index contact us Guestbook News Sources Advertise with us Corruptcracy Hypnotherapy Send Articies Jokes Poems Religion
Benin kingdom Historical Sites Edo Heritage sites Edo_state_Recreational Parks Other tourist sites Tourist Advice Tourist Information Edo People Location Edo state weather Edo festival Edo Religion Were to stay What to eat Shopping Moving around Edo Medias Telecommunication
Edo Women

Noble Edo women making difference

Bookmark and Share
Ngozi Osarenren
Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Osarenren When she took oath of office as Commissioner for Education in Edo State, little did she know she would one day receive serious threats to her life and that of her family. She had thought that her brief only entailed doing a good job.

“The rot (in Edo State educational system) cannot be quantified in terms of depth or height. It was like locusts ravaging the land…I had only sought to do what is right, what is proper,” she told Sunday Sun.

Weeks after taking oath of office, Dr Osarenren’s eagle eyes discovered that some schools in the state forged the commissioner’s signature and the ministry’s letter-headed paper to
present to examination bodies. While the West African Examination Council (WAEC) reacted to it quickly, the National Examinations Council (NECO) did not bother. Sunday Sun gathered that some staffers of the NECO office in Benin were collaborating with certain ‘examination miracle’ centres on the deal. The result is that a school that has been recommended to take in 50 students, based on findings of its capacity by inspectors, suddenly received a list from NECO of 90 candidates.

The ministry then blacklisted all schools not qualified to participate in the exams, and in the process incurred the wrath of many persons, including students and parents that had paid for the exams through their noses.
But it also suddenly dawned on the private school owners who ran examination centres that the doors to their multi-billion naira enterprise was closing fast. Although some reluctantly complied, there were those who resolved to stop the commissioner at all costs.

The war came in the form of threats, kidnap and assassination attempts. But the worst were the diabolical attacks. According to Dr Osanrenren, “those are not experiences anybody will want to re-live. They were very harrowing, disturbing periods.”

Before the ‘war’
The commissioner had before the ‘war’ ensued stopped the admission of fresh candidates into the SSIII class preparing for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. Her argument was that candidates above the normal school age or who did not pass through the regular educational system should take the November/December General Certificate Examination (GCE) specially designed for them. She knew it was easier for the private schools to be used as ‘miracle’ centres as long as candidates paid the exorbitant fees whether they are present in the exam hall or not.

As one of the measures to check this, the Ministry of Education organized a reorientation course for its schools’ inspectorate division. It also held a stakeholders meeting with officials of WAEC, NECO and the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB).

After collecting data from all schools on the number of students to register for exams in the 18 local governments, the stakeholders agreed among others that no school will register more than 250 candidates for any of the examinations in the state; all registered candidates must carry an ID card signed by the Commissioner for Education, apart from their school ID; and that WAEC, NECO and NABTEB should request from each school a cover letter from the ministry permitting them to write the exams. Any school without that letter cannot participate in the exams.

Private schools were also required to present a renewal receipt to show they are still qualified to host exams. The attendance register must be made available to the ministry’s inspectors and any candidate without study record cannot sit for the exam. With all these measures put in place, all the holes through which the rats of malpractice penetrated the state were fixed. Or so they thought.

Hitherto, owners of dubious exam centres collaborated with people in neighbouring states who sent their candidates to Edo to sit for the exams, and such candidates usually passed even at one sitting. But this year, it was no more business as usual, and the commissioner got a very stiff resistance from those who reaped from the deal.

‘N5m every Friday’
In an interview she granted the press, Dr Osarenren said: “I was given up till January 2010 to die but it was only the grace of God that sustained me and my family. I came to Edo State to serve the people. I am not here to disturb anybody that is doing his or her job well. I have a mission to sanitize and restore the glory of education in the state and leave my footprints in the sands of time that once upon a time, a woman trod this path of honour and made Edo State number one educationally.”

She said the ‘miracle centre’ owners tried severally to bribe her until someone confronted her that her predecessors who complied got N5 million every Friday as settlement.

Scary SMS
Some of the SMS she received had texts such as: “Watch out, if you don’t withdraw your policy within one week from today, the ground must lick your blood. Come to the ministry now, our men are on ground to track you down!” “After 11th Jan, tell Nosayaba and your people to start planning for your interment. Know this now, you are a moving corpse already. Gather all security, we shall track you.”

Curiously, some of them even gave vivid details of what she did in the office. For instance: “Ngozi, if you are to be sure that you are in danger, spend at least three hours in your office tomorrow. After that we shall send you a recorded tape of your activities in the office. We must track you down.”

But the most disturbing was one that made reference to the late Commissioner for Justice that was murdered in office. “We handled Justice Roland Amoize during Prof Osunbor (administration). We shall focus grenade on your roof in Lagos and blow it off. Then you will know what you are into.” And yet another: “Ngozi, you are using your neck to teat the depth of the ocean.”

Save me, O Comrade!
Of course, she resorted to using security outfit, a part of the job she hated.
“I’m a simple person, but the aspect where six to seven policemen in mufti have to move around with me made me very uncomfortable. That affected my children too. When they came on holiday, they had to leave because they felt very uncomfortable. They described it as being in prison without committing an offence.”

Although nobody came face to face to attack her, the shadow followed her literally wherever she went.
“Nobody came to confront me one on one but on several occasions we were chased by vehicles. Several times too, I have noticed people monitoring my home, people hanging by my house for the whole day, and then I will have to raise alarm and call the police.

“As I left the office day in day out, a car would follow mine. On one occasion, we had to run into Government House because I had just one orderly that day. At times I will leave the house and sleep in hotels, sleep in different places, stay incognito just to avoid being located. I had to device my own special strategy to safeguard myself because life is greater than whatever you use in sustaining it.”

As if these were not enough, a series of other unconventional methods were also deployed to scare her. These included a mysterious black bird appearing in her office. At another time, an owl appeared in the morning as she entered the office. She also mysteriously collapsed at a public function. Regardless, she stood her ground until the results began to show. Today, Edo boasts of a completely reformed examinations process. And the gladiators appear to have sheathed their swords.

Princess Olowue
Princess Olowu an adventurous spirit as well as growing up in a palace, surrounded by rare and wonderful art works were some of the factors that fired Princess Elizabeth Olowu nee Akenzua's interest in the arts. However, rather than choose a simpler medium to express her creative spirit , she preferred an area that was off limits to women:the ancient craft of bronze casting. According to Benin tradition, women are forbidden from casting bronze or going near what is known as ‘the sacred fire' that is the fire used in melting the bronze.This ‘ban' irked the princess as she could not understand the rationale behind it. "When I asked why women were not allowed to cast bronze, I was just told that women were banned. Being an adventurous and curious-minded person, this motivated me to go into that field and
I decided I was going to cast this bronze that women were banned from," she told NEXT at her workshop in Benin City recently.Born to the late Benin monarch, Oba Akenzua 11 over 70 years ago, the princess as a child was fascinated by the numerous sculptures, statues and other art works in the palace. "A lot of things in the palace and not just the bronze works alone, made me interested in doing arts. The whole palace is a beehive of arts and culture. It's a like a huge gallery. There were images of Olokun and other goddesses which attracted my interest. They were beautifully made mud sculptures. I used to look at these sculptures a lot and I decided to start making my own too with mud," she disclosed.

She made mud objects which she and her younger ones played with, including a sewing machine. As she narrated: "I used to watch women sewing with machines and I got the idea to make one with mud that I will use to sew and start a business. I made one and told my younger one that if she has anything that is torn, she should bring it and I will sew it for her. So, she will bring a dress and I will tell her to pay one pound and we will start haggling. We were just playing. There was even a time one of the Enogies that came to the palace for a visit came to look at it and he said it was very beautiful. Even my father came and said he had something for me to sew and asked me the price. And I asked him how was I going to sew his beautiful white cloth with a mud machine? He told me I should come later for the money and cloth. All these made me realize that people were appreciating what I was doing."

Doing a man's job

After her secondary education at Holy Child College, Lagos, Princess Elizabeth went to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study Arts. Her stay there was however cut short by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1967. She had to hurriedly return to Benin and later took up a teaching job at Itohan Girls' Grammar School in the city. It was there that she took up bronze casting in earnest.

She said: "When I was teaching at Itohan Girls' School, there was this man who used to cast bronze in an old mud house near the school. I used to see guns there and he told me that they were given to him to repair. I didn't know he was making guns for people. What interested me was that he was using bronze as bullets. You know it's very strong. He would put pieces of bronze in a crucible, cover it with charcoal and start blowing the bellows. Within a short time, the charcoal will turn to ashes and I will be looking at the molting bronze which looks like gold."

"I told him I liked the work but he said a woman cannot do it, that if she does it, on the day she wants to deliver a baby, she will have to blow the bellows. He said it was forbidden for a woman to do that kind of work. I now asked him what if the Oba's daughter wants to do the work and he said he had nothing to say to that, that I should go and ask the Oba. He didn't know who I was. But he advised me that I should not cast bronze where there is cement if I don't want to risk my life."

"So, when I got home, I got a crucible, bellows and dug a hole like I saw the man do. And I started casting. I made little figurines. Our compound is all cemented and while casting, a small drop of bronze dropped on the cement. You needed to have seen the way the cement blew up! I now realized what the man at the school said by not casting near cement. But that did not discourage me. I continued. I went somewhere else where there was no cement and continued casting. And I was pregnant all this time. The work is very hard and can even abort a pregnancy. The fire in melting the bronze is always very, very hot-many degrees centigrade high. And to blow the bellows is not easy too. It takes a lot of strength to be able to do it."

After showing the objects to her father who was impressed with her creativity, he sent her to Igun street, where the highly exclusive guild of bronze casting in Benin is located, to learn more about the art. She was the first woman to ever do so in the nearly one thousand years that the art of bronze casting has been practised in Benin Kingdom. "When I told my father that women were forbidden from casting bronze, he now said, "Am I a woman?" That in the past, bronze was made specifically for the Oba and he made the laws concerning it, and women were banned because when they are menstruating, they are considered unclean. And that if there was a prince all these centuries who was interested in casting bronze, he would have done it. But since, it's a princess who is interested after so long, then I can go and do it."

"So, I went to Igun street and was attached to one Osa whose children were involved in casting bronze. The first son went with me to the palace and the Oba told him that he should tell his father that anything I want to know concerning the work, that they should show me. I was always going there. This was in 1976 before I finished my first degree at the University of Benin. I majored in sculpture and I was the only lady among the four students in the class."


On what influences her work, she said: "It's the every day things I see around me that influence me. The sculpture of the wounded soldier for instance was influenced by the horrors I saw of the civil war. Whenever a soldier especially an officer is wounded or dies in battle, his death is kept away from his men so as not to discourage them from fighting.

The statue of Oba Ovonramwen was influenced by the story of the Oba (my great-grand father) who was sent on exile to Calabar by the British after they invaded Benin. The girl with a book reading is my daughter Peju, as a school girl. It's things around me that influence my work. I use myself as a model too. The statue of the pregnant woman was done when I was pregnant using myself as a model.

"I have exhibited my works in many places such as Goethe Institut in Lagos and many schools. Last year I was in Austria for an exhibition of arts. I didn't take any of my works but I was like a living artwork because I dressed in my traditional outfit like this one and many of the visitors to the exhibition would come and look at me in amazement and take pictures with me. It was an international exhibition and people came from all over the world."

"My satisfaction as an artiste derives from the pleasure people get from my work and the recognition I get. Money cannot buy that. It's priceless."

Erosion of culture

The artiste who has been married to Babatunde Olowu, a businessman, for over four decades has eight children one of whom, Peju Layiwola, an artiste and lecturer at the University of Lagos, has taken after her. "There was a time my brother, Oba Erediauwa called me and said, he heard that women have started casting bronze in Benin. I told him it's only myself and my daughter Peju that are casting bronze and no other woman."

Though no longer casting due to advancing age, the princess has focused her attention and abilities on another aspect of Benin culture, the preservation of its rich cultural heritage. "Our Benin tradition is dying. There's too much foreign culture, languages and religion of subjugation," she lamented.

"Many of our people are turning away from our traditional ways. At the service this morning, you can see that I'm the only princess who dressed in a traditional way. It's my own little way of showcasing our culture. People just dress in anyway they like. For instance, it's an abomination for someone to wear a beaded crown to the palace because it's only the Oba that can wear a crown. This hairdo I'm wearing, (okuku) can only be worn by a princess. There are different types namely ukpohor, etiriege, udaha. But many people are not aware of it so it's one area I'm working on, to educate the people on some of these things so that we don't lose our cultural heritage."

Sonia Aimiuwu
'I see our girls on Italian streets, I get challenged'
THE GUARDIAN Sunday, February 29, 2004 Sonia Aimiuwu's childhood dream was to be an actress and singer but her mother would have none of that even though she was the one that encouraged the blossoming of the dream. Instead, she insisted that her little daughter take to a 'responsible and respectable' cause in life by having her study Business Management.But no sooner than Sonia Aimiuwu jetted out of the country and found herself in Italy that she decided to live her dream. With no mother breathing down her shoulder and watching her every move, Sonia decided on her path in life. She enrolled at the Academy of Music (Centro Jazz Di Torino) in Turin, Italy where between 1992-1997 she studied music. Within a short spell of time, she caught the imagination of the artistic
community in Europe, as she became an instant theatre artiste, writer, dancer, choreographer and broadcaster, singer, producer as well as an activist.She has had the privilege of working with such troupes as Teatro Dell' Angolo Di Turino, Alma Teatro and Teatro Argentina Di Roma, National Television RAI 1, 2 and 3. Beside her making name as one of the few black faces who had been able to hold their own in Italy, she has toured Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Germany and France among others plying her wares.

Her work with immigrants and minority groups has stood her out. She is not just a flagbearer for the women folk only, but among Nigerian immigrants, she is held up as a role model, a saviour and the unofficial Ambassador for Nigeria.

Her Alma Terra, a theatre group, is in the forefront of crusading for immigrants and minorities. They run among others what looks like a micro credit scheme to assist immigrants. She has also upped the stake by ensuring that issues concerning Africa are seen in a positive light and Africa voices heard.

She is the founder and president of Afro Festival Association and she is also involved with a youth organisation known as Youth Express Network (based in Strasbourg).

Sonia runs a radio programme, known as Afromania. Started in 2000, Afromania, which runs on Radio Flash of Turin 97.6FM, is a forum where issues affecting Africans are canvassed. It gives voice to Africans and government officials in Italy are engaged and made to explain their actions and policies as they affect immigrants and minorities group.

On a recent visit home, Sonia, spoke to ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA Being an artiste "I think I was born to be an artist.I was born with it. It is from childhood. I have been acting all my life.

That is what my mother used to say. She says, 'you have always been acting.' I used to sing as well. I was in the church choir from when I was a baby till I grew up.

You know this Esigie Cultural Group (it was one of the famous cultural troupes in Benin then)... My mother was a member. They used to organise lessons, and my mother used to send me to them. So I was always there then.

"I was in the drama group in school. And I had the opportunity to do something with this guy called Friday Agbontaen (aka I go die), a comedian with the former Radio Bendel (now EBS) and then also, my music teacher (Bro Preacher), who had a school in Benin.

He so much loved me that he allowed me into the school free of charge. "But my mother never wanted me to go further. For her, it was something you just have to do there and leave it there. I was learning to play the guitar but I couldn't go further because my brother was always laughing at me.

Then, my mother, she was very tough. She would say, 'throw that guitar away.' She would go to my church and tell them that she didn't want me to come to the choir again.

If I was singing in the choir she would come and pick me out of the choir, and so many things." Going to Europe In a way, her mother succeeded to have Sonia tow her way.

She got into a higher institution in Nigeria where she enrolled for Business Management, but two years into the programme, opportunity to travel to Europe came her way in 1992.

"My luck came when I got abroad ... O! My God! But it was tough." She had an Italian male friend way back then. She informed him that she would like to continue with her studies.

The news gladdened her friend's heart, and he assured her that something would be done about it. But the friend's enthusiasm started to wane when Sonia suggested the impossible: "Then I said to him, 'but isn't there an art school, a music school.' Then, he said, 'Sonia, what do you want to do?' I said I wanted to become an artiste and a singer as well. He just looked at me and said (she said it in Italian just the way her friend had said it to her then): 'All Italians who are here have been studying, and they have not been able to get anywhere, not to talk of you coming from Nigeria, from one village! You say you want to become an actress or singer Go away." In search of art school With her eye trained on becoming an artiste, Sonia was not the type to easily give up on her dream.

"I would tell people, and they will say, 'why do you have to think about that. Go and study some other thing?'. I went to the university and they were telling me you have to sit for about 47 exams. "But I said to myself, it's my mother who wanted that. Me, I don't want this. You mean I can't go to art school? They were telling me, 'Ah! Sonia, it is too difficult, you can't do that'.

Nobody wanted to assist me then." Living on the outskirts of Turin then, she learnt how to take the train. And armed with a little knowledge of Italian language, she took to the streets of Turin on a daily basis in search of an art school alone.

What she did then was to knock on any office that caught her fancy and voiced her request in passable Italian language to anyone who cared to listen to her. "Any office I just see I will burst in and say in Italian: 'look, I am from Nigeria, my name is Sonia. I want to act and sing!' They will look at me and they will say, 'no, here, we sell plates. O! Don't you see we sell plates here?' They will then write the address of the place I should go to and even describe it for me. "But I would just go to the next shop and say, 'look, I am from Nigeria, I am Sonia, I want to sing and dance!' They will just look at me and say: 'But we don't have a school here. We sell things.' Her break That was how she went about it until she chanced on the Music Academy (Centro Jazz Di Torino).

At the school, she regaled the fellow she met with what had become her famous introduction. This time around, the fellow, an Italian, caught on and asked her to sing something for him, which according to her, she did so well, falling back on her repertoire, her personal composition. Impressed with her performance, she was further sent to one of the teachers in the academy. Her encounter with the teacher was also interesting by her own account. This was how it went: "I went downstairs to see the teacher. When he saw me, he said to me, 'Pretty girl, who are you?' I said, 'I am Sonia, from Nigeria ...' And he then asked me what I could sing for him. "I sang one of the songs I composed. 'This is lovely', he said to me. 'Where did you get it?', he asked. I told him it was mine. 'Oh! Good', he said. 'Can you sing solfa?', he asked. 'Yes', I said and I did it for him. 'You can start with me,' he then said to me."

That was how Sonia, finally got her break. And so between 1992 and 1997, she studied under the tutelage of some of the best teachers, directors, composers and artistes in Italy.

She, however, remains grateful to her Italian male friend, whose generosity and kindness made it possible for her to pull through the academy because "it was very expensive." While studying, things happened for her so fast that she quickly came to the notice of everyone.

According to her, she was quite sharp, studious and talented in her ways. She was among the few students selected to take part in the jam sessions that the school held every night. During those sessions, she expressed her desire to get on stage (acting) to one of her friends, Elizabeth, who then told her of a women organisation that had just set up a theatre group.

Introduction to Theatre and social activism With Elizabeth's encouragement, Sonia sought out 'Alma Terra', and thus began her life-long relationship with the group that later opened up other vistas in life for her.

"That was how I met my organisation-Alma Terra. It was true that they just formed a new drama group. It was so nice. They didn't only do that but they also helped women.

On my own, I was already working with a charity group in trying to help women. The first thing I was doing with them was translation. They were not really having a lot of problems then. But they will like people to sit by them and translate things for them. They were having workshops too, and I started doing those with them." From Alma Terra, she got involved with such troupes as the National Youth Theatre and also the National Adult Theatre.

She recalled with relish how she got her first role as an artiste in her first production. It was William Shakespeare's 'Midnight Summer Dream.' It was her director, Gabriela in Alma Terra who encouraged her to go for the auditioning. At the auditioning, she introduced herself to the director and the following dialogue ensued: 'Okay, what do you know how to do?', said the director. 'I can sing, I can dance.' Then the director asked her to go on stage and prove herself. She climbed the stage and sang 'When I fall in love.' "He said: 'Okay, you are for the show'. That was how he took me and everything started. I couldn't believe my eyes. I could remember all I went through, my knocking on doors, my studies, but to tell you how Sonia became star... no, no, because it happened just like that.

People come to know you, directors, they want you to work with them, from radio and TV." For her, quick break into the world of art in Europe is something she still finds difficult to fathom. However, she believes that her talent have sold her out. "Yes, talent as well, I think. Even my directors, they tell me, 'Sonia, there is this quality that you have that is difficult to find in other artistes'. I don't know, but they know. They will say, 'when it comes to singing, you will sing. You have a lovely voice. When you move, you dance well. When you act, even with your accent, it is funny.' "You are good looking. People like you. Even the audience would come to you. I don't really know how true it is; all these things they say about me. They would describe you and say you are this, you are that.

There was a journalist in France who wrote that sometimes I was like a woman lion; lioness on stage! The guy was just writing and writing positive things about me in superlative terms. Then, my colleague would come to me and complain. 'Sonia, this is not fair! We are acting together but people will always focus on you. Are we not acting together?' I think it is also the star. The star is there as well. Talent? Yes, but I think there is something else as well." I can't turn my back on Nigerians With the stride she has made in her acting, singing, dancing, radio and TV programmes, there is no doubt that this Nigerian artiste has made it good for herself in a land where being black, being an immigrant and worst still, a Nigerian, stigmatises one. She easily admitted that, "I am okay with what I do. I don't have problems." If she is fine and okay with what she does, why does she risk all that and stick out her head for Nigerians, immigrants and minorities? "When you go out or you see your people on the TV and they say they just caught this girl today; she is from Nigeria, she is going to be deported. Or they've just caught some pimps; they are going to be deported, and they are from Nigeria; and I am from Nigeria; o! my God something should be done. You can't just sit there and say 'I am okay, let's forget about my people'.

It's like something is going to move within you. So with that I try to give a helping hand through the various organisations that I am involved with." For her, activism is a mission. "I believe it is an assignment that I have to do. I sometime say probably, I will not live long! ... It is in you. You have to work to help people. "I believe that what I am earning is not only for me, otherwise everything would not come off like that, just so easy. Now, for me it is easy, but it wasn't so easy. Sometime you get some contracts you don't even expect.

They will say, 'we have this budget.' They will give it to you. So, why should I have to keep all the things to myself." I live for others For Sonia, who says she draws strength from her inner being, there are occasions one has to contend with agonising and frustrating moments in her social crusading efforts, especially when friends and family members confront her with the hard facts of life.

Often she is hit with such words as: 'Sonia, you will get mad; you think you are the only one; you want to help this, help that; don't go and use your money and enjoy yourself and start thinking of marriage and getting children; you will get old and still be there.' Upon deeper reflection, she admitted that, "They are right sometimes. Yes, you get frustrated as well, anyway. Sometimes you really sit down to think. And say, do I have to continue like this, especially when you come back home and you see what is happening." Consequently, she said: "I am living for people. I am not living for myself. I don't have my own private life." Yet, despite the fact that she is overtly accommodating and goes all out to satisfy others, she confesses to that she is not good at keeping relationships.

I am almost a recluse "I know a lot of people but I can't cope with friends. I am not good at it. With a friend, I will just say hello. I can't talk for long. I am always alone. I don't go out. I want to be alone on my own. I just walk by the street. I go around seeking information about immigrants. That is my first target in life. "But I am open. I am very open. I don't like parties. All these official things-wearing lace (material) or what have you... no, no, no, I don't like that. So whenever Nigerians in Italy invite me to a function, I don't go because when I get there I don't feel comfortable.

I always give them something (monetary donations) and that is all. Maybe in churches they call me sometimes and say, 'Sonia give us a special number'. I will go there and give them a special number and they take me back home. That is all. "But when they are wedding... ah, no, no, I am not used to it. Once I tried it with my younger sister, who is in Italy. I went to visit her and she was talking about a wedding; 'Sister, you will come with me, when everybody sees you, they will bow.' I was like telling her, 'please, my love, I can't go'. But she insisted, so I accepted. Could you believe that all the time I was at the bar, while the party was upstairs because I was not able to climb up. Even half of the people were now with me. It was like I was discussing with them. I will chat with some guys and they will now go up and say, 'one babe dey here o!' And everybody was now coming downstairs." I'm not doing well in my music "As an artiste, you have a dream. You say you want to achieve this goal, and you pray, you work hard. You do whatever you can to get there. When you get there, it is always higher.

It is not because you want to show off. No, it is your brain, your mind, it is the environment; even the people, your audience, who are requesting for more. "Like in my music, I am not doing so well because for many years I have been trying to get a good producer for my type of sound (Afro-pop with highlife), but I haven't been able to get one. You need a direct contact. You know when some of the producers have some artistes they don't care about you. "I don't want to do a CD to just copy what others are doing as well. If I want to do something, I do it damn well. I wanted to become an actress, an actress in a responsible way; a singer in a responsible way, I won't just go on a local level to do my CD. I can't put that into the market. I did that to get a producer, which is very difficult." Visit to Nigeria "I last came to Nigeria five years ago. It's like I have been working. I just work. I don't go on vacation. And when I was getting bored, I said, okay, I have to do something.

I have to see Nigeria, just to renew myself: It was very lovely to be back home to meet loved ones. It was something very emotional for me to see the social conditions... It's really, really bad.

It's like you are happy on one side, and on the other side you feel somehow bad. Probably, if I was only an artiste or that I don't care about people, I wouldn't suffer any psychological trauma.

"I am an artiste and I am also an activist. You do a lot with helpless Nigerians over there and you see that things are changing, and when you get back home, it is like, oh, My God, all that you are doing over there is in vain. It is painful because you see that here is worse. People are starving, even children, they are exploited... And women too. They are being abused. I am tired. I said I want to go back. Not because I am not enjoying my stay but what I see when I go out. Babies begging for alms; the situation of things... people sleeping outside and what have you. I feel so bad. That moment, you say, let me give something to help but what can you do? You can't do more than give N100 or N200. "Then you ask yourself, why do things have to happen this way? When we have such a rich country! Everybody knows Nigeria to be a rich country, with many resources... but our leaders;I don't know what they do.

There is a very big gap between the rich and the poor. The rich people look down on the poor. I hate it. It's not good." Although her exposure to the realities of her people back home has raised some conflicts within her, she however, contends that coming home has been a learning process for her even as she informs that she intends to come up with a new strategy when she gets back to her base on how best to collaborate with some NGOs in the country on ways of tackling some of the problems frontally. Said Sonia, "My experience is a lesson. It is going to encourage me as well, work out new strategies, probably trying to get in contact with the NGOs here, that is the ones really working. I didn't do that before. I would now sit back and think properly to try to get in contact with the people, and try to discuss with them what they are doing, and then see what we could do together."

The government should help to get Nigerians off the streets of Europe "I want to plead with this government, I know it is not easy to lead a country, I can understand that. But notwithstanding, I believe, I don't only believe, God knows, God has given us all the resources, wealth is in this country. There is money in this country. Why can't the government look for a way out. I don't want everybody to be the same but just a balance between the low class and the rich.

Even here you don't talk about the middle, high, low classes. "I mean create more job opportunities, try to give free education as well.

Many families don't keep their children in schools again because it is too expensive. And when a child doesn't go to school, what future has that child? We should help in a way that children hawkers shouldn't be in the streets. Children hawkers wouldn't be in the street when there is free education.

The government can afford this. "They should create new things. I see imported things here and there. Before things are out in Italy, they are already in Nigeria. Why don't we focus on what we have? Can't we make the same jeans as from Europe, the same shoes as from Italy?" Nigerian youths should work to secure the future "They should plan for the future, they should work for the future and not for the moment. This is what I always tell them.

When you are working for the moment it is always 'I need money. In Benin City, Adesuwa built four flats; the other one seven flats, cars, whatever.' That's what is reigning. "Then, you are not planning for your future. You are planning for the moment. Then, you are ready to do anything, to even give one part of your liver. We shouldn't be carried away by what others have. Do you know how many of those girls who have flats over here had died of HIV/AIDS! And some are still in the hospitals? Young girls, pretty girls. The last one I was taking care of died three years ago. Her friends called me, 'Oh sister Sonia, she is dead. I think the family (of the girl) were too bad. They killed her'. I just laughed. It's not the family, but you don't have to go and tell them.

This is another issue that is going on: The issue of HIV/AIDS that is killing most of the girls over there." "I have written a script. Someday, I will bring it out. It is a real story. Maybe they will look at it and they will be crying. Let them cry but that is the reality. If you watch a film like that before you will go abroad you will think twice. It is not the government alone, artistes and filmmakers should show the real thing, the reality.

They should help the society to grow. They should emancipate people. They should go deeper into things." Nigerian home video filmmakers are part of the problem Sonia is also not happy with the Nigerian home video filmmakers. She sees their works as too superficial and not helping to treat social issues critically. "What the film makers here are doing, is giving us a bad image. I saw some films that they would go abroad, make their money, come back and become rich. That is not the fact. They have left out the real story. Why don't they do a research to see what is going on? Why not show the other part? It's very wrong.

They should know that prostitution does not involve only money. It involves HIV/AIDS, death, because most of them are being killed on the streets.

It involves exploitation. But that exploitation is so big, so huge that there are many things that go with it. Why not show those aspects of it as well? Let us see the way they really are over there. How things happen to them, how they are raped, how they will chain them as slaves, how they will use iron to burn their hands, how they die in hospitals.

Cherry Igbinedion
Cherry Igbinedion Is the wife of the flamboyant Esama of Benin Kingdom. Since the Beijing Women Conference of September 1995, it is easy to say, besides and not behind every successful man; there you would find a woman who is not only just standing by, but as well actively getting involved in the execution of project(s) at hand. Lady Cherry L. Igbinedion, the amiable Jamaican- born heart-throb of the Esama of Benin Kingdom, is one woman who can safely be said to have contributed her bit to the outstanding success story of the Igbinedion household. She was right beside her husband as they traversed top-class schools overseas to forge a model for their intentions. The outcome was the establishment of one of Africa's leading private Education Centre in Benin City. The pioneering role of the Centre in the now popular Montessori model of education in
Nigeria can hardly be in doubt. The combined excellence of the nursery, primary and secondary schools in terms of products and output coupled with the Igbinedion Montessori Teacher Training Centre to prepare teachers for competing schools, earned the institution clear identity and a much valued pronouncement by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) that the Igbinedion Education Centre is one of the four leading schools in the West African sub-region.Igbinedion Education Centre under her directorship in collaboration with council, management and staff has taken this Centre of Academic Excellence to enviable heights.
Franca Afegbua
Franca Afegbua remains a symbol of the participation of the Nigerian woman in partisan politics. She made history as the first woman to be elected a senator of federal republic of Nigeria, in 1979. She represented the old Bendel State. Afegbua has since diverted much of her attention to beauty and hairdressing which was her original love, but continues to keep a close watch on the nation's politics
Sandra Aguebor
Sandra Aguebor the first Lady Mechanic in Nigeria.Is A native of Benin city, Edo state, was born in the 70s into the family of late Mr. & Mrs. R.A Aguebor, she attended Ivbiotor Primary School, St Maria Goretti Grammar School in Benin, later to Benin Technical College for further technical skills and finally a graduate from Auchi Polythenic, all in Edo state,he also had a degree from The Goethe Institute, a German school based in Lagos State, and hopes to further her education in International Relations. She secured her first employment with Bendel Transport Service now Edo Line in Benin City, as officer in charge of maintenance and repairs in the workshop for three years, and later with Nigeria Railway Corporation in Lagos for another three years before deciding to be on her own, while on her own, she managed fifteen trucks for a haulage company that distributes confectioneries to the North and other
parts of Nigeria. A devout Christian, Aguebor says that God spoke to her through a series of childhood dreams and told her that she should become a mechanic. With no other mechanics in the family, her father initially scoffed at the idea, until he traveled to the US in the 1980s and saw women working in positions considered “men only” in Nigeria, back in Nigeria, he gave her his full support, but her mother was not in support, because she was afraid of the physical challenges associated with the profession. Nevertheless, she forged ahead with her dream at the age of Fourteen years, although Her first “garage” was a patch of land covered with cardboard for shade, which was demolished by authority, but that did not deter her, today she is a brewing success. She has always aimed high. An avid reader of self-help books, Aguebor encourages her girls to think big – and they do.

However some of her special attainments are, sponsorship to visit seven states in America by the U.S government in 2004 through the American consulate, and invitation to Aso Rock with her trainees by the president, Federal Republic of Nigeria Chief Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo.

The BBC Web Site & BBC World News, The New York Times, The South Africa Broadcasting Cooperation, (SABC) South Africa, The CNN World News, the Voice of Africa, USA and the Christian Mirror, USA have shown a documentation on her. Above all she has won several awards some of which are recognition by Emotan, celebrating the feminine virtue, African Nation Builders Gold award by Vision Africa and an award from Edo state Government for her Excellence in Mechanical Engineering. Sandra also got an award from ASHOKA, as an ASHOKA FELLOW, an organization that rewards people that have rare innovations and initiatives, in Washington DC. USA, this gave her the opportunity to feature the Global Book on Economic Empowerment published in Washington DC.

Sandra had featured on NTA channel 10 programme “On the Road”, where she lectures and trains on tips for vehicle maintenance, every Saturday. She also organizes and trains corporate drivers on fault finding and rectification to properly maintain the companies’ fleet of cars.

Sandra has also been featured by Communication for Change (CFC) a 30 minutes documentary, shown on DSTV (35 Countries in the world) this showed her innovations and attracted enthusiastic response.

Sandra is the CEO/MD of Sandex Car Care, (specialist in maintenance, servicing of mostly used cars and sales of spare parts for commonly used cars), she maintains and services fleet of cars for MTN Communications, KAKAWA Discount house, Transocean, Alandick, Zenith Bank, Ikoyi Club, CNN News, BCC News, Games Shopping Complex, AIICO Insurance and lots of notable individuals.

Sandra Aguebor is the Founder/CEO, Lady Mechanic Initiative, (a non-for profit organization set up to train young ladies in auto mechanic profession and wealth creation).

Currently the MTN Foundation is funding the empowerment and training of 50 young ladies in Auto Mechanic profession as skill acquisition to create wealth. She also broke the barrier of the Muslim Community “ISMUF group”, by also taking 12 of their women into training even with all their HIJAB outfits, they still partake in all training.

Due to her uniqueness the Netherlands Government through Lagoon Hospital in collaboration with HYGEIA, “a health maintenance organization” nominated the Lady Mechanic Initiative for the community health insurance plan for all her trainees and families at little or no cost yearly.

Some other individuals and companies has also supported the organization, amongst which are,
• Former First Lady of Lagos State Chief Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu. (Moral and Financial).
• Former Ministry of Women Affairs, Lagos State (Moral support, Recognition, commendation)
• Daisy Dajuma
• WOTCLEF, Abuja (Ensured Federal government support and recognition)
• Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited, (PAN) Kaduna (Certified Training) The girls are usually sent to the plat to train for one month
• Motor Plus Workshops (Partner in training and employment)
• Transmission by Lucille, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Support & training partnership)
• Carlbury Garage, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (donation of tools, training on diagnosing in motor vehicles)
• CHEVRON, (Training partner, Employment and Financial)
• Stephanie Balikos( donation of training tools and office equipments )
• Commissioner of Police Lagos state, (moral and security support)
• Sara Hindle, Portsmouth, UK (fundraising and volunteer) capacity building and donation of office equipments
• Mr. Henry Omoragbon (BOT), donation of office furniture

I must not fail to add that she is an aunt to all the ladies she has under her training.

Sandra always says to people, “When You Empower Somebody, You Are Building A Nation Economically, Socially Technologically In Which Crime And Social Vices Would Be Reduced.”

Today Sandra, The Lady Mechanic as she is popularly called, is known in so many countries all over the world and her dream is to see that women mechanic in another five years have Lady Mechanic Initiative franchise all over Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

Constance Momoh
Hon. Justice Constance Ayashe Rekhia Momoh is the first female chief Judge of Edo state. born on the 28th februray 1940. in Auchi had all her early education in Auchi and moved over to London she was called to the English Bar in 1965 by the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple.

She was Appointed in 1985 as Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the Activities, of Plateau State Government Owned Companies, Corporations and Parastatals covering 1979 to Dec. 1983.

In 1995, she was appointed as the Chairman, Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts)and Financial Malpractices in Banks Tribunal Benin Zone.
Modupe Ozolua is the Chief Executive Officer of Body Enhancement limited in Nigeria. She is also the founder and president of Body Enhancement Annual Reconstructive Surgery (BEARS) Foundation. Ozolua claims to help people “achieve an admirable weight, attain the best standard of beauty and be fashionable without regard to age”Ozolua has won numerous awards. Currently, she says her focus is on catering for the less privileged in the society.
Early life: Modupe Ozien Ozolua was born in Benin City, Nigeria October 10th, 1973, the youngest of four siblings born to Chief J.I and Chief Mrs M.S Ozolua. Her parents hail from Sabongida Ora area of Edo State. Her name, Modupe, means "I thank God". Miss Ozolua had her early education in Nigeria, where she attended University of Benin primary and secondary school, and Queen Idia Girls College in Benin City. Her secondary education
Modupe Ozolua
was completed at Apata Memorial High School, Isolo, Lagos. To further her education, Ozolua left for the United States of America in 1989.She studied in South Western College, San Diego, and Devery International University, Los Angeles, California (1989-1995). She was recognised in the 1994-1995 edition of the NATIONAL DEANS’S LIST. While she was growing up, Ozolua wanted to become a Doctor, but the sight of blood made her renounce the idea. Instead, she majored in Graphic Design and Business Administration

Her Interests and Life style: Ozolua is a Christian, but according to her interview with Olatunji (2006), when she was asked ‘how close she was to God’ she replied; “I am the last person that can quote the Bible for you”. Ozolua stated dating at the age of 20 and had her son [Seun] at 21years old. At the age of 22 she was already running a home with the man she calls the “father of my son” (Olatunji, 2006). They further broke-up because “they felt incompatible” then she later got married to someone else (Olatunji, 2006) ; [Miss Ozolua has never mentioned the name of her husband; she calls him ‘Honey’.

Career: Ozolua is a businesswoman; she started earning money “at the age 18, by working in MacDonald’s’ and schooling at the same time, 1991” (Olatunji, 2006). The first business Ozolua had was a communication business on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Later she went into real estate, and then started Body Enhancement. She was not attracted to surgery until she went for breast enhancement herself. According to Ozolua during her interview with Olatunji (2006), “I was very uncomfortable with my breasts after breast-feeding my son”. It was after her operation that she became interested in body enhancement. She wanted to help “treat people with deformity”(Olatunji, 2006).

Miss Ozolua felt that numerous individuals in her country, Nigeria, would want to improve their appearance. Therefore, she opened a ‘Body Enhancement’ operation in Nigeria to give individuals a “new lease of life with either cosmetic or reconstructive surgery” (Ekunkunbor, 2007). Miss Ozolua was running her Body Enhancement Company in Nigeria from Los Angeles. She finally relocated to Nigeria with her son after the death of her mother and her divorce in 2001. Miss Ozolua’s ‘Body Enhancement’ company has been in existence since 2001. Ozolua’s company seems to be a very prosperous company that sets out to promote health and give a second chance to less privileged. Indeed, Ozolua Claims that improving cosmetic and reconstructive surgery in the health sector of Nigeria, she is contributing to the improvement of Nigeria’s National image. By all account, Miss Ozolua is clearly an ambitious woman.

Awards: Miss Ozolua describes herself in her interview with Adeseun (2004) as a “workaholic” –to which one might add; intelligent and an ambitious woman. She dresses to impress the public. Ekunkunbor (2007) describes her as “a woman of many parts”. Ozolua has been recognised by the public through her following awards: • Nigeria Women Awards. • Dame International for Pioneering Action Award 2003. • City People for Female Achiever in the Beauty sector 2001. • Moremi Hall Executive Council • Oba Femi Awolowo University for Award of Excellence 2002. • City People for Beautician of the Year 2001. Likewise, Ozolua has been featured in numerous magazines and press publications. For example, Pride magazine of the united kingdom, Guardian Newspaper [London and Nigerian editions], Ovation International Magazine, Tell Magazine, Society International Journal, Afrikan Beatz magazine, The Empress magazine, Reality International magazine etc. She has appeared on numerous radio stations and TV shows, including BBC and Nigerian Television Authority.

Challenges: Miss Ozolua does not have a medical background. She is not a doctor. Although there have been many challenges, Ozolua confesses in her interview with Jemi Ekunkunbor (2007) that “doing business in Nigeria can be a really frustrating and complicated one, but that has not taken away the joy of doing business”. As Ekunkunbor (2007) observes, “whenever her name was mentioned in the past, the first thing that came to mind was the picture of woman who knows nothing but breast enhancement”.

When asked who her greatest critics were, she replied ‘the press’ (Ekukunbor, 2007) . An Onlinenigeria article by Ajiboye (2006) says, “she is only famous for resuscitating collapsed and expiring breasts”. Daily Independent (2006) wrote, “cosmetic surgery is dangerous, you can die from it, if you did a nose, job, you will be unable to bear children”. The press lacked information at the time her organisation was recently put into function. According to her, in her interview with Ekunkunbor (2007) “what they did was express their lack of information in their articles”. Hence, when one says body enhancement to the press it is like saying ‘breast enlargement’” (Ekunkunbor, 2007). Olatunji (2006) says she is not about “breast enlargement alone, rather she is a beautician with a unique bent in Nigeria”. The aim of Ozolua’s company is to treat individuals [children, adults, and people who have serious injuries like acid burn and severe accidents with deformities and create HIV/AIDS awareness.

Achievements: According to Ajiboye (2006), “Miss Modupe Ozolua hopes to give free medical treatment to more than 5000 underprivileged Nigerian”. Ozolua claims that her medical personnel are volunteers”, therefore, they will not be paid (Olatunji, 2006). So far her organisation BEARS has rendered services to numerous people. Recently, BEARS treated 36 kerosine victims in Edo State, Nigeria. In her interview with the Nigerian journalist Olatunji (2006), Ozolua professes that “BEARS has proved to be a result-oriented outfit through collaborations with some state government and private individuals”.

Her life as Philanthropist: Ozolua organised a nationwide surgery project in Kwara State, Nigeria in October/November 2005. the Kwara state government hosted them as well as taking care of their accommodation, and also providing Medical facilities. Surgeons, gynaecologists, and ophthalmologists attended the conference from all over Africa and the Americas. They worked for ten days and treated one hundred and ten patients. Some of the surgeons, who participated, were volunteered by the National Orthopaedic Hospital. Three young surgeons specialised in cyst removal, VVF, repairs and fibroid removal. Further proof that Ozolua’s BEARS foundation does more than “boobs jobs”.

Ozolua has recently launched a surgical laser treatment. This cosmetic laser is for both men and women. The laser, will according to her, be able to permanently remove unwanted hairs form the body and treat acne. She also proposes to use it for vaginal reconstruction of both single women who want “to pretend to be virgins”and also for mothers who want “to feel tighter after giving birth”.

Margaret Idahosa
Margaret Idahosa A native Benin, is wife to the late Archbishop of Church of God Mission Int'l. Inc., Most Rev Prof. Benson Idahosa and currently the Presiding Bishop of same Church with several branches and hundreds of thousand of members worldwide. She also pastors the 5,000 capacity Faith Miracle Center Church, where multiple services are held weekly.Bishop Margaret Benson -Idahosa was born on the 29th of July, 1943, into the royal lineage of the Benin Kingdom. She was ordained into the ministry on the 24th of May, 1983 and consecrated Bishop on the 5th of April, 1998. This position makes her first female Pentecostal Bishop of a ministry of this magnitude in Africa.Together with her husband, she has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in more than 140 nations covering the entire continents of the world. She is not just a woman preacher, she doubles as a father and mother to many
spiritual children all over the world. Her vision and mission is to " reach the un-reached" irrespective of their location whether in the desert or riverine creeks. Since her consecration as Bishop, she has frequently traveled to America, Europe and parts of Africa and in communities far-flung from major towns and cities preaching, teaching and healing the sick.

HER LOVE FOR CHILDREN : Bishop Margaret Benson-Idahosa's love for children and strong belief that they be trained and raised properly saw to the establishment of the word of faith group of schools, which now has more than one hundred (100) branches all over Nigeria. She also has to her credit an orphanage for abandoned babies. Three of these children have been adopted into the Idahosa's family.

CWFI-Her Brain Child

The women arm of the ministry which goes by the name Christian Women Fellowship International (CWFI) is a non-denominational body founded by Bishop Margaret Benson-Idahosa, to teach women how to discover their true potentials, be good mothers, wives and instruments for end-time evangelism. Members of this body can be found in America, Europe, Africa and Nigeria. In line with this is the building of a multipurpose facility called the Restoration Centre with a capacity to seat more than 10,000 women. This Centre will serve as conference venue, office space, a skill acquisition centre and a place to rehabilitate destitute young women. Thousands have been delivered from the bondage of evil tradition and have been spiritually and economically empowered. A recent addition to the Restoration Centre is a mobile medical clinic which offers free medical services to rural dwellers

She already has several books published. Some of which are, The Womb of harvest, The Female minister, Tearing the veil and Expansion without Limit Bishop Margaret Benson-Idahosa is a mother of four biological children- Feb, Ruth, Daisy and Freda and three adopted children Precillia, Osagie and Osasu. She is a grandmothe

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...
Benin Kingdom & Edo State tourism Edo Women
Edo Royalty Photos