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‘Being a Farmer’s Child, I Thought Education Was Punitive and Cried When Enrolled in School’

04 May 2013

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How could you possibly become a director in the public service without a secondary school education? That is possible if you have got the grit and determination that Pastor Love Emmanuel has shown. Sent to school so she could help her family read letters, her education terminated abruptly with just a primary school certificate. But through hard work and providence she obtained a higher national diploma and rose through the ranks in the civil service. Emmanuel who retired recently speaks with Funke Olaode


I never knew my biological mother…
I was born in Aghaja in Lokoja Local Government Area of Kogi State on October 3, 1950, into the family of late Yakubu, a farmer. Prior to my adopted names, Love Emmanuel, after an encounter with Christ, I used to be called Hajia Laraba-Bello. My father was not educated and his wives followed suit in that direction. I grew up in a polygamous home with many wives and 12 children. It was interesting growing up in that setting because my father was a man of authority who ensured that everyone followed laid down rules. Interestingly, I grew up in my father’s compound but never knew my biological mother. My mother was there as one of my father’s wives. In the culture of my people then and the religion, which was Islam, no mother had the right to claim any child as her own. So we were regarded as children of all the wives. Of course, you are answerable to them all. In my case, my step-mother brought me up because I was weaned to her at age three. I was already an adult when somebody hinted me that my real mother exited among the multitude. Out of curiosity, I approached her one day and asked if she was truly my mother.  She denied it and sent me away for fear of being persecuted. Prior to that, I noticed this woman was especially kind to me. She would boil eggs which she often hid and gave to me when nobody was around.

Discipline was the order of the day…
We grew up in the village where the main occupation was farming. It was a disciplined setting where you had to carry out your chores without any supervision. And any failure was always accompanied with severe punishment. So we woke up in the morning to sweep the large compound, went to the stream to fetch water, and also hawked farm produce. It was an organized setting which has helped me to organize my life. I remember during Christmas and New Year, students used to organize parties and all that. My father never allowed any of his children to attend such gathering. He was a comfortable farmer who built his compound with a large fence. In fact, his wives’ rooms had no windows so that no man would have access to them. They (the wives) were under a strict code. The routine of your life was controlled by your parents. That upbringing has helped to shape my life today. But in the midst of this I was lucky to have been sent to school. It was a deliberate act because the household wanted somebody to be reading letters for them in the compound. This eluded them for a very long time until I was put in a primary school and eventually rescued the household.

I wept the day I was sent to school…
I was approaching the age of 13 when I had an encounter with western education. Those days, what the environment and parents valued was Quranic education. Once through that, you became a hero. I finished before age 12 and continued with farming. I wept profusely the day I was registered in primary school because I didn’t know the value and saw it as a form of punishment. What I met on ground was farming, Quranic education and marriage shortly. Every lady looked forward to it because we saw it as a way of escape from life of suffering and struggling. I was looking forward to it when the issue of education came up. I was devastated and saw it as a punishment and even lamented that they chose me in the entire compound. Honestly, that decision was a turning point in my life because it made me who I am today. It was a divine arrangement because without that encounter, I wouldn’t have been able to raise myself. I went as an adult and God was with me. With modesty, I was a brilliant kid and this helped me when I eventually started primary one. I was passing my examinations and often took the first position. I did the common entrance and was the only female in the whole of Oworoland and Lokoja Province that passed Common Entrance Examinations that year in 1967/68. It was a feat for me and my household because everywhere I went people were dashing me coins, hailing my intellectual prowess. And that was when I knew that there was a mission God wanted me to fulfill in this world.

Dream truncated…
With a father who was ready to assist me in my academic endeavour, I saw the sky as my limit. But that dream of acquiring education was aborted. I was bearing the name Laraba Adama Yakubu and because of my middle name, Adama, the school authorities thought I was a boy.  The interviews for the girls were conducted by Crowther Memorial College. And when it was time to go for interview my name was slated with the boys. By the time I  showed up I was turned down that I didn’t belong to that setting. An enlightened monarch  in my village then who was a relation also encouraged me to push further. My father whose only mission of sending me to school was to be a letter reader was now fighting for me to be admitted. The daughter of this monarch was in Kabba Women Teacher’s College and took me to the principal of my college. But the man rejected me that they couldn’t admit me if I didn’t pass the common entrance interview. That was how my ambition of acquiring secondary education was killed. I never went beyond primary school and by His grace acquired all necessary qualifications that have enhanced my being and living. I have a first degree and a post graduate diploma in public administration. And after a successful career in the Kwara/Kogi State Civil Service, I retired as assistant director, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).

Going into early marriage…
Having lost the opportunity of acquiring secondary education, my father advised me to acquire typing skill in Lokoja. I applied myself to it and embraced it wholeheartedly as a second chance. I was in Lokoja when a distant relation approached me and said a young graduate was looking for a girl in the village as a wife. I was introduced to my husband through a photograph. He saw the picture, liked what he saw and his people came to ask for my hand in marriage. I only met him once and it was through an intermediary. I eventually got married to Suleiman Bakare Bello, an engineer. That day was significant in my life. I thought it had marked the end of suffering - fetching firewood in the farm, fetching water very early in the stream and hawking farm produce for the family. Finally, I thought I was free and was going to become a woman of my own. I was wrong because I later faced a lot of challenges. Although some people see challenges as the end of the road while others see it as a challenge to rise up, in my journey to self-discovery I asked myself how I could bring fulfillment to my life. I remember in the heat of many challenges in my marriage, my husband called me “bloody illiterate”. I didn’t know the meaning at that time. That statement actually challenged and provoked me to develop myself further. I used to cry in the middle of the night and always trembled in front of my husband. I said to myself that I had to challenge that fear and rise to expectation. If you are not free in both an academic and religious sense, you will remain in perpetual slavery psychologically and emotionally.

Breaking the glass ceiling…
The journey to self-discovery began in 1975 in Kwara State through an advertisement I saw in a newspaper bought by my husband. Kwara Tech wanted to admit people to pursue their education and they listed different categories: Primary 7, WAEC failure, Secondary Four, typing course etc. I looked at it thoroughly and found that I fell into one category - typing. I was determined and soaked myself to it totally. Within a short period I cleared all my typing examinations in flying colours. One of the lecturers was so impressed and asked me how I made it more that secondary school certificate holders. After that impressive record at Kwara Tech, I jettisoned my housewife status and had the courage to apply to the Kwara State Civil Service on February 1975 as a typist. In the civil service rule you must spend two years before your appointment is confirmed or could even go for any course. Again, I found favour because in less than one year I was sent to Kwara Tech under in-service arrangement to learn stenography, a course that deals with shorthand and typing. With the qualification, you are on your way to be trained as a secretary. I went and came back with a distinction. At that particular stage my destiny was unfolding. I was having children and at the same time excelling in my studies and career. I registered for advanced General Certificate in Education (GCE) and passed.  My ministry was so impressed and sent me to Kwara Tech to study for a National Diploma. I went and came back with an impressive result. I was sent back for Higher National Diploma which I excelled in. When I look at my life journey, I realize it was destiny. After my HND I went for the National Youth Service Corps one-year programme, which I had thought was a mirage. The new transformation actually impacted my life because I was becoming sociable and it became a challenge in my marriage.


Joining the Road Safety Commission…
I had an eventful career in both Kwara and Kogi state civil service. I worked in Kogi State House of Assembly and various departments such as protocol, education, budget, statistics as top level secretary.  I joined Kogi Civil Service after the state was created out of the Old Kwara and I was posted to Kogi Liaison Office in Abuja as an administrative officer. The process of looking for a higher level to actualize my dreams stage by stage and level by level took me to FRSC. I saw an advertisement in the newspapers by the Federal Roads Safety Commission looking for officers to fill vacancies in the commission. It was an opportunity for me because in 1995, I had an encounter with Christ and I became born again. It was difficult for me to go back to my state and I decided that whatever career or advancement I wanted to pursue would be at the federal level. I applied and I was recruited as assistant director. We were trained at Ogun and Enugu campus by the military. I transferred my service from both Kwara and Kogi to the federal level.  I enjoyed my career as a road safety officer where we impacted lives and are still impacting lives.  I left a legacy in road safety by setting up a Christian Fellowship that still operates today. I retired from Federal Road Safety Commission in 2003 after working for 27 years.

A brief stint in politics…
Having satisfied my curiosity as a civil servant and got to the top, I joined politics to challenge the status quo of gender inequality in a male dominated terrain. I went to the political field and joined the Alliance for Democracy (AD).  I wanted to be an example to the women that being a woman doesn’t make you less. So I contested in the gubernatorial election and won my primary among four men. We went to the polls and the rest is history.

Moving to the pulpit…
I had a calling and mission to fulfill under my ministries, God’s General International Fellowship, Season of Comfort Fellowship, City of God Church, and lately Network of Women International Crusade Worldwide holding next month. This missionary calling has taken me to Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, United States and Europe. By my calling I know I am woman of vision and mission. A woman created by God to make impact in this generation.  A woman that would become an institution when she is gone. A woman who is on a journey of purpose to this world. A woman not just created for marital bliss, but to make an impact on the people of her generation. A woman who is destined to make it in life. A woman that had no background but yet her back is not on the ground. A woman who has dreams and vision that the devil cannot truncate. I will forever be grateful to my God who is greater than the greatest. He singled me out in the midst of poverty and set my foot upon the rock. My father died young in a motor accident, my mother died in her prime, my Sister Hawawu died and so many of them died mysteriously, all under 50. I thank God that I broke that jinx of illiteracy in my family. As a child growing up I had no ambition than to grow up and get married. But by chance and accident I was sent to school. I have realized that the only liberator from the shackles of poverty is education. Having been liberated I took up the responsibility of my younger ones and today they are all educated. Impacting lives makes me happy and I thank God for giving me the ability.

A blissful but trying marriage…
I met my husband through a relation who was combing the village for a young graduate looking for a village girl to marry. I was a village girl who was not enlightened and was anxious to leave the village. By the time my husband came my way I saw him as my liberator. In those days, when brides were leaving their father’s home they would be crying. In my case, I didn’t cry because I was anxious to go to the city. After my traditional marriage I joined my husband in Ilorin. I was pregnant when he left for England. I joined him later in London and had my first child. You can imagine a village girl now having a child in London. We had five children before we separated over 20 years ago. We tried to forget the past by coming together in 2005 for the sake of our children. He passed away six weeks ago. Despite our marital differences we still played our role well over our children. Today, all my children are graduates and some with masters’ degree.

Life as an evangelist…
I have not fulfilled my life aspirations because I have a mandate to fulfill. You can only get fulfillment as a being after you have completed your assignments on earth and go. So vision and aspirations will keep unfolding. As long as I live I will continue to proclaim my God who has been merciful to me. I thank God also that I am fulfilling my destiny.


Tags: Life and Style, Pastor Love Emmanuel

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