CGN had the privilege to interview one wonderful lady, she is one of the great ladies of our generation. We had a wonderful time with her and we believe the words that came from her during the interview will bless you so much.
Can we meet you?
Thank you so much for having this interview with me. My name is Ayo Bello. I am a recent graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, I studied Sociology and Anthropology. I am a YALI fellow – Young African Leaders Initiative. I am a humanitarian, I am a graduate of The Institute of Humanitarian Studies and Social Development. I’m an entrepreneur and I am also the Director of Ladies Circle International, a Non-Profit Organization focused on helping the girl child. Basically that’s all about me.
Can you share with us your salvation experience?
Owkay. I got saved in year 2011, which was when I came to O.A.U. for Pre-degree. I have a Muslim background, my dad is a Muslim. Even while I was a Muslim, there were so many questions in my heart Islam could not provide answers to, so I made up my mind that God when I get into school I am going to be a Christian. So, when I resumed for Pre-degree I joined Spirit Chapel Church where I was a worker, that was where I met with Christ. I accepted Christ and the journey began. When I go home, I sneak to church because my Dad mustn’t know I was going to church every Wednesdays and then Sundays and when I come back to school I go to church. With time I got the boldness after praying and trusting in the Holy Spirit and then I went home and told my dad. I sat him down in a meeting- I want to be a Christian; I want to start going to Church; I don’t want to go to the mosque again and to my utmost surprise he allowed me. That was 2011 and this is 2017 and I am proud to tell you that my siblings are now converted to Christians and my dad was still in church last week. That’s my salvation experience, it’s been getting better.
What was growing up like? Especially as a girl. What were the good, the bad, challenges and how you overcame?
Growing up was good for me, my parents were awesome and they are still awesome. My dad is an accountant while my mum is a business woman. I was so cool, I had everything I wanted – fast education and all. But the whole thing changed when I became a teenager. When I finished secondary school, I gained admission into a Polytechnic because I didn’t want to go home. Some issues came up in that Polytechnic – Gateway Polytechnic and that got me rusticated from school. I met this guy in a restaurant and then he gave me some money to buy weed for him, I didn’t know what was meant by weed. So he described his place and he explained to me that his university is a private university and they don’t permit students to come outside except they are on break and he was meant to resume that evening, he begged me to bring it to school for him that evening. Innocently I took the money and then I bought him the weed and I went to his school. Getting to the school, the school security asked me who I wanted to see. I told them who I wanted to see, I mentioned his name and they asked what for. I said I brought him some things and I think when I passed the school security smelt weed and they took it from me. I didn’t know what I was carrying, I didn’t know that was Indian hemp, I didn’t know that was weed. The next thing was that they searched, they rough handled me, they called the police. I was just sixteen and I slept in the cell for 5 days. My parents came, they threatened to take me to the NDLEA. It was really traumatizing for me, that was my worse experience growing up as a child. My picture was pasted round the school that whosoever has anything to do with me does that at his or her own risk. My parents sued the school, it was a whole lot of drama. Well, I was not happy. I was violated as a young girl and then I had so many of the Police men mounting pressure – owkay sleep with me and then I would release you, I was way too young for that. So, that was one of my worst experiences as a young girl growing up. After the whole thing, I went back to school and I faced series of panels and then my school rusticated me. But after then I decided not to give up and that was when I took the JAMB form again. Came to OAU and started a NGO to mobilize girls better.
So many girls are going through so many situations, some want to give up. What would you say to them?
Girls that are there that are going through a whole lot. What I would say is this – The solution to that problem is actually in you. Whatever happens to you is actually your choice. You can choose to be a better person. You can choose to give up. But I would advise you to not give up because you are actually going through this because God needs you to help some people out of their problem. Whatever you go through actually grows you. So when you have a particular experience, you are experiencing that because God knows you have the power; you have what it takes to overcome it. Don’t fail God with that challenge, don’t fail God with that problem. No matter how difficult you think it is, no matter how bad you thin, it is not difficult. Whenever you come through any challenge, know that you have what it takes to overcome the challenge and don’t give up.
Have you ever felt embarrassed being a female?
I have never felt embarrassed that I am a female, I love the fact that I am a female. If I would come back to this life I would love to be a female, I love it. Not because of the gender roles, I love what it means to be feminine. I love the way the Bible describes a woman especially in Proverbs 31, it’s a very sweet gender. Talking about gender – the biological features, I love what it is to be a woman. I like the fact that we are the only ones permitted help God when it comes to creation, we carry the baby and that is why its really very beautiful. And apart from them, the role we play – We are the home builders. We are meant to be filled with compassion, we are the queen. We should build the home, we should cater for the children. Being a woman is actually a multi-tasking job. You have to be successful career wise, you have to be on the prayer altar. You have to be fervent, you have to have good words of wisdom. It means you have to be an all-rounder, you have to be able to solve problems. So it’s a very beautiful role, it’s a very beautiful gender. I really really like it, its really challenging. Its nice. Though its sensitive, whatever it is you do you are being downgrade because you are a woman. Its really challenging and that’s what makes it beautiful. I have never been embarrassed at all. I love it.
How come you are bold and confident today?
I am very confident and bold because, one, I believe so much in God and I have discovered purpose. You know once you discover your purpose and you know what you do with your life, you won’t have fears again because definitely you know where you are going. Even if you don’t really understand it and God is unfolding it to you from time to time, you will have the confidence because nobody is teaching you what to do, you are not lazy. You are not at anybody’s mercy. God is the one leading you. So even if somebody tries to close you, you know that your creator; your father got your back. Definitely you have to be confident. And then I major in my strength. I love to talk; I love to inspire people, so I just develop that- I attend events. Talent is not enough, discovering your calling is not enough. You need to have the energy to pursue. You need to look for people, you need to have mentors. You need to get trained so by the time you have that; once you know your purpose and by the time you have the skills the people in the world will attest that this babe is making sense. So once you have all of that there will be no need of fears, you will be very very confident in all that you do. And then especially when you have a working relationship with the Holy Spirit and then you have the ability to discern, it will help you not to make mistakes. Even when you want to make decisions, when you want to say something you will be very very confident of what you are saying. So, God is actually the source of my confidence.
Is there anything that the world doesn’t know about you that you think will shock the world if they find out?
Yeah! I mentioned it earlier. I think the world does not know I was rusticated from school. And then what else? Nothing. That’s actually the most sensitive part. And yes! Another thing is this; I think I got into a relationship very early. I had my first relationship when I was fifteen. I don’t think there is any other thing so sensitive about my life.
You have passions for girls, what brought about this passion?
What brought about my passion for girls was actually my experience in the Polytechnic that I mentioned earlier. I feel no girl should go through it. No minor should be in the Police Station for more than four days when she has not done anything wrong. Even if she has, it is inhumane to treat someone like that. That’s what I believe. And then I feel like it was out of premature exposure or out of ignorance, so I feel like people should be able to stand on their rights. If I was so vocal, even though I knew it then that what this guy was sending me was kind of wrong, even though I didn’t understand what it was, but you know I just didn’t have the courage to tell him why don’t you go buy it yourself. I felt I was indebted and I needed to do him a favor. Girls should be able to choose what they want to do, we should be able to say yes or no. We should not pity somebody because you want to make them feel good, that’s not what it means to be a girl. So I think if ladies have this feminine consciousness even right from primary school, am not saying we should have gender superiority- No! A woman should definitely submit herself to her husband. But you just need to understand all of these things because it will make you understand your own self before even choosing the partner. You won’t b search for less and you won’t sell yourself short. So you need to have a full idea of yourself. You owe nobody any explanations. You need to love yourself; you need to understand what you want even from a very tender age. If I had known what I wanted, if I really knew the guy was going to implicate me… in fact when I was even arrested I was still trying to cover up for the guy, for you to know how ignorant and innocent I was. I kept saying No o, he didn’t send me because I already saw that he was already having troubles with his school. It was until they took me to the police station I had to confess that owkay this guy sent me. When I saw the school authority attacking him, I had to say no; this is not the person I am looking for, out of fear and I was implicating myself furthermore. I don’t think any girl should be like that. We should be able to stand up to say owkay yes, this was what happened. When I hear of rape cases, the girls are even shy to say this was the person that raped me. It is not the person that was raped that should be ashamed; it is the rapist that should be ashamed.
Can you tell us about LCI?
Ladies Circle International – LCI is a pro-girl Non-Profit Organization. We are two years old, we started May 2015. Ladies Circle International is committed to polishing potentials of vulnerable young girls. And how do we achieve this? We achieve this by organizing conferences, we have this annual debate and spelling bee competition we do for primary and secondary school students. We organize sensitization workshops. We are particular about promoting education, saying yes to education and eradicating every form of violence particularly Female Genital Mutilation. So we work with circumcisers, traditional birth attendants. Ladies Circle International is grass root Non-Profit, so we go into the communities. We also run support systems for those who have been violated. That’s what LCI is all about. So we envisage a world were girls have access to education, they are not threatened by any means of violence. We want a world where girls have equal opportunities to education and violence is not what is hindering them because we know of places where a girl cannot go to school because she is menstruating, because she cannot afford sanitary pad and she has to stay at home for three, five to six days that she is on her period. These are some of the things we are trying to curb. LCI is functional here in Ile-Ife and we also hope to extend to within Nigeria. And LCI has also won some awards in the last two years and if you want to have a good record of our direct and indirect impact, I would be able to say we have been able to touch up to two thousand lives in a short while.
Do you have plans for Nigeria as a person?
Of course. I have plans for Nigeria as a person because I believe the change begins with me, the change starts with me. So my plans for Nigeria is to touch my own self, being the best of myself – discover myself and make the best of who am meant to be and let that light shine across my family and across my neighborhood. I plan to also set up a foundation, I am going to be having Ayo Bello Foundation for Children With Special Needs. I am going to be running Ayo Bello Farms to provide food and to also boost the agricultural sector. Am also going to run Ayo Bello Foundation for Educational Scholarship. That’s like me contributing my own quota to the country. Am also happy to be a proud citizen, I also have my plans by representing the country at different events and to also be the best of myself to be recognized as a Nigerian even to the world at large.
Which country would you love to visit soon?
Very soon I would love to visit the United States of America because I have heard a whole lot about the country. I just don’t want to go there for fun; I want to go there to seek the way they do things. I want to see the way they behave; I want to see how they have been able to grow their economy. It’s beyond reading about them; I want to go there to meet with them. I want to make friends there; I want to learn from them. I believe one of the reasons why America is one of the best country is because they have almost everyone from different parts of the country represented there. I want to see how their government is really working, I love the way they organize their elections. When they say God bless America, I want to see what makes it stand out. Maybe it’s as a result of curiousness, but I just want to be there.
Your favorite Bible verse
My favorite Bible verse! That’s quite difficult because I have a couple of them. Well, I love the book of Proverbs a whole lot. I can read proverbs 31 almost every day. In fact, every day from first to thirtieth I read Proverbs one; Proverbs two; down to the thirtieth day and I keep reading it like that every month. So it really helps me read the words of wisdom. But in particular I really love Mark 11:24 and it says “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” This verse of the Bible makes me understand that God is so concerned about everything about me, I feel God is interested in the cloth I want to wear out, He is particular about how I wear my make up, He is interested in the style of hair I want to make. So I feel like everything I desire, every single thing I desire; so far I believe in God and I pray to him, am go to really have those things. It gives me confidence each time I need something or each time I need an inspiration, an Idea and I go to this Mark 11:24,it kinds of rejuvenates me and am really hopeful that yes am really going to get the result because this is just like the best gift you can have, when the creator of the universe tells you that whatsoever things you desire, when you pray for them and you believe them you shall have them.
Females like purple and pink, is that your best color too?
I am not really a fan of colors and it depends on what the color is for. I love really cool colors. When it comes to clothing, I love flashy colors because of my skin color – am caramel, am chocolate. When it comes to interior decoration, I love grey; I love cream; I love really cool colors. So am not really a fan of a particular color. Of course, purple is royalty. It depends on what I need the color for.
Your words to girls and the whole world
To every one girl out there, what I will say is this: Nobody will give you power or any position to occupy except you go out for it. You shouldn’t feel less of yourself because you are a girl. You are first a human before a wife, you are first a human being before choosing to take that position. So look into yourself; what makes you happy. You have to discover your purpose before saying you need to get a partner in this life. You need to be happy, you need to understand your own self. You need to polish your own potentials. Its beyond praying, its beyond saying you want to preserve your virginity. Its beyond saying you are a good girl, you have to keep growing every day. You need to learn how to cook; you need to learn how to be clean; you need to learn how to communicate well; you need to learn how to be vocal; you need to learn how to be a woman. It’s not just about theory – saying when I get married, No! It doesn’t have to be like that because most times girls who talk like that, when their partner comes they find it hard to adjust because what they are saying is the future – the future is now. Your partner can come now. You are not doing this because of your partner, but at least for your own self. Let your children say that’s my mum. Things your parent could not achieve, try to achieve it. Nothing is really stopping you. I know there are times you get so tired, it happens to me too – when I am so tired and I don’t want to pursue any career again, I just need a guy to come and marry me off; it happens once in a while but that’s not it, you are not a liability. You are first an individual, you are a human being, You are meant to be a vessel unto honor, so you need to do all these things. You are meant to serve your God before you go to have the husband as your head. I think once you have these, it will actually put you inn check.
Do you have any words for CGN?
Chosen Girl Nigeria, I want to say thank you so much. I really appreciate your platform, I love the vision. And I know that God that has begun the good work will perfect it in Jesus name [Amen]. Seriously, I don’t want you to be discouraged; the Bible says we should not despise the days of little beginnings, I know you are hoping to extend your tentacles but I believe that as you are touching lives – because you are actually touching lives because I know that definitely when people read this interview lives will get changed. So, I believe God has so much in stock for you. Please don’t give up on your dreams, keep pushing; keep doing it; keep praying; keep uploading. And at the same time, also look for the relevant things that even those that we claim are in the world do because one thing about those in the world and why it looks like they are more successful is because they actually understand the laws. So I don’t want you to be limited to spirituality, I want you to also make good research. I want you to know when to restructure your organization. I want you to know when to upgrade your blog; when you are going to have a website, all of those things should be in plans. One thing I believe is if its in your heart, it will be in your hands. I see Chosen Girl Nigeria expanding tentacles to countries beyond Nigeria. I want to see this interview on a higher platform; I want to read about you in the papers; I want to see you on the TV. I appreciate you so much. Please, don’t give up. Volunteers will come and go; staffs will disappoint you but the vision should never die. Even when you are discouraged, when there is no data to upload; when you have financial challenges, the vision should still be alive. Long silence does not connote the death of a vision. So, no matter what the challenge is, don’t forget the vision and keep trying to God to keep unfolding more of the things He still has in stock for this organization and platform.
It’s a pleasure having to have this encounter with you. We believe in you. Thank you ma. God bless you.