Contestants for Miss Polo International Beauty Pageant say Nigeria is safe and the people hospitable contrary to the negative news they hear in international media.
The contestants, from 17 countries spanning five continents, stated this when they paid a visit to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Abuja on Monday.
The pageants were led by Mrs Ibife Alufohai, by the organiser of the contest, which holds on Tuesday at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The pageants said they were almost discouraged from coming to Nigeria to participate in the contest, but their experiences since they arrived were different from what they heard and read.
Miss Nazneen Shaikh representing India said her family members and friend dissuaded her from coming to Nigeria because of the purported security situation.
“When I talked about Miss Polo International with my family and friends, they told me, have you ever checked youtube or go through social media about the stories on Nigeria?
“I said, why? Are you trying to deny me to go and represent India in Nigeria? They said the country is not having good report.
“For me, what my father had taught me is really working very well. He taught me that if you want to see the change, be the change.
“I am here to be the change for everyone out there, to make a change for everyone out there, to correct the mentality of the entire world about Nigeria.
“From my experience since I came, Nigeria is like a second home,” she said.
The pageant said she saw Nigeria as her second home based on her encounter and experiences with people since she came into the country.
“Right from the persons that received me at the airport and the persons that have been dropping me in the hotel, each and every one of them treated me so well and with care.
“I want to thank you so well, all of you, for your welcome and hospitality. Believe me I have changed my mentality and I will surely change that of my families and friends about Nigeria.
“I will also love to visit Nigeria more and more time again,” she said.
Speaking in same vein, Miss Finland, Anna Opalbo said her family members and friends were equally worried about her coming to Nigeria.
“They said Nigeria is not safe. But I am here, and can confirm that Nigeria is safe. I am happy to be here to represent my small country,” she said.
Miss Denmark, Monika Kuzhova said her mission was to open the eyes and minds of the people in Europe and especially her country, and change their opinions about Nigeria.
“I will return home to tell them how people live here, and to tell them it is not what they say or what they read on Google and in the newspaper.
“It is different. The country is safe, the people here are nice friendly and caring.
“I will implore those who want to come here to do so and have the first hand-experience about Nigeria,’’ she said.
According to the pageant from Kenya, Sheila Kanini Nigeria is not really new to me because there are so many Nigerians in my country.
“It has been my yearning to be in Nigeria and I am not disappointed. Abuja is very beautiful and I am having a great experience here.
“Miss Polo International has been a great platform for me, particularly to promote my project which is supporting mothers with children who have disabilities,” she said.
Miss Ebosetale Okhueleigbe representing Nigeria corroborated her co-contestants that Nigeria is safe and she had interacted with many of them who confirmed same.
“I have had one on one interaction with a lot of my co-contestants, they love the music, the dances particularly, the “shaku shaku” dance step,” she said.
Earlier, the minister commended the organiser for succeeding in enlisting 17 countries spanning five continents to participate in the event.
He said Nigeria had become a destination of choice for tourism events.
“I think this is due to the fact that this administration has done everything possible to ensure security of lives and property and attract international investments.
“The administration has also put in place policies that will attract tourists such as the visa on arrival which many of the pageant benefitted from.
“We also have massive investments in infrastructure like roads, rails, power and so on,” he said.
Mohammed said that four years back, the event would not have been possible in Abuja because “that period the residents of this city slept with their one eye closed and the other opened.
“We can say confidently today, that with the coming of this administration, we have ensured that Abuja and the whole of the country is safe to all and sundry’’.
He said the Federal Government would continue to pursue policies that would sustain peace and development of the country and attract more tourists and investors.
Alufohai, the President of Miss Polo Beauty Pageant thanked the government for making it possible to host the event.
“Some years back, event like this scheduled to hold in Nigeria was cancelled because of certain circumstances.
“The present government has made and proof Nigeria to be safe that many countries are being attracted and are here to celebrate with us,” she said.
Alufohai said the contest was not just to crown a pretty face but “a beautiful soul, intelligent mind and a passionate heart.”
She said the contestants had done so many pet projects to improve education in their various countries while some of them had Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which they had been running for years.
Other contestants are from Japan, Russia, Denmark, Tanzania, Ghana, Venezuela, Spain, Algeria, Cameroon and Burkina-Faso