By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Not a few people rejoiced when Senator Kamala Harris emerged as the Vice President-elect of the United States, in the November 3, 2020 presidential election. By that feat, she broke the glass ceiling and set a record as the first American woman to be elected Vice President, first African-American and first Asia-American to hold the second highest political office in America.
For several women like Pastor (Mrs) Elizabeth Monisola Olorunponmi, co-founder of Glorious Living Spring Apostolic Ministry, popularly known as the Glorious Chapel, Ijanikin, Lagos, who incidentally was born on October 1, 1960, the same day Nigeria gained independence, the success of Kamala Harris holds open the hope that a woman would one day soon get elected as president of Nigeria. Interesting too, the cleric featured with her family in the first edition of the Maltina Dance All competition sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc. Excerpts:
What lessons have you learnt about life?
I have learned a lot about life but one thing that has helped me survive critical situations is hope. I am hopeful no matter how severe, ugly and difficult the condition that stares at me is, hope in God and His unbreakable word that cannot fall to the ground give me the assurance.
Looking back, what was it like growing up?
First, I was born on October 1, 1960 in Kabba, in present day Kogi State. I named Elizabeth after the Queen of England. Though we are from Kabba, I grew up in Kawo, Kaduna State. My childhood was adventurous because I lived in Kwara, Kogi and then Kaduna states at different times. My father was an Airforce officer and a disciplinarian, so we were always changing location. We spent 12 years in Ilorin. I was part of Ayewa International Gospel band, headed by the legendary gospel singer, song writer and tele-evangelist, Joseph Adebayo Adelakun, whose 9th album “Amona Tete mabo” brought us to limelight in 1984.
I spent 16 years with Baba Adelakun before my husband and I went into missionary work. Although I have two songs to my credit but I am into church planting and discipleship.
What would you say are the things that helped you as a child to develop your personality?
I was a chorister at Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), Kawo Kaduna and Baba Adelakun was our leader. He took five of us, the person who later became my husband to form the band. Sometimes we traveled by train to minister; this helped me develop my personality because we had the opportunity to spend more time with the Holy Spirit.
Now about your parents, what values did they inculcate in you?
My mum instilled confidence and bravery in me. She taught me at a young age to cut the umbilical cord whenever she gave birth to my younger siblings. The teaching made me brave, I was taught the authority of Sarah and I embraced it. I learnt to be a woman as a child; it was a virtue that made me understand motherhood. I was able to apply it to my daily life.
Now that you are 60, what comes to your mind when look back?
I have always prayed to God to let me fulfil the purpose of my earthly existence. Even now, I strongly believe that God’s purpose for my life won’t be cut short. My mum and my elder sister never had the opportunity to see this milestone of reaching their 60th birthday. It is grace of God, so I leave my life in the hands of God. One thing I want and desire so much is to fulfil God’s purpose for my life. If I finish God’s purpose for my life today, so be it, and if it is tomorrow, so be it. I have discovered that life is not about duration but donation.
Jesus Christ lived a fulfilled life in 33 years, and more than 2,000 years after, we are still talking about him while Methuselah lived a little less than 1,000 years but nobody says anything about him except to refer to him on the basis of age with no recorded achievement. Yes, I thank God that I am 60. I know it is a privilege and that means I still have something to do for God.
If I have not finished what He configured for my destiny and life, then He should take me through those years and, if it is by Him, then I will not become invalid. He will have to supply the good health – all the tools, food, and raiment to go with it. I feel elated I am 60 years and I am thankful to God. I just hand over to Him the rest of my days.
What’s your disposition towards women in politics?
We have a voice to be heard, we have an impact to make for the betterment of society. Failure to recognise the role of women is depriving us our potential which is essential to the development of this country. We are not competing with men; real women are not arrogant. Some women seem to be arrogant because they feel resisted and made to feel that this is a man’s world. So, they want to fight, they want men to know that they have got it. Within them it’s just a quest for fulfilment, success and to make impact.
How do you feel about the emergence of US Senator Kamala Harris as Vice President-Elect?
I am overwhelmed with joy that Kamala Harris could raise higher in the country’s leadership than any woman has ever achieved. She has made history. She has a track record for breaking new ground. She is the first woman, first Black person, and first person of Asian descendant elected to the country’s second-highest office. It gladdens my heart.
Does this hold any hope for women in national leadership in Nigeria?
I am confident right now, although I have always believed that better days are ahead for women in Nigeria, to hold political leadership at the very top hierarchy. With the outcome of the recent election, America as a nation has demonstrated the value of women in the political arena. Her emergence is a proof and further affirmation that it is the time for women to take their rightful place in governance and political processes. This is not just the victory for American women, it is a global victory.
Women in America supported Kamala Harris. Why do Nigerian women not support their fellow women?
Basically, women don’t support their fellow women in Africa not just Nigeria, due to cultural belief that has relegated women. Also, finance is another constraint. I don’t think women have the financial backing, despite the fact that women who had held sensitive positions in the country have done well.
A study done by an advocacy group found that some barbaric cultural practices which should have been abolished are being sustained by women who insist that the practices should continue because they met it in place. Although, women have performed excellently well when given positions of authority, yet they are under-represented. America too had the challenge but I think Kamala got the support due advocacy, resources and financial power to leverage it. So looking at our own situation I believe that soon we will have our own Kamala Harris will break through the country’s political glass ceiling for Nigeria women. I am quite it will happen before long. We have credible female materials.
Does the glass ceiling really exist for women? If so, do you think enough is being done to promote women in the workplace?
I think the Nigerian Constitution provides for equal rights, so from a policy point of view, there is no discrimination. However, the glass ceiling, that invisible barrier to advancement that women face at the top levels of the workplace, remains a big problem and a challenge to society. Although women have surpassed men in educational attainment, they are vastly under-represented in top-paying jobs. Women with college degrees often choose to work in fields that offer lower incomes.
Despite the plethora of churches, why is Nigeria among the poorest countries?
Prayer alone cannot alleviate poverty; it is knowledge that alleviates poverty. We pray, yes, but we need education and information to make the mind of people work. Until your mind is changed, no change can come and it takes education and training among other things to achieve a mind reset.
Government must be passionate and take education and training to the grassroots but when you believe that government should do everything for you that is sickness in itself. For wealth to be yours you must task the heart but you can- not do that without using your mind and if your mind is sick then it is impossible.