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EMPTY CROWNS: How winners of LASU’s beauty pageant are extorted, denied prizes

EMPTY CROWNS: How winners of LASU’s beauty pageant are extorted, denied prizes
August 06
10:40 2022

On a normal day, Omofoma Jane’s radiant smile could melt an iceberg, but on this particular day, the beauty queen was angry! She had bottled up the anger for such a long time. Jane, a 300-level student of English Language at the Lagos State University (LASU), couldn’t hide her pain and disappointment when she narrated her bitter experience with student leaders of the institution. Like her predecessors, she has been cheated and deprived of a worthy crown. 

It all started in the second week of March 2022 when the student union announced the sales of forms for the annual pageantry contest –  Mr & Miss LASU and Mr & Miss Fresher. Jane, a model, purchased the N15,000 form with excitement, a document that would have cost her just N5,000 only if Towolawi Adebayo, a student leader popularly known as Roman Banks, had been honest. 

According to Badmus Uthman, the president of the student union, the cost of obtaining the form was pegged at N5,000, but was inflated to N15,000 by Adebayo.

For Awolesi David, pageantry goes beyond the glitz and glamour of the ceremony; he regards the show of beauty and fashion as his happy place. Like Jane, he happily purchased the form and participated in the highly competitive and costly show where he emerged the winner and was crowned “Mr LASU 2022”. Jane was crowned “Miss LASU 2022”. Their joy knew no bounds.

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The organisers had promised winners a cash prize of N150,000 each, ambassadorial deals and sundry items. But none of the prizes was delivered. Jane is hell-bent on getting her prize, but she is constantly being ignored by Adebayo who is the student union’s social director. 

“I’m not satisfied with the conduct of the event. In fact, I feel it should be scrapped. There should be nothing like Mr & Miss LASU if the organisers cannot fulfil their end of the contract,” Jane retorted in anger.

“You’re telling me you spent close to N800k to call DJ YK, so you don’t have enough to pay winners. How is that my business?   There is something called priority; you set your priorities right. Once the money touches your hand, you bring it out for the most important things. Then you can proceed to the less important ones. Adebayo kept on lying to me that the school hadn’t paid them yet. I had to do some digging to find out that the school had given them money before the event and he was told to put aside our money before doing anything else.”

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Jane and David

Jane said she was offered an ambassadorial deal with a modelling agency but couldn’t proceed with the offer because the social director kept mum on the details of the contract. She was also offered a deal with a cryptocurrency brand, which she refused based on her experience working with similar brands in the past.

According to David, he has not got the cash prize of the contest; instead, he was given a demeaning offer.

“I was offered a so-called deal with a commercial bank which I refused to accept because it isn’t an ambassadorial deal in the real sense. I was told by the social director that the bank manager said if I can register a thousand persons, I would get N350 per head. I refused because that means I’d be working as a salesperson for the bank, not an ambassador,” David said.

“I have taken several steps to claim my prizes. I personally called the student union president to complain and his first response was that he had warned the social director to keep the cash prize separately once he received the money for the event. He was even shocked when he learnt that we paid N15,000 for the form.

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“He claimed he doesn’t have a hand in the whole situation. The female second runner-up and I went to him to complain on behalf of all the winners. He said we should give him two months, now it’s been more than two months and we’ve not heard a word from him. He no longer replies to my messages even after I said I would report the situation to the senate. I also reported to the president-elect of the school of communication and he told me he would do something about it, but I haven’t heard anything from him.”

David described his feelings as painful as most of the projects he had planned to execute with the money have been set aside. He is worried about the next set of participants in the pageants.

“I am not doing this for myself alone. To the best of my knowledge, it has become a trend for union social directors to tamper with the money meant for winners in pageants. I want it to stop during my time. Even if I don’t get my prize, the people coming next should get theirs without hassle,” David said.  

Divine Aduwa, the second runner-up in the female category, who was promised N70,000 and ambassadorial deals, said she was disappointed in the outcome of the event. She described the pageantry as physically, emotionally and financially exhausting. 

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“It is now like a ritual because it happens every year and people are now getting used to it. They feel like it’s the system and there’s nothing they can do about it,” Divine said. 

“You spend lots of sleepless nights preparing unique concepts and at the end of the day, the award promised is not given. It is so annoying and discouraging. The people responsible for this are just irresponsible.”

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Olamilekan Hassan, Justina Godwin also won as the runner-ups. Hassan claimed that he cannot remember the prizes allocated to his position and Justina remained unbothered. She said she doesn’t have the zeal to fight the irregularity because she saw it coming.

The winners in the “fresher category” also attested to not receiving their cash prizes from the student union.

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Again, Adebayo’s name popped up when Victoria Aigbe, Miss LASU fresher 2022, recounted her experience. Victoria did not get a dime out of the N150,000 she was promised. “A skincare kit and a brand ambassadorship with a food brand were all I got,” she said.

Victoria said she reached out to Adebayo to demand payment, but he said the bank account of the union was faulty. Then, he said there was no money in the account.

Victoria, who is devastated by the turn of event, told TheCable that the “promise and fail” culture by the union is unfair.

“I spent so much money on hair, makeup, traditional outfit, casual wear  and dinner wear only to realise that I will not be paid the cash prize. There is  no one that can speak for me” she said.

THREE STUDENT UNION ADMINISTRATIONS, SAME STORY

The 2019/20 edition of the pageantry took place during the administration of Oluwatayo Oladele, then president of the union. The social director, Olaniyi James, coordinated the event in conjunction with an entertainment crew with cash prizes of about N350,000 to be shared among the winners. A year talent management contract, campus ambassadorial deals, free supplies of beauty and fashion products and other exciting consolation prizes were displayed on publicity materials. But the winners got peanuts compared to their original prizes.

 When a new administration took over the leadership of the union, the students heaved a sigh of relief with the belief that things would get better.  The union leadership led by one Ashade Abdulbasit organised pageants where winners were again denied of their cash prizes.

The current union leadership led by Uthman said the cash prizes were not paid because his administration was short of funds at the time the events  were held. He added that it is a “mere coincidence” that previous administrations did not fulfill their promises also.

“There is nothing we can do about the unpaid cash prize of the winners as the union has given everything it can already,” he told TheCable. 

Efforts to get Adebayo’s reaction to the allegations proved futile as he did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his phone. 

Ademola Adekoya, the university spokesperson, said the institution is not aware of the issue and the contestants did not report the matter to the management.

“I think it is purely a student issue. That is why we have the university management for staff, and then, the one that concerns the student union is their problem,” Adekoya told TheCable.

“We don’t know how they come about their programmes. The only thing they do is that they seek approval to hold such events in the university environment, which the management granted. The nitty-gritty of how they do it is not the university’s issue.”

For the contestants who were forced to pay for the inflated cost of the form, spent huge sums of money to participate in the pageantry and were later deprived of their entitlements, the experience will remain green in their hearts. They were handed empty crowns, deprived of honour.

 

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