural values.
All is set for the grand finale with 22 beauties contesting the Sisi Oge title.
It’s a platform that affords contestants the opportunity of experiencing capacity building sessions in financial literacy and entrepreneurship, etiquette grooming, poise, communication and emotional intelligence. All these qualities are targeted towards empowering them to attain excellence in their future endeavours. We will be honouring 10 personalities with our prestigious Heritage awards.
The event promises to be exciting with lots of cultural performances, music, and drama and side attractions. We unveiled our new logo a couple of weeks back and the star prize of a saloon car and fantastic consolation prizes.
The grand finale of this epoch making event is slated for Sunday, March 26, 2017 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island Lagos.
This is a huge concept. Do you have government support?
Yes, Lagos State Government supports us financially and in other ways and I don’t think anybody will have an issue in getting government support in whatever they do as long as they know what they are doing and then doing it well while adding value to people’s lives.