Filed in CELEBRITIES by on May 16, 2009

Nineteen years ago, Binta Sukai became the first northerner to emerge as Miss Nigeria, but not much has been heard of her for some time. In this interview with ADA ONYEMA, she explains why and talks about her life.

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Binta Sukai

You emerged as Miss Nigeria about 19 years ago. How did you feel at that time?

I did not actually prepare or groom myself for it, but I ended up getting it. I only came to Nigeria on holiday. I went for it and became Miss Nigeria. I reigned for a year and seven months. Everything was okay. It is just that when you don‘t really prepare yourself for something, you do encounter obvious hiccups. The girls were already preparing for the show while I just entered because I was on holiday and I needed something to while away time. But the holiday turned into one year and seven months. Good experience, yes. But it was bad too because if you are in the public eye, you have to face whatever comes along with it. It did a lot of good and, at the same time, it brought a lot of bad publicity. Well, there is nothing to cry about, because it just made me stronger. I feel I am a strong person today because of that.

What was it that gave you an edge over the other contestants?

I think the hand of God was open to me and it happened to be my destiny then. There was nothing anybody could have done about it. It happened when it happened. God knows why.

Did your parents give their support, considering you are from the North?

They did. Maybe not my dad, but my mum was okay with it. Initially, my father was not happy with it because we come from the North. But later on, I guess he had no choice but to accept it.

You happened to be the First Miss Nigeria to come from the North, and I know too well that your area frowns at such. How did you cope with that?

I grew up with my mum and grandparents. My parents divorced when I was very young. I grew up with my grandparents. They are Scots, so my whole idea of certain things were western and the only thing that probably could link me up with the North is my name. But if you look at the big picture, you would probably think I was English because of where I am coming from, my education and everything about me.

It has been 19 years now. How has life been since then?

Nothing really has changed. I just feel the same, except that I am older and I have a baby now, which is normal.

For some time now you have not been seen at functions. Why did you choose to go underground?

Not really. I have been coming and going, and have not been in the country for a while. And I think I have been on ground now for almost two years. Now I‘m busy being a mother. It is the sweetest thing ever.

Why are ex-beauty queens not involved in organising beauty pageants in the country?

Who says? We have Fibresima Ibinabo organising Miss Earth. Does that answer your question now?

How about you?

I am not for the beauty thing. There are just too many of them around now. The prestige in it is gone. We have Miss this, Miss that. Everybody is doing Miss something, what is that? It has lost its panache. It used to stand for something, but now it is everywhere. I don‘t know why. In my time as Miss Nigeria, you had your office, PA, chaperons. If you were going anywhere, you were travelling with your entourage. You were like the First Lady of the country going somewhere. There was respect for you because you were like a worthy ambassador. But now, it has lost everything.

What is your relationship with other ex-beauty queens?

I have a very cordial relationship with Ibinabo Fibresima, Ovia Onuoha, Helen Prest Ajayi. And, mind you, I did not grow up here. I guess probably that is why you have not been hearing much about me, because most of my friends are abroad. If I come, I see those I have to see. I live most of the time in the UK. I really don‘t have female friends here.

Do you consider ex-beauty queens as role models?

They are because they have been entrusted into the limelight for a reason. Young girls will automatically look up to them as role models, whether you like it or not. They have been put in a situation where young girls will copy them because everybody wants to be Miss Nigeria.

As an ex-beauty queen yourself, do you think our ex-beauty queens have been living up to being role models?

I really can‘t say because I have not been in the country to monitor that.

How about you?

Me, as a role model? I really can‘t speak for myself. Somebody else has to do that.

How do you see beauty contest these days compared to your days?

Well, everything has advanced now. It is well organised now. The prizes are bigger. There is more promise and more potential for the girls, because in my time, after your tenure, that was it. There is no platform for you to go to the next level.

These days, after your reign as Miss whatever, you are well paid. With that, you get a lot of advert from other companies and you have like a next level to go to. Things have really changed now, just like you have a lot of artistes, you have a lot of parents pushing their kids to go into football when usually it was ‘Oh, go study, go to university.’ It is like everything is just opened. The flood gate is opened.

Describe the experience of being the first northerner to be Miss Nigeria?

Well, it was good and also on the negative. Because I am mixed, somehow I got away with so many things. As at then, it was highly criticised, but somehow I think I opened away for so many things to be done.

In those days, there were talks of beauty queens sleeping with the judges. Is it true?

I have no knowledge of that. Honestly, I cannot talk about that.

How are you finding motherhood?

It is the sweetest thing ever. If I had known, I would have had a baby much earlier. She is so adorable and mischievous. She is just starting to say mama. Her name is Zara Chloe.

And the dad?

What about the dad?

I mean who is he?

He is half French, half Belgian, hence the name Chloe and Zara.

You are aging gracefully even after having the baby. What has been the secret?

Good genes, and I work out a lot. My mum and sisters are same. It runs in the family. I don‘t really have a beauty regime; I just believe that what you put in your body is what reflects on your skin.

Why are you still bearing your maiden name even after having a baby?

I am not married to the father of my baby.


I just have phobia for marriage.




I don‘t know.

But you have a baby. Yes, it does not matter. I have a baby and I am fulfilled, what else do I need. The father is there. If I decide to have another, I will go to him.

You will go to him?

Of course, he is my partner for crying out loud.

Why not solemnise the relationship?

I have a phobia for that. Friends around me are all going for divorce. I don‘t want to go into that.

How about the society that frowns at women staying alone?

Society? What society? Just do what makes you happy. Forget all those bla bla bla

I came across this blog on the internet that

you are squatting and going about in kabu


How can I squat when I have a family house in

Port Harcourt and Lagos? What does that mean. Anyway, I cannot be squatting when I have a house in Port Harcourt and in Lagos. You see, the problem when people just write things is bad belle. People just write and print nonsense. To me, all those things are just irrelevant.

How do you feel about the death of Miss Nigeria?

It came with the death of Daily Times. It is sad and unfortunate, but what can you do? You have a lot of contests coming on now that even if you revive it, everything about it is gone. The market is already congested.

There is this impression that Nigerians have not been able to win Miss Universe because they are not skinny. Does one have to be skinny to win a beauty contest?

Not skinny per se. If you are talking about models, yes. But when you are coming from a place like Africa, you expect a gazelle-looking, extremely tall, malnourished beauties. You have to have a certain factor that trip people; something different from others. So, a black woman needs an extra factor.

How was growing up like?

I had a wonderful childhood. I come from a very large family. I had a happy upbringing.

And your dad?

He is dead. Like I said, my parents divorced when I was very young and he remarried. I have a half brother and two half sisters, and they are up north. I was very shy at school, that is why many of my friends were surprised at the Miss Nigeria thing, because I always kept to myself.


I don‘t know. But being Miss Nigeria was a gateway to me. It opened me up and removed the shyness.

What are your hobbies?

I love dancing and watching movies.

Where do you dance? At home?

No, I go clubbing with friends from time to time. But my favourite pastime now is playing with my little girl.

Rumour had it that you are going out with one the Ibrus, in short Obaro Ibru. What do you have to say?

I don‘t know what is wrong with our people. When they see you with anybody they go cha, cha, cha, gossiping. I have been hearing that. The Ibrus are just family friends. Maybe they just want to make news and sell their papers.

What is your educational background?

I studied fashion and history.

You studied fashion? Where?

Yes, at Paris Academy of Fashion.

What is style to you?

Something you feel comfortable in; that is my own definition of style. I believe in simple stuffs and I love Ade Bakare‘s because they are simple but glamourous. They are not loud, they are rather elegant and simple.


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