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Controversy clouds ''Miss Africa Queen'' 6/9/2007
It might be a case of sour grapes but the interpreter at the international finale of the ‘Miss Africa Queen’ beauty pageant is seriously smearing a lot of dirt on the contest. Omar Bah is accusing the pageant organizers, XYZ Agency and its Chief Executive, Ayesha Zynab Passah of deception and failure to honour her obligations to those who contested the finale last year.
According to Omar, Ayesha lied when she claimed that the finalists were brought down to represent their respective countries after winning national pageants in their homelands. Rather, he says, he impressed on the contestants who were already in Ghana (mostly for studies) to represent their countries. He says two weeks before the finale, Ayesha had only three beauties for the show -- for Ghana, Gambia and Kenya. He says he used his connections, especially in the Francophone community in Ghana, to bring six other contestants aboard to represent Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Gabon, Zambia, Niger and Mali. These ladies, according to Omar, were all foreigners who have been resident in Ghana for at least two years.

Omar also claims that the six contestants he brought on board agreed to participate in the competition because they were promised $200 dollars each. This, he says, has not been paid. “After the contest, Ayesha said she didn’t make enough money to pay the girls and they all decided to let things go,” Omar, who is Sierra Leonean, says. “But to our surprise, she’s organizing another contest. And we are asking ourselves: if she couldn’t pay us, why is she organizing the pageant again?”

To add insult to injury, the little consolation they contestants had -- the wax prints they wore at the finals -- were stolen from their hotel rooms, after Ayesha had reportedly promised to allow the contestants to keep them. Before the finale however, a misunderstanding developed between Ayesha and Omar, which could have marred the competition. But enter Adom FM’s Abeiku Santana and the issue was temporarily resolved. Omar then agreed to stay on and help out as an interpreter at the finale. He now regrets that decision because, he says, since the competition ended he’s not heard from neither XYZ nor Ayesha. It’s a sentiment shared by Abeiku Santana.

“In fact, Ayisha has been ungrateful,” he says. “I’ve known Ayesha since we were in Ghana National College so I did this show for her because she’s a friend. But ever since we finished the programme, not even a thank you from her. No text, no call, no card. Nothing!”

Abeiku believes that most of the people Ayesha partnered with for the maiden edition of the ‘Miss Africa Queen’ pageant were not pleased with how things went.

For now, the ladies who participated in last year’s finale are so piqued that they (and Omar, of course) are bent on scuttling this year’s international finale, scheduled for next month. First, they intend to go to their respective countries and discourage aspiring beauty queens from vying for the ‘Miss Africa Queen’ pageant.

But Ayesha is not perturbed. She told JIVE that she is not moved by Omar’s attempt to taint her image and that of her pageant and XYZ Agency. Her side of the story is that a mutual friend introduced Omar to her at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, during the prejudging for last year’s contest. She claims that Omar pressured her into including him on her team. She only agreed because Omar was fluent in English and French and she thought he would be useful as an interpreter. She claims that a day before the show, Omar “begged” to have his name and picture in the competition’s brochure. She complains that his interpretations during on the night of the event were not entirely on point. This she says caused her some damage when she took footage of the show to South Africa to be aired on networks there.

Ayesha says that to the best of her knowledge, the ladies who took part in the contest held smaller pageants in their home countries and were brought to Ghana for the final show. But she is aware that majority of them are still in Ghana because “they decided that they liked the country and have started studying in various local academic institutions.” Her argument is that there is no written contract between XYZ Agency and the delegates that obliges her to give them money. Therefore even if they decide to take the legal route, she is “more than ready.”

Monica Mbillah, winner of last year’s pageant does not want to wade into the controversy. All she said was that she had no knowledge about the claims being made by Omar and the six delegates she competed against. One of the contestants in question, Aysha Kalou from Niger (who models for Omar’s outfit) told JIVE that he has been in Ghana for about three years, studying at the International Centre for Professional Studies. She got to know about ‘Miss Africa Queen’ through Omar and was later introduced to Ms Passah.

She and the other contestants had wanted to sign a contract but “were thrown back and forth” by XYZ Agency. Besides missing out on two weeks of school, being fed with meals they were not used to, Aysha Kalou says, she gets taunts on the streets from total strangers asking her what she’s still doing in town after the pageant.

By Winifred hMensa


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