Thursday, July 30, 2009

Igbo Village and Museum in Virginia is just not Baby Talk?

Just like it happens all the time when someone tries to pick on me to talk about something he had no business with, sometimes in a desperate move to figure out all that Igbo mysteries that keeps perturbing the nosy ones among us. Yes, it happened on one of this month's hot weather while I was trying to catch my cool beating the summer heat in an attempt, and as always keeping it real when a whole bunch of stuff popped up. It wasn't anything about music or the crazy-dubby nightlife in the Hollywood-Los Angeles circle that my colleague and friend, Austen Oghuma, sent me an email addressed from one of the Igbo-related forums, penning on a new development regarding Igbo Diaspora. I wasn't shocked anyway, but it was interesting to know, though I have been in the know of the happenings, especially something worthy and commendable.

First of all, how did Oghuma who is not Igbo got to know all about the facts and logics going on in Igbo forums? Who is sending him every piece of information in a supposedly behind closed doors forums we all had thought was a members only area?`

Nevertheless, it was a good thing he found out progress is being made in Diaspora by my kith and kin, and let's not start pumping our chest for it is not yet Uhuru. Of course, those fantastic shots by Amadiebube speaks volumes and the write-ups from around the Staunton area in Virginia was also fascinating. And good to know the whole project had been started on a good foot. Since many volunteers based on media reports acknowledge work is in progress "passing egg-shaped masses of clay, Stan Ogbonna had the honor of slamming each into place as the foundation of a third mud house took shape." Finally, an Igbo village and museum in the United States? Wait a minute, let's hold our breath. For real? An Igbo village in America?

Oghuma often asks this particular question and now that it seems to be taking shape, he is holding his breath. Oghuma has engaged me numerous times in Igbo-related issues, and most of our discourses takes us into the night. But that's beside the point, though.

The Igbo village and museum in Virginia being talked about is real because there has been eye witness accounts. In due course, I should be paying homage myself and what I would be looking forward to seeing should be the originality of Igbo custom and traditions from the way it had been with our forebears and I have used the above images as an indication. The aziza, brooms used in sweeping Igbo village compounds, cassava squeezing machines, the palm tree and a setting of the palm wine tapper, the kolanuts, how the kitchen looked in those mud houses and the odo used in pounding the cassava, yam or cocoyam, whatever the case may be. It's a bunch of cultural stuff and culture, indeed, is an entity.

So far, it's looking good, and Amadiebube, what a great shot you had in there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Illustration depicts Innocent Ekeanyanwu carrying a beheaded 11-year-old Ikechukwu Anthony Okonkwo in a plastic bag walking to catch the bus to Lagos

Earlier this year, newspapers around BiafraNigeria carried headlines about a crime syndicate, the Otokoto mafia, which spooked Owerri Township and its neighboring suburbs with acts of murder, mutilaton, and illegal human parts trafficking.

On January 23, 2003, Justice Chioma Nwosu Iheme, the presiding judge in Owerri in the Otokoto case, handed down judgment and condemned Chief Vincent Duru Otokoto, the patriarch of the Otokoto family, and six others to death.

Last week in Los Angeles, Maxwell Vincent Duru Otokoto, the first son of the convicted Chief Duru Otokoto, sat down with BiafraNigeriaWorld’s Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Ambrose Ehrim. According to Maxwell Otokoto, his father’s conviction was a set-up and conspiracy. This is the other side of the Otokoto story.

BNW: Before we proceed in this interview, members of BNW and Ikenga Think Tank would like to know who you are. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Otokoto: My name is Maxwell Vincent Duru Otokoto. I am the first son of Vincent Duru Otokoto. I am a businessman based here in the United States, and I am into real estate investments and exportation of heavy equipments to Nigeria and other African countries.

BNW: Now, the reason we are holding this interview is what has been going on and what transpired over the years regarding your family. Much was said about the criminal activities involving your family. How did you feel when the whole thing exploded?

Otokoto: As a matter of fact, it was like a shock to me to get such a news, starting from my brother. Then I had to deal with that and now again I heard that my father is a mass murderer. I couldn’t believe it because I know what my family and what my father stands for based on how we were raised and taught about right and wrong. So, I was in disbelief.

BNW: Earlier this year, in January, it was reported in the country’s dailies that your father and six others had been condemned to death. Those condemned with your father were: Alban Ajaegbu, Sampson Nnamito, Ebenezer Egwuekwe, Rufus Anyanwu, Lawrence Eboh, and Chief Leonard Unogu. How is your dad related to the names I have mentioned?

Otokoto: Okay, my dad is the chairman and managing director of Otokoto Group of Companies, of which Otokoto Hotel is a subsidiary of Otokoto Group of Companies. Rufus Anyanwu is my father’s manager in the pharmaceutical department, that is Otokoto Chemist, and Rufus Anyanwu is married to my father’s younger sister. Ebenezer Egwuekwe is like a brother, he is like a family to us, you know. We come from the same village and he is about my father’s age right from the time Otokoto Group of Companies was being opened or was being talked about, you know. He is like family.

The rest: Nnamito, Ajaegbu and the other I can’t remember his name, they are like watch nights. I don’t have a personal relationship with those three.

BNW: How about Lawrence Eboh?

Otokoto: He is a watch night, too.

BNW: So you have no relationships with the names you mentioned?

Otokoto: No. no, not at all. They were just employees of Otokoto Hotel.

BNW: Now, the main question is about eleven year old Ikechukwu Anthony Okonkwo whose head was found dripping with blood with the convicted murderer Innocent Ekeanyanwu on a police tip-off inside a traveling commercial bus at Eziama in Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State. The widespread report was that Ekeanyanwu was part of a murderous gang headed by your father in which Ekeanyanwu committed those horrific crimes. What is your take on that?

Otokoto: I don’t think if my father is running a gang he will use his gardener, you know. My father is too big to use his gardener as a gang. The way I see it, when you go through the court papers you can see there is a big cover up and a big set up going on here with the guy who murdered this young man Ikechukwu Okonkwo, yes, it’s true he worked at Otokoto Hotel. But my father didn’t employ him. My father is busy running his firm, and only comes in and out of Otokoto Hotel to have lunch, you know, and leaves back to Umudim where he resides. He has been retired for the last fifteen years. But it is not a criminal enterprise like that. It was just like the system where we belong that just wanna make their own story and use somebody for a fall.

BNW: When Ekeanyanwu was arrested and led investigators to Otokoto Hotel where the other parts of the body were found, how was it determined the body parts belonged to the same person?

Otokoto: Okay, what happened from what I know about the case is, first of all, according to the statements and papers in the court, the perpetrator Innocent Ekeanyanwu, I think that’s his name, was arrested in Eziama, Ikeduru, and was taken to the police station in Iho, which is closer to his jurisdiction back there. Then, he was taken back to Owerri, and he made a statement to the police inspector at Iho that he killed the guy at Mbaa River in Uzoagba, in Ikeduru.

He made the same statement to Owerri C.I.D that he killed the boy at Mbaa River which the police men at Owerri State C.I.D went and searched to recover the body. They went to Otokoto Hotel to investigate and all of a sudden the story turned that this boy was killed in a shallow grave in Otokoto Hotel. Meanwhile, the police was in Otokoto Hotel for four days or more, and only one police man had to discover this body and called the rest, and said let’s go and pick up his body.

BNW: What exactly do you mean when you said “only one police man had to discover this body and called the rest?” Are you saying it was a set-up and that no post mortem examination or DNA was performed to identify both body parts as belonging to the same person?

Otokoto: That’s a question the civilized world would like to ask. How do you prove this is the guy with the head? But the society that we come from as you may know or may hear about is just about he is guilty, he is guilty, just to make people feel good. A post mortem, an autopsy, was done supposedly and the body and head were matched. I don’t even know if the coroner saw the head with the body together. This thing never happened.

BNW: It never happened?

Otokoto: It never happened.

BNW: Now the report was that when Ekeanyanwu was arrested, he told investigators he was taking Okonkwo’s head to one Leonard Unogu in Lagos. How was your father involved?

Otokoto: My father was not involved at all. The story was like when he (Ekeanyanwu) was arrested, he said, according to the story I heard, that he got this bodiless head, went to his village supposedly to deliver it to his maternal uncle, Chief Leonard Unogu, “the Ochiriozuo 1 of Eziama.” He left this body at his village and his mother peeped into this bag and found this body and called one for his relatives to go get him, and said take this out of my house.

So when the guy carried him on a motor cycle to drop him off where he was going to catch a bus to go back to Owerri because Leonard Unogu wasn’t home for the weekend to get his delivery from him. And when he got to the bus stop, the guy ran down to the police station and informed them that a guy is carrying a bodiless head on a bus heading to Owerri. So, that’s where they stopped him and found the body. Then he told the police; according to the information I have, that they shouldn’t take this any further. That he’s been doing this thing for his uncle for years. That all they need to do is get in touch with his uncle and this entire thing is gonna be done.

BNW: How is Chief Leonard Unogu himself connected to your dad?

Otokoto: Chief Leonard Unogu is not connected to my dad in any way, relationship or form. My father is an older man. Chief Leonard Unogu is a younger man, he got rich yesterday, and my father has been rich way way back, long time ago. So, according to the judgment that was passed in this case, a good question that you asked, the judge convicted my father and Leonard Unogu besides them saying they don’t know each other. He convicted them because Leonard Unogu is a chief in Ikeduru and my father is a chief in Ikeduru, supposedly as chiefs, they must know each other.
Personally, businesswise, Leonard Unogu is a young man to my father. They don’t have anything at all. They don’t have anything in common or dealings whatsoever.

BNW: Before your father’s trial began, there was this guy named Mathew Anyanwu who was arrested and died under mysterious circumstances in prison. What was his connection?

Otokoto: Mathew Anyanwu was one of my father’s employees at Otokoto Hotel, I think. A lot of people were arrested when the police came to my father’s hotel. Almost everybody at the hotel was arrested and they let them stay in jail, and the police were trying to, in my own opinion, tailor their case and find out who is going to work with them and how it’s going to make sense. So, unfortunately, this guy died but I think his death was from sufferings and maltreatment, probably. I am not sure, but I think he just died.

BNW: So it was about arresting everybody they found in the complex, that is Otokoto Hotel, whether you committed a crime or not?

Otokoto: They arrested everybody in the hotel and took possession of the hotel for days. Then when the body was found supposedly by this one policeman, Obasi Chukwu, he went back and called other police men who were investigating with him that he found the body. Then, they ordered to get my father who was the seventh accused to the hotel to dig up this body. So, when they got there, they came with an angry mob. So when they dug the body up, they left my father sitting in front of the hotel so he can be killed or stoned to death when they set the hotel on fire. These are facts, but not everybody knows about it.

BNW: On January 23, 2003, your father and six others were sentenced to death by hanging. In her judgment, Justice Chioma Nwosu Iheme, beyond reasonable doubt, “recapturing submissions of the defense and prosecution” condemned your father and the rest six to death for collaborating with one another in the gruesome murder of Ikechukwu Okonkwo. What went through your mind when you received this news?

Otokoto: As a matter of fact, I was in Nigeria on that judgment day, January 23rd. This case shouldn’t have gone this far. How can you convict somebody beyond reasonable doubt when the document before the court and all the policemen that investigated the case contradicted each other? The evidence that was tendered in the court was all contradictory.

The policemen were saying different things everywhere, and moreover, my father had an alibi where he was on these days in question. But what put my father in this predicament was exhibit 36 which ‘is a purported statement made by Innocent Ekeanyanwu and written by policeman, Chukwu. Only he witnessed this statement while the other policemen accepted that the original statement was written by Ambrose Nnah. And this purported statement states that when Innocent Ekeanyanwu got this little boy, he went to my dad and said “sir, we’ve gotten another one,” and my father instructed him to kill the boy and “do it like they do” which is send it to their customer.

But by this time they are saying that my father said, “do these things,” my father was not at Otokoto Hotel according to his alibi that wasn’t investigated by State C.I.D Owerri, Zone 6 Police Headquarters Calabar, and the state C.I.D in Lagos. Again, according to the court documents, Zone 6 Calabar and Force State C.I.D Lagos instructed the court that exhibit 36 which was a purported statement by Innocent Ekeanyanwu written by inspector Obasi Chukwu is a purported statement by the police department.

And according to the documents in the court, they said that statement is not gonna pass through the eye of a needle, that the police men purported the statement to choose a victim of their own. So why should my father be convicted beyond reasonable doubt? There is Rufus Anyanwu, there’s Ebenezer Egwuekwe whose names weren’t even mentioned but convicted according to the judge because they worked in Otokoto Hotel; and were supposed to know anything and everything that goes on in Otokoto Hotel.

BNW: How about the reported killing of one Sebastine in Lagos in the home of Leonard Unogu?

Otokoto: Before this case, I did not know Leonard Unogu and I don’t know about his dealings in the past. I knew him about this case and when things like this come up, all kind of things comes with it. All I am interested in is what is related to me and my father and my whole family.

BNW: Is there an appeal to your father’s conviction since you believed his testimony of an alibi was not investigated and was not considered by the court?

Otokoto: When I was in Nigeria after the judgment was passed, I went to my father’s attorney the same day and instructed him that an appeal must be filed immediately, which he did. But you know Nigeria’s system of bureaucracy where they keep things stalling as much as they can.

Yes, an appeal is in process and I will take it to the Supreme Court if an appeal doesn’t work out. And hopefully, people will wake up and understand that something is wrong.

BNW: Do you know Ikechukwu Okonkwo, the little kid that was killed?

Otokoto: I don’t know him. The only person I know in all these things personally is Ajaegbu. Before I came to the United States back then, he was a little boy. Nnamito, I don’t know him. Ajaegbu has been in our hotel for more than sixteen to twenty years working in our hotel.

But if I may say for the people that want to hear and people that like justice, and people that want things done right these days, the question I have is if people have conscience to understand what is really going on, they should ask themselves a question: why supposedly Otokoto committed a crime, his hotel, his investments, and his family home in Owerri was set on fire, and what has that got to do with the neighbor who didn’t commit a crime? Why should his house be set on fire? And why should other people’s houses be set on fire, and then seized by Imo State government who said the angry mobs set these houses on fire?

But I think people know there is a conspiracy going on because why should people’s houses or investments be destroyed and seized by the government of a state instead of investigating and arresting the purported criminals. Now they are part of the conspiracy, in my own opinion.

BNW: Conspiracy? Is there somebody you know who may have played a major role in this conspiracy?

Otokoto: No, I don’t have anybody right now in mind. It’s just like a hide and seek situation. What I am interested in is trying to make sure that justice is served and people would wake up and ask questions why this led to this. But because it’s not happening in your house doesn’t mean it’s not gonna come up to you. The point is if it can be done to Otokoto, then who are you. All I know is there is a big government conspiracy and what proves the conspiracy to me is that peoples property and liberty was taken away from them and the government never asked a question, rather they seized their properties.

BNW: Was this conspiracy out of rivalries?

Otokoto: It might be out of rivalries. That I don’t doubt, but you know, it’s a free world that everybody must find a sport for himself or herself. Life is turn by turn, if you cannot beat them, you join them. We can compromise and get along.

BNW: Do you know Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, and how are you guys related?

Otokoto: Yes, I know Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. When I was a child my dad use to take me to his house and I use to sit on his lap.

BNW: If indeed he was not part of the murderous gang, do you suspect in your own opinion that he (Iwuanyanwu) may have been involved in this conspiracy?

Otokoto: In my own opinion, to me, I believe in what I see and when people say what can you do. But at this point in time, I have heard all kinds of things. Like I said earlier, it is not my focus right now. My focus is trying to put my father through the legal system and educate the people to ask themselves questions about what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense, and put them in place. Then when that is done first, we can figure out what happened. It’s just a matter of time and time will tell.

BNW: How was your life like after what happened, I mean your relationship with other people in the Owerri area and especially your closest friends here in the United States?

Otokoto: That’s the funny thing. When things like this happen, it teaches you the biggest lesson in life. Now you can find out that all we’ve been doing, the drinking and partying is just rubbish. To be honest with you my friend, everybody left, you know. I sat in the house here in Los Angeles for four years and nobody knocked on the door.

BNW: Otokoto, thank you for your time and good luck in your appeal.

This interview was conducted and published exclusively for BNW on July 12, 2003

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial

At Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Michael Jackson fans Monique Ransome, left, Anna hanson and Jennifer Hanson watch the Los Angeles memorial on a television network's monitor. Photo courtesy of Michael A. Marriant/Associated Press

A young Michael Jackson fan outside the Michael Jackson public memorial service at Staples Center Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Mariah Carey performs at the Staples Center in Michael Jackson's Funeral Photo courtesy of John G. Mabanjio/EPA/LA Times

A Michael Jackson inpersonator entertains the crowd outside the Staples Center before the Michael Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles Photo: Christian Dowling/Getty Images

A fan strikes a Michael Jackson pose in front of the Staples Center where the public memorial for Micahael Jacklson was being held. Phto courtesy of Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg News

Women wearing Michael Jackson T. shirts photograph a large screen showing images of the King of Pop at the Staples Center. Photo: Jaqueline Larma/Associated Press

Fans line for live broadcast of the Michael Jackson memorial service from Los Angeles at the O2 World Arena in Berlin Photo: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA

A fan sporting an image of an older Michael Jackson stands with others without tickets along Olympic Boulevard, just outside the security perimeter that was set up around the Staples Center area. Photo: Jay L. Clendelin/LOs Angeles Times

Chris Escobar, 13, does the moonwalk for ticket holders before entering the Staples Center for the Jackson memorial. Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times

Andrew Ocampo of Los Angeles does a Michael Jackson immitation near the Staples Center... Photo: Sean Masterson/EPA

Jennifer Hudson Performs "Will You Be There" at Michael Jackson memorial at the Staples Center. Photo: Kerkork Djaisezian/Getty Images

Lionel Richie performs "Jesus Is Love" at the Jackson memorial, Staples Center.

Jackson casket leaves Forrest Lawn for Staples Center in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Getty Images

Michael jackson's daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson, center, stands at the microphone surrounded by jackson's siblings, from left, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson, Jackie Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Rebbie Jackson at the memorial in Staples Center. Photo: Mario Anzuoni/Getty Images

Monday, July 06, 2009

"We Owned the '80s" -- Quincy Jones on "Remembering Michael Jackson"

As a baked in the gene music freak and one who grew up embracing an era music of all genre evolved and had been basically the same in terms of studio time sessions when crossovers could play in any band, regardless, which brought about the best generation, ever, and with Michael, according to the original studio rat, Quincy Jones, "we owned the '80s" from Michael changing all that musical divide and establishing a kind of music that gave us a sense of belonging, throwing his craft for all.

The studio rat, Jones, is absolutely right, penning his piece "Remembering Michael Jackson," last week, for the Los Angeles Times' Calendar Section. Who else could have said it better other than Mr. Jones, the studio rat who had worked from the 50s with the likes of Frank Sinatra to our present day Generation "Z?"

On the legendary King of Pop, the studio rat had this to say in his delight article: "Michael Jackson was a different kind of entertainer. A man-child in many ways, he was beyond professional and dedicated. Evoking Fred Astaire, Sammy Davis Jr. and James Brown all at once, he'd work for hours, perfecting every kick, gesture, movement so that they came together precisely the way they were intended to...Together we shared the 80s, achieving heights that I can humbly say may never be reached again and reshaped the music forever."

Yes, that height may never be reached again. I am still trying to figure out or fathom which album could beat "Thriller" from the jams of the day when the business was chaotic and tense and every performer serious about the takes on what did change show business forever, neverminding the commercial success. For this purpose, how Michael did it is still puzzling to some for the fact they couldn't get around the brains behind "Thriller."

I, for one, was a freak when "Thriller" invaded the record shops around my neck of the woods freaking out all that wanted a follow-up to "Off the Wall," in which both albums would eventually be Michael's most becoming and successful projects until his untimely death June 25.

I have been going through the "Thriller" album and reading all the lines, and the superb talents put together by the studio rat, Jones, involving each in a way of a magnificent work that would become the biggest selling album in history, surpassing and breaking the record held by the Beatles. It perhaps happened because, after "Off the Wall," the studio rat, Jones, kept the key members from Michael's debut fully as a soloist, to start on a new project that would produce "Thriller."

Sound engineer Bruce Swedien, British-born songwriter of Heatwave (wrote and arranged the ryhthm track "Thriller"), Jerry Hey, Greg Phillinganes, Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro of Toto, Eddie Van Halen, John Bettis, drummer Leon N'dugu Chanceler, percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson and John Robinson were among the casts the studio rat had pieced together. The rest would then be history.

Before "Thriller" and while "Off the Wall" was still jamming all around at the beginning of the '80s, there were many bands and groups that hopped on to the scene making the '80s the funkiest of all generations when the fusing of the musical divide came into being with "Thriller" that was composed of all casts scientifically and methodically carved by the studio rat, Mr. Jones.

The opening cast of the horns arrangement by Hey producing a dance tune ending with that popular makossa man, Manu Di Bango's recitation line Michael's sisters Janet and Latoya had spiced was the touch and couldn't be beaten; I mean, the vibes' piercing feel was what made the hit extraordinarily different from the compositions of the day coupled with Michael's enormous talents.

Watching the video and listening to the track "Billy Jean," shows how prepared the studio rat was willing to make the album, best of all time, setting Michael up as the King of Pop. "Billy Jean," composed by Michael with the heavy funk appeal topping Louis Johnson on guitar (bass) along with Leon Ndugu Chanceler on drums made the groove a masterpiece conducted by the studio rat during the jam sessions at Epic. Thrilermania will never end when one takes a closer look to the entire album --the string charts, the horns arrangements, the ballad, the synthesizers and the guitar chords of Johnson, and the rock song by Lukather's guitar on "Beat It" which actually was written by Michael was what had made this exceptional album a class of its own.

The studio rat recalls MTV breakthrough with the explosion of "Beat It" and "Thriller," courtesy and "thanks" to Michael's brilliant debut performance of the moonwalk on that hell get loose day during Motown's 25th Anniversary at a time MTV wasn't playing any black artist. And the studio rat notes in that regard:

"Michael, the music and MTV all went to the mountaintop. It was the perfect convergence of forces. In the music business, every decade you have a phenomenon...In the '80s you had Michael Jackson. He was the biggest entertainer on the planet. Followed up with 'Bad' and the collective on 'We Are The World,' we all made history together. We owned the '80s and our souls would be connected forever."

The studio rat, Jones, goes on: "There will be a lot written about what came next in Michael's life, but for all of that is just noise. I promise you in 50, 75, 100 years, what will be remembered is the music. It's no accident that almost three decades later, no matter where I go in the world, in every club and karaoke bar, like clockwork, you hear "Billy Jean," "Beat It," "Wanna Be Starting Something," "Rock with You" and "Thriller."

Of course, we all owned the '80s -- the listener, the record buyer, the ballroom dancer, the chereographer, the event organizer, the party animal, the pubcrawler, the market square entertainer, all that brought the fun that came along with the '80s contributed in making the '80s the best generation.

And I was part of that generation. A generation that came with style. The black loafers or the bally's. The rhinestone brooches. The military fatigues. The black boots. The costumes and those flashy gears. We all wore them and that's the uniqueness of the '80s of which we all were part of. "The year the '80s died" would be when we will be saying adios to Michael.

And Michael's legacy is his music; and the music lives.

Photos: Bottom from Left (Pianist Greg Phillinganes, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Jackson and Qunicy Jones at the 26th Annual Academy Awards where Michael collected a record eight Grammys, Emmanuel Lewis, Michael and Brook Shields at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, Percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, Songwriter Rod Temperton and drummer Leon N'dugu Chanceler)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ugandan Fashion Model Imat Akelo-Opio

Introduction: Tell me about yourself (Growing up, academics, etc.)
Growing up, I had the best time, my mother was always encouraging us to do and be whatever we wanted. My fondest memories were Sunday afternoon’s, when we would sit outside and my mum would tell my sister and I stories about her childhood and proverbs that were to live by, whilst practicing how to braid hair. Those were some of my most memorable moments as a young girl. Academically, I had no problem other than all my report cards stated that I talked too much, which always got me in trouble with my mother. However now I tell her, God gave me voice and
I believe that it is my gift and he was preparing me whilst I was still at primary school, it’s a running joke at home because I always say I should never have gotten in trouble for talking as it is now my job to speak, empower, educate and communicate to all people on a daily basis. In addition, I have a degree in Science-Biomedical Science and a Master’s in Clinical Data Management, which has allowed me to work in the Professional world as Clinical Research Associate.

Let's start with the 2000 Sydney Olympics. How did you get to play the significant
role in the opening ceremony? Can you tell me about it?

Wow, this was truly a case of God’s blessing. I just moved to Sydney and didn’t know a soul and as you do when in a new city, I went looking for African stores. I then happened to walk into a store where a lady just randomly asked me if I was a dancer because I looked like one and so I said I was a dancer and she took my number and gave me a card. I didn’t hear from her for months and then one day I get a call to audition and from there it just took off. I was part of the larger African-arrivals dance troop and then one day I was called aside and told that the Head-choreographer would like to work with me and make me one of the principal dancers. It was a shock! And extremely humbling as I was so very young and I had been chosen to lead people that were more senior than I was and still to this day, I just thank God his favour.
The dancing , then lead me to record on the official Olympics album for the African arrivals theme song with 2 other artists, which was an amazing experience, infact it is one that I will never ever forget.

What was your experiece like and what followed after the games?

To be honest, life was a buzz, I became a back-up dancer for a few prominent RNB and Hip-Hop Australian artists and joined an all African group that toured performing in song and dance. Many more doors opened up and I was then signed to an agency that got me to appear and in feature films, such as Kanagaroo Jack, Matrix 2 and 3 and Stealth. It was then that I decided that I needed to start to pursue my own career as an artist.

Tell me about your role in "The Leader" and what was the episode all about?

The Leader was a play that was set in Brooklyn- Bedstuy, to be exact. My role was Tracey, I was the secretary to Nzingah who was trying to stop the re-development in the Bedstuy area. It was a political play and as Tracey I was a strong woman who was standing by her friend and community. It was quite an eye opener for me as it was extremely challenging , but none the less, it helped me grow and appreciate the situation in which so many people are faced with on a daily basis. This play also helped me to see that the little people can take on the giant corporations and that
there is power in a united community.

I understand the musical "Sherwoodstock" was your first lead role in Australia.

What was it like working with the entire crew during the musical?

This was quite daunting as when I auditioned I didn’t expect a major role, but there was Godagain. I was given the Lead female role which shocked a lot of people as I was the onlyAfrican/ethnic person in the cast. It was difficult at first being the “different one”, however with time as the rehearsal process
progressed and especially after opening night and my reviews, as people began to acknowledge my talent and give me the due respect as a young artist, as opposed to a young “ethnic” artist. It was a great opportunity for me and one that I would never trade.

In "Get Smart," how did you find your role in the personality of Mary Wong, andwhat was the experience like?

Mary Wong was a blast! Mary is this brainwashed secret spy/agent and she is sexy strong authoritative and very intelligent. I enjoyed being Mary, down to her walk, her style and of course her no-nonsense demeanor. This was my first comedic play and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I also understand you are a performer. Are you working on a new album right
now? What's the deal?

Yes, I actually had started working on my album at the beginning of last year and then all of a sudden I was signed by an International agent and then the plays just came rolling in and I had no spare time to complete the album.
I didn’t want to bring out a half- hearted album, just for the sake of completing it, so I decided that I would complete it properly and to the best of my ability, which is what I am currently working on now. So stay tuned, my album will be out this year- 2009.

Now let's talk about the Miss Africa USA Beauty Pageant and Scholarship that was held in Georgia November 1st of last year. What was the motivation behind your bid for the crown?

My motivation was to change the Face of Africa! This was the title of my platform and basis for my empowerment speech. I am from a wonderful continent and I was just tired of all the stereotypical ideology and stigma that the world has about Africa, so I decided to change it and I believe that my entering and speaking out on this issue has become a small but significant spanner in the works of change through the Diaspora community.

How did you feel and what went through your mind the moment you stepped on
stage for a shot to the crown and what was the hard part of the contest?

I was shocked when they called me as the first finalist and was quite evident as one of the hosts made reference to it when I was ushered back on stage for my final question. To be honest at that exact point in time I wasn’t really thinking about me, I was touched that someone out there understood and took on board what I had said earlier that evening in my empowerment speech. It was more the realization that the people saw me more than a young lady all made-up and dressed up, but that they actually knew that I am the true essence of Africa, that I am an African Woman, an educated African woman.

What was one of your favorite outfits during the contest?

I loved all of them. I actually made all my own outfits for the contest, however I think the final dress was more significant and had sentimental value because my mother had sent me the material for the dress straight from Uganda and if you look closely at the print there is the Crested Crane which is our National Bird , that is also depicted on our flag.

As one who has an experience of the Miss Africa USA contest, what advice would you give to future contestants?

This may sound cliché, but first and foremost enjoy yourself and have fun, but on a more serious note really step back and remember that you are representing your nation and really hone in on who you are and what your essence is and then just let your light shine.

Who is your favorite playwright?

This is hard. I can’t actually choose, I love the Classical playwrights, like Shakespeare, Chekov and Ibsen and then there are playwrights such as Wole Soyinka that are great as well. However I think I will go for August Wilson for now because I used a piece from his play “Jitney” for an audition with an agent and I was signed.

What is your favorite show on Television?

To be honest I don’t have a favourite TV show. I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV. however I must say that I would love to watch Idol Africa on a regular basis. I have seen a few clips here and there, but I am so glad to see that show is now showcasing African talent on an International scale.

How do you want to be remembered in your career?

As a woman who empowered, encouraged, educated and gave everyone the ability to see that all things are possible with God no matter the circumstance.

What role would you like to play as African ambassador in a wide variety of
issues within the African continent to provide social programs for the needy?

I would like to be an advocate for issues such as women/ children’s health, gender
equality, HIV-AIDS, malaria and for all displaced people that have been run out of their homes and villages due to rebel groups/ civil-tribal wars. I am currently also working on my NGO which was formerly known as Dark Continent and now is Otino-International and I would like to partner with agencies such as the United Nations have a hands on approach to develop programs, add focus and change the circumstances back home.