It only took a moment for the panel of judges to be convinced. The sparkling glint in her eyes, the gait, and grace of her enchanting figure ensured that. As in telepathic communication, the judges came to the same conclusion: Shirley Alero Aghotse is Miss Tourism Nigeria. That was in 2006. Fast-forward to 2019: Shirley who has been there, done that remains a remarkable figure with an intriguing life story. In this interview with Funke Olaode, Shirley reveals her reinvention from the pageantry to the pulpit
It’s been 13 years since you emerged as the first Miss Tourism Nigeria. What was it like being a queen?
It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that thrust me into maturity faster than the average person, and a very good platform that I leveraged on.
How did affect your life? Any memorable moments?
It put me in the spotlight and being in the spotlight has its advantages and disadvantages. But as a private person, I make a conscious effort to strike the balance, and I guard my private space jealously. The most memorable moments of my reign was when I co-hosted the Commonwealth Tourism Ministers, with President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ambassador Franklin Ogbuewu- Minister of Tourism, and when I became fourth runner-up at Miss Tourism World.
What was growing up like?
I’m a daughter of Zion, passionate about winning souls for Christ, and a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ delivers people from satanic bondage. Growing up was fun, from the ancient city of Benin, to Christmas and Harmattan in Abraka, swimming in Ethiope River, pitanger fruits and the scents of queen of the night flower, to the busy, yet peaceful streets of Ibadan, to the bustling and rowdy Lagos and the phobia of using the pedestrian bridge that I am yet to overcome, to the simple and evolving Asaba town. I grew up in many towns with my loving family. Let me not bore you with the stories.
After your reign, nothing has been heard from you. What’s been happening?
After my reign, I made a conscious effort to limit activities that might deter me from achieving my set goals, and one of them was to temporarily stop attending all the Lagos parties because I had to concentrate on the things that were most important to me. I went back to school to get a BSc (Ed) degree in Business Education and Accounting, after which I started my ACCA. Then I went for an MSc degree in Finance and Accounting at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom which is one of the top 20 schools in the UK and top 50 in the world, my graduation ceremony is on the 10 January 2013. Furthermore, I run an NGO, a jewellery line and a company that is into construction, oil and gas, tourism and consultancy. Thus I cannot afford to be everywhere at the same time. And to God be all the glory.
You began a new life recently; from pageantry to the pulpit. How did that journey begin?
It began since I was a child, but I didn’t know what it was. However, the Lord in His infinite mercy who knew me before I was formed, orchestrated my journey in a way that I fulfill a purpose. He redirected me in 2009, and I gave my life to Christ under the Leadership of Pastor Paul Adefarasin (House on the Rock Lagos), and I was called into full-time ministry in 2015.
What was your biggest fear in taking that spiritual step?
Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field, there was no fear except occasional self-doubt which the Holy Spirit took away. However, people around me were worried about finances, since I was called into full-time ministry, they felt my educational qualification and experience would go to waste. But Yahweh asked me to trust Him, and I do trust Him. He has never put me to shame. I’m not as rich as I used to be but richer than I have and could ever be. Besides, the secular world has a large chunk of the population, and it is only fair that few people are dedicated to Yahweh 100 percent.
Becoming a minister as a young lady with opportunities can be considered a misstep. What was your family’s reaction to your new-found faith?
They had a different opinion. But it is well. All is well that ends well.
Considering your trajectory as a well-educated, exposed and widely travelled ex-beauty queen, do you sometimes struggle with your inner voice?
Absolutely, the flesh will always revolt, but I always remember that to be carnally-minded is enmity with God. It gets better with time.
What has changed about you since you embraced a new life?
At the beginning of the ministry, the euphoria of having access to the Holy Spirit and rigour of spiritual warfare made me concentrate more on my spiritual being, and make-up was the least of my worries, and it was not a problem since I had attended Deeper Life as a child at some point. However, I realized that the Holy Spirit didn’t discriminate against anyone: make-up or no make-up when He moves during ministration. So I didn’t see moderate make-up as a sin. But He grieved me whenever I dressed inappropriately. So I am particular about what I wear. I wore make-up for the first time in four years on 21 September 2019 for the launch of my new book, Maro. I understand that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and I use it to glorify Him.
How is it striking a balance between being a society girl and a pastor?
There is really no balance to strike because I am no more a society girl. I am now a ‘Jesus girl’. In addition, the Lord is a Master planner and He knew the experience needed for the work He sent me to the earth to do, and He made sure I acquired them, just like Moses in the Bible. All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. I understand people from all strata and relate with them accordingly because of my exposure, and it helps a lot in ministry diplomacy and life in general. This also shows that the Lord can use anyone.
What is the name of your ministry? Is your main calling or focus strictly ‘healing’?
Grace Riches Army Ministry, our mantle is of righteousness, holiness, judgement, and Jesus is coming, focused on healing and deliverance.
You also floated an NGO a long time ago. What motivated you?
Rebirth Renaissance and Advancement Initiative of Nigeria (Rebirth RAIN) was floated in 2009. When I was in the university I saw how some students struggled to pay school fees, and this led some of them into ‘runs’ (prostitution), cultism, ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ and other vices, and it broke my heart. Also, an organization that awarded scholarships, were focused on brilliant students, plus the bureaucracy involved, and factors such as inability to pay school fees and hunger will always affect anyone’s grades, and this made it difficult for the average disadvantaged student to get a scholarship. In Rebirth RAIN, we award scholarships to stranded students without bureaucracy, and we conceal their identity for the sake of dignity. So it is as good as their parents paying it. And we have sponsored a number of students. Yes, it has been impactful.
What’s your new book all about? What inspired you to be an author?
I read and write a lot to the glory of God, just that this is the first time I am publishing. I was inspired by personal and people’s experiences. Maro is a fiction, and the story is about a young orphan that had it rough growing up with her foster grannie in Ibadan, one of the major cities in Nigeria, but she sought solace in education; her supposed one-way ticket to Utopia. She finally got into the University of Lagos after a series of obstacles which included a teenage pregnancy that almost destroyed her. The story explores the relationship she had with her family, friends, neighbours, teachers, and her first love, Korede, the playboy. It is a romance story seen through the eyes of an African woman, and it brings to fore the vulnerable thin lines between love and betrayal, fate and faith, resilience and redemption.
The spiritual world is time-consuming and taxing. What are the challenges?
So, you know! Well, the battles and challenges are the Lord’s. I am only a vessel. However, as a Prayer Warrior, I am at alert 24/7. I am always praying, I’m the lady that is always mumbling under her breath, even in the banking hall because I’m always speaking in tongues. It’s no longer a routine but a lifestyle.
You almost made the first class in Business Administration at Abraka and went on to pursue another degree in a university in the UK. Your performance was impressive that a lecturer wanted you to pursue a career back in England. You didn’t. Don’t you see this as a lost opportunity?
I studied Business Education and Accounting (BSc/Ed) at Delta State University, and I have an MSc in Finance and Accounting from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. I have acquired the knowledge and it is useful to me. However, nothing beats walking with God. For example, if you are someone that dreams by the mercy of God, and you see a masquerade pursuing you in your dream, would your certificate rescue you? The spiritual controls the physical. Jesus Christ’s covenant is the most potent, and the name of Jesus controls everything and every being, and I’m proud to be an associate.
How do you sustain yourself in full-time ministry?
Yes, it is full time. I improvise within the ambit of my calling. For example, funds derived through sales of Maro book is for Ministry and RebirthRAIN. The Lord does supply all my needs.
A new life comes with new things. Do you still relate to your friend of old?
Not all of them, though they are always in my prayers, a spiritual person must understand times and seasons, there is always a season of separation when called by God, it happened to Moses, Joseph, Elijah, Apostle Paul and other apostles and prophets of old, and it is still happening.
If you could change the hands of clock, what would you have done differently?
Nothing happens without my Father- Yahweh’s approval, however I wish I never deviated from the things of God.
On a last note, what does the future hold for you?
The future is in God’s hand. If Jesus tarries, we would keep winning souls for Christ all over the world and the gate of hell will not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ, and Nigeria will heal and will be celebrated by all very soon.