FONDCUP 2022 Maiden – Esther Essien Ukpong from Cross River State
FONDCUP 2022 Maiden – Esther Essien Ukpong from Cross River State, is a beautiful 21 years old maiden, whose favorite color is red, because according to her, red represents passion and love.
Esther has very gifted hands, as she loves to recycle waste materials into reusable items, a skill she picked up from her mother while growing up.
She wishes to work with the vision and mission of the organization, if crowned FONDCUP 2022/2023 Queen.
HERE IS AN INTERVIEW WITH ESTHER ESSIEN UKPONG
Tell us briefly about yourself and family?
My name is Esther Essien Ukpong. I was born on 21st October, 2000 and I’m 22 years old. I am from Obom-itiat, Ikoneto in Odukpani LGA, Cross River State, Nigeria. I was born and bred in the ancient city of Calabar, the capital of CRS precisely in Calabar South.
I am the first child in the family of 4 which comprises my father, mother, me and younger sister but presently 3 as I lost my dad on 1st December, 2022. My mum’s name is Mrs Mary Essien Ukpong and my junior sister’s name is Destiny Essien Ukpong. I am from the Efik tribe. I speak English, pidgin and Efik frequently. My hobbies are singing, acting, reading, cooking and recycling things. I am a 500 level student of University of calabar (Unical) studying Science Laboratory Technology. My statistics are 30(burst), 22(waist), 33(hip). I am 5.4ft tall and I weigh 55kg. My family is best described as a middle-class christian home despite being the descendant of a royal home as people would expect us to be traditional worshippers. My dad and mum are both nursery school teachers, while my sister is in ss3 at Command Secondary School ohafia.
My philosophy of life is “the difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot.”
I grew up in a large extended family compound which comprises my great- grandparents, grandparents, father, mother, siblings, aunties, uncles, cousins and inlaws. This made me grow up listening to folktales most nights from my grandparents. Majority of the elderly ones still reside in the family compound while the younger ones are in different institutions both within and outside the country. My family is made up of peaceful, lovable and hospitable people. They played a very big role in raising me to become the respectable, lovable and strong woman I am today.
We have a tradition in my family that on the 25th December every family member must be present at the family compound and we celebrate for success and life of the year after going to church in the morning for Thanksgiving service/Christmas service. We come back and eat from a meal prepared in one pot by the women in the family. No one gets upset when his/her child is being cautioned and corrected. We appreciate good habits and etiquettes of life being taught in the family and we believe in giving every child quality education to help secure a better future. My family is united, hardworking, very encouraging and full of educated people.
Who is your role model?
I’ll say I have 2 role models
First is my grandmother Mrs Glory Patrick Ukpong. She is my role model because she has a kind heart. She would rather starve despite being an ulcer patient to see me eat; such a great sacrifice for love. She made sure I didn’t drop out of school when things were hard and did petty trading despite her age, just to see me finish secondary school. She is lovable, has a beautiful heart, a disciplinarian to the core. Despite her love for me, she wouldn’t stop to caution me when I go astray, she’s very strong and always smiling despite what life throws at her. She has taught me to always put others first before myself, an act of selflessness, and as proven that a woman doesn’t need a man to be successful despite being in a men-dominated world.
My second role model is associated with my passion, which is pageantry. She’s Miss Nyekachi Douglas (MBGN 2019) . This is because I fell in love with her excitement for another’s success (Miss Jamaica) when she won Miss world pageant in 2019. Her attitude is so rare in today’s world and has taught me to always continue clapping for others with joy in my heart that someday it will be my turn as well and also because she loves art and visits arts museums or galleries in her spare time this shows great love for culture and she’s a wisecrack ( entertains people around her with funny stories) this is so me.
What is your ideal Niger Delta?
My ideal Niger Delta is a peaceful and secured region where leaders have the citizens at heart and are accountable, adequate power supply, good constructed roads, clean and treated water supply, fully equipped hospitals, standard learning institutions for all levels, employment opportunities for graduates, adequate skill for those who don’t want to pass through school, acceptance of one’s root and encouraging agriculture greatly. A Niger delta free from oil theft and its pollution. A region where women are allowed to lend their voices and lead in government positions.
What regrets do you have so far as a young lady and a pageant model?
One regret I have as a young lady was missing the educational opportunity of studying nursing when I wrote and qualified for school of nursing because of my phobia for blood then and been too soft to work on the human body but now I see myself been sad when people need medical attention that my little idea would have helped but I can’t, cause it’s not my field of study.
My regret as a pageant model had been spending years contesting within the same location and standard instead of upgrading because I saw myself not fit to compete in the outer world like I am now (low self-esteem).
How was your FONDCUP 2022 camp experience?
My FONDCUP 2022 camp experience was an amazing, educative and challenging one. It all started on 25th of November, 2022 even though I arrived camp as the last maiden I was welcomed warmly by the chaperone Mr Ehijay, immediately my vehicle drove inside the camp environment and then by the other maidens immediately I entered our sitting room, I was already tired and exhausted from the hectic trip but they had a way of making me laugh.
Then I got to have 2 different flavours of cakes from our birthday celebrant (Elizabeth Agbai- Miss Abia) after which I had my bath and went to bed. Woke up early the next morning for a workout session and got to meet our workout instructor, Mr Justin Ologun.
I don’t know if he could read my mind that sport is not my thing he made sure I partook in it fully as he usually placed me in front, the initial 2 days I was like there is really nothing in exercising till I started feeling the impact from day 3 when it became more intensive I took pain-relief pills before going to bed every night and by morning the pains had subsided. One thing I loved about the workout was my outfit from KoralX. It was fitting and I noticed despite how much I sweat it didn’t get wet. But I was usually scared of the workout section cause, I’m like, this small flesh I have managed to gain in years would all be off before my stay here runs out but I tell you this, I actually gain weight before leaving camp. Though meals were served twice daily it was satisfying and well balanced that most of my provision was still the same way I brought it. I missed my profiling on day 1 so another day had to be fixed for me.
On day 2 after the workout session and breakfast, we had our make-up done by Miss Pat and her assistant. It was time for an epic presentation though my wrapper wasn’t as colourful as the rest. I loved it cause it looked elderly and made me feel matured. I was dressed as a maiden returning from the market and I was made to talk about it. After which we had an epic group photoshoot. Then we assembled in our sitting room with our Director who asked us to check our respective emails then I say NO VIOLENCE CAMPAIGN which was our first intellectual presentation we were given few minutes to go through it and present, the tension in the atmosphere became high but I tried my best in the task, after we finished we presented it individually and freshen up and went for dinner then came back and slept. Day 3 we had our workout session as usual which was followed by the catwalk session led by Mr Devon Kelly( the queen maker) . I loved the way he walked and it actually boosted my spirit of walking on heels. Initially I wear heels but mostly block heels but I followed his instructions on walking with pencil heels that the pressure should be on your toes and not heels and this helped me walk better, from here we had our breakfast and came back to freshen up for the beauty of my Niger Delta campaign, here we were all dressed in our princess outfit and representing Cross River State I was dressed as Queen Elizabeth the way royalties in the efik kingdom dresses and gave a speech to suit why my Niger Delta was unique to me. Then we changed up and dressed in our talent outfit indeed the Niger Delta region is made up of brains everyone presented in their different outstanding ways and mine was a creative work of a local Christmas tree made from raffia tree and other local items that signifies the great vegetation of the region. After which we all changed up, showered and went for dinner then came back, had a chat among ourselves and went to bed.
Day 4 we had skill acquisition training on liquid soap making by Miss Peace Idono I learnt alot from here not just the soap making but the way to success and how to see life this really helped me as I got to appreciate her words better on the 1st of December after I received the shocking news of my life. I was really impressed by her teaching. She has meaning for every word and I got to know that our mood affects the chemicals used in soap making and as such you have to stay happy and focus to get a good result. From there, we changed into our casual wear and were provided with items (mud and water) for our native stove making task. We were all divided into groups of 3 and my group comprised of Miss CRS, Miss Delta and Miss Imo we shared ideas and the work came out pretty well and nice, I loved the team work among the 3 of us despite it been our 1st time then we went and freshen up and left for dinner.
Day 5 we had a workout, a catwalk session and then we were taken to the farm where we uprooted cassava, brought it back, peeled and washed it, then it was grinded, bagged and taken for pressing. Despite the fact that my group had the smallest amount of cassava we didn’t give us, we believe that it wasn’t over till it was. So we kept giving it our best. After this we were interviewed by our director then we freshen up for dinner. I was so impressed with the way my body reacted to this. I thought I’ll be crawling to bed but then I was smiling and strong.
The next day been day 6 we have workout session though very mild, then breakfast and went in to prepare for our garri frying task. We were clothed in our aprons and toque courtesy of FONDCUP. We sieve our cassava and it was already looking like garri itself but was still wet. After which we set the fire boom. This is where issues came, our fire kept going off over and over again till we got helped and then the pot started misbehaving as it was a new pot. I learned that a new pot isn’t good for frying garri as it burns easily. We were asked to use palm oil to remove the burnt part from the pot but it came with repetition. I actually fried garri for the first time in my life. The experience was wow as I couldn’t wait to tell my family at home about it. In my mind I was saying FONDCUP thank you for increasing my bride price cause I’m now a full maiden of the region and can do everything that is attributed to my root. After the task, my face turned black and it took my teeth to show I was human at that point as my hand was hot from the fire it came in contact with countless times during the frying.
My group finished first because our cassava was the smallest and behold, our garri was ready and tasted really nice as I couldn’t stop having a taste of my work. Then we were interviewed on it and we started playing with the other maidens on childhood games it was really fun I enjoyed this part of the day most then we freshen up and went for dinner. At dinner we were given carbonated soda water to help in cleaning the smoke from our eyes. Then we came back to our hostel and I called my mum to wish her happy birthday and shared my experience of the day with her and slept off immediately after the call.
Woke up on day 7, we greeted each other happy new month and went out for the catwalk as we didn’t have a workout session that morning. After which we had a presentation addressing our paramount ruler and community on a natural disaster that befell the community, which we all did in our different understanding and was corrected by our director after the presentation. Then we were asked to change into our branded tee-shirt and face cap so we went for our soap making only for me to receive a call that made me lose balance instantly.
I tried to be strong and smile and went inside the bathroom to cry so I felt relief but it wasn’t just enough as I kept breaking down till the maidens got to be aware and informed the chaperone who came immediately and tried to sympathize with me. The love from the crew and maidens that day helped me stay sane as I was feeling my head burn. In order not to let it weigh me down too much, I wiped my face and joined the other maidens in the on-going soap making class. After which my producer spoke to me and gave me words of advice from her own experience. I tried staying strong throughout camp even though most of the days I broke down and could not help it. We had dinner but I could barely eat well as I lost my appetite, I couldn’t even sleep well and I kept crying till day break. The next day on day 8 we had our traditional attire display task and I danced my Cultural dance known as ‘Ntimi’ this is because I wanted to show the world that the efiks have other beautiful and captivating dances apart from the popular ekombi.
Then we had a session with our producer Mrs. Elizabeth Era. Then we had our camp experience interview and then the meIon peeling task, followed by the campfire night which I really anticipated but was not in my right frame of mind so I could barely dance but I enjoyed watching as it helped ease my heavy heart and head then we went to bed very late. That night I had mixed feelings. I was going to miss my new family and I was returning to be welcome with everyone looking sad. I didn’t sleep well that night. So I stood up and started preparing my luggages for my journey the next day.
Woke up on 3rd December and hugged everyone tight with tears in my eyes and in a few minutes we had all departed Amukpe.
I really enjoyed my experience at camp as it taught me teamwork, how to associate and relate easily, I can say I have improved greatly in speech, poise, leadership role, and even intellectually, as my horizon grew wider at FONDCUP. Thank you FONDCUP for having me and taking me back to my roots and giving me the privilege to learn something that I’ll proudly pass on from my generation to another.
6. How would you describe your roommates?(Mention their names and the state they represent)
My roommates were Miss Elizabeth Chinomnso Agbai(Miss Abia state) and Miss Faithful Orunor Ighoruemu (Miss Delta state).
I would say they are both nice people and are from good backgrounds as they showed characteristics of ladies that were brought up well.
Faithful is a type that talks slowly and less even though she wants to be really exposed. She was called daddy’s baby as we nicknamed her because she was either on call with her mum or dad and talked like she was going to cry in the next minute. I love her calm nature. She keeps to herself alot. She’s beautiful and a very nice person. She’s the natural kind of girl and had the longest hair in camp as a maiden. She’s very emotional and cries easily when hurt.
Lizzy as I fondly called Elizabeth on the other hand was our eldest in the room but never made us feel less of our mate most nights we chatted, as we both seem to share a lot in common. She came with everything needed just like I did. She’s very experienced in life and speaking maturely that’s one thing I loved about her. She’s very particular about her beauty routine and spends longer time in the shower unlike me. This made them call me the ‘2 second girl’. She has a giving heart and loves to share.
I love my roommates because we never fought. Rather we lived as sisters, we all knew our part of the bed and respected it. We even shared the cupboard without a single day’s problem. Anyone who didn’t have, the person who had didn’t take time in assisting. I became good friends with Miss Faithful and she introduced me to her aunty and uncle who are based in Delta state.
7. What have you learned from co-existing with your fellow maidens?
I have learned that despite our different languages, beliefs, culture and background that if we decide to live in peace and harmony then the Niger Delta region would be the most peaceful place to live and that no man is an island we all need each other to survive.
I also learned that peaceful coexistence comes from the heart and mind. That’s why we were able to stay for 8 days without a single argument, conflict or fight, and this allowed us to create more understanding, reach agreement and solve problems easily.
9. Why would you want to become the next FONDCUP QUEEN?
Although every maiden contesting this year is amazing in their different ways. I would want to become the next FONDCUP QUEEN because I understand that it is not just about bearing the title nor wearing the crown, but a great responsibility which the crown gives me a complimentary gift, but, it takes someone who has felt pains to know where to apply a hot balm like my people rightly say. If you don’t wear the shoe you can’t tell where it hurts. I know the cries of the Niger Deltans and I have experienced it, therefore I know just the ways to proffer solutions to it. I am ready to lend my voice to the voiceless in the Niger Delta Region, also lend my shoulders to carry responsibilities that will benefit my people.
My pet project would be an embodiment of a lot. It would be titled ‘AWAY FROM THE USUAL NIGER DELTA’. I’ll host Cultural school festivals which will have displays of Cultural delicacies, arts and craft works, language writing and reading competition and lots more. Then I’ll host a tv/radio talk show title ‘LET’S REDISCOVER OUR NIGER DELTA’ here I’ll have guest speakers from different states and tribes in the region enlighten the world about their rich cultural heritage and a social media page where written form of this would be posted twice a week to enable us have a handy copy of it. This would also be published in the Niger Delta magazine and the money generated from it would be used to visit orphanage homes, aged/ disabled people homes.
I will also organise skill acquisition training and talk shows majorly for youths in the rural areas as unemployment has been the major reason for insecurities in the region as bad governments use them as instruments to execute their evil acts.
I would also provide basic learning stationeries for pupils in primary schools in the region. This would consist of school uniforms, school bags, scandals, books , pens etc.
And I also possess the charisma required of a true beauty queen.
9. What is your possible solution to the constant crisis in the Niger Delta region?
The constant crisis in the Niger Delta region is sabotage and oil theft through oil syphoning, unemployment and poverty and high inflation.
Unemployment: My possible solution for this would be training the youths on skills where they become bosses on their own and empower entrepreneurs.
Encourage youths in making good use of their talents especially those talented in arts and crafts making . Encourage the retired elderly ones/youths on agricultural practices
Sabotage: Host a campaign with the youths in the region educating them about the dangers of destroying our Equipment, companies and environments for politically greedy ambition when their families are abroad living a better life and you’re here destroying what is meant to help you live life better.
Oil theft: Write to the government to install CCTV and security lighting and heating oil tank alarm to alert when such an act wants to take place.
Youths engaging in agriculture: Host lectures with the youths educating them that agriculture is not just for the old that the should look into the production side and not think of people doing it as tattered undervests and old(analog way) but let them see opportunities within the value chains- from production to marketing and processing to digital platforms and service provisions. So as to see it as a career in agricultural space.
10. Which rule or law in your culture and /or tradition would you want to change if given the opportunity?
I would want to change the law of an elderly uncle receiving your bride price when your father is late, this is because most times this uncle of yours never supported your growth in any way but due to law, he now has the right to write your marriage list to his taste sometimes it becomes so expensive that it drives the man away.
Also, the law of land division when you are from a polygamous family and your father dies without proper distribution of land to each child, in a case where dispute and conflict arises, the government takes over the land as theirs. Most times don’t make use of it but just keep it out of bounds.
And the rule that despite the position of a male child in the family as long as he’s the first son(AKPAN) he is superior to the daughter’s in the family. This causes great disrespect and disunity among these siblings.
11. When you become FONDCUP 2022 queen, what would you want the Niger Delta people to recognize you with?
When I become FONDCUP 2022 queen I would want the Niger Delta people to recognize me as a “talk and do queen ”. A queen who gave solutions to if not all, but the major problems the region faced. I want to be recognized as the greatest philanthropist to rule the region.
12. What is your life’s greatest challenge and regret?
My life’s greatest challenge is dealing with criticism. I regretted taking it personally at some points as this limited me. I’m achieving most of the things I should have achieved at a younger age.