The House of Representatives on Tuesday honoured Mr Abdulsalam Kamaldeen Idowu, a disabled and former homeless street beggar for sponsoring himself through school to become a lawyer and political science graduate
The decision followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by the House Leader, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos-APC).
The House resolved to establish, by law, a Parliamentary Honours/Award System for recognition of extraordinary achievements by Nigerians. Honoured alongside Kamaldeen is Miss Aarinola Olaiya of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife a Medical Student Record Breaker honoured for attaining exceptional record in her academic pursuit.
Gbajabiamila while introducing the Honourees said that the motion was intended to reward excellence and encourage citizens who had elevated the ideals of the Nigerian society.
“When ordinary Nigerians do Extra ordinary things then they must be celebrated and all men and women of power and influence must rise and bow to them”, he said .
According to him, Abdulsalam Idowu displayed resilience and hard work by studying political science and law from street begging and despite being homeless for years sleeping at Idumota Motor Park in Lagos.
Abdulsalam Idowu, who defied odds to bag his law degree from the University of Lagos in 2015, had proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, where he emerged successful in the August/September 2016 final bar examinations conducted at the end of the one-year programme.
He engaged in street begging to fund his primary and secondary education, was among the 4,225 graduates of the Nigerian Law School called to the bar in Abuja on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Having lost his mum at about age three, crippled by a disease that befell him thereafter and left with a father and relatives who had no interest in his future, Idowu started begging at age eight in Erin Ile, Kwara State, to see himself through his primary and secondary school education.
Against all odds, the 37-year-old had earlier in 2011 obtained a degree in Political Science from the same University of Lagos.
Not satisfied without a Law degree, he struggled to secure admission to study Law while in the final year of the first degree programme.
Idowu said, “I was not satisfied when they gave me admission to study Political Science because I have always wanted to be a lawyer.
“So, I struggled to get admission to study Law. I got the admission when I was in my final year, writing my final project for the Political Science degree.”
He narrated how he began to beg for alms to enable him get education, a sojourn which landed him in Lagos, where he was able to raise money to complete secondary school and later got admission to the University of Lagos.
He said, “It was sometimes in 1987, I was about eight years old in the public kindergarten school. All my mates were promoted to primary one but I was not promoted.
“I asked why because I attended classes and sat for exams. I was then told that I was not a registered pupil but they only allowed me to attend classes and take exams.
“That day I felt very sad and on getting home I called everybody, including my father and aged paternal grandmother, whom I was staying with, because I was very angry.
“I told them that I wanted to be registered in school but they said there was no money and that there was no way I could cope in school because of my condition. But I insisted that they must register me and that they should not bother about paying my fees.
“They registered me and as soon as they did, I took to the street begging for alms to meet financial demands that came up.
“When I gained admission in 1993, I could not afford N520 school fees but I had been hearing the story of Lagos that one could make money in Lagos. So, one day I was begging in Offa, Kwara State, then I said why shouldn’t I join a train to Lagos and perhaps I could make money to pay for the fees, buy a uniform and get my locker. So, I joined the train to Ido terminus in Lagos. I started begging. I stayed with some people under the bridge and I was begging in some areas including Idumota.”
He said he was travelling to and fro Lagos to raise money which he used to settle his fees till he got to the final class when he was supposed to write his O’Level West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations which he could not raise money for.
He later relocated to Lagos fully where he was able to raise enough money through his begging business to sit for the WASSCE as a beggar and passed after two attempts.
He subsequently gained admission to UNILAG with the intention of continuing his alms begging business to raise money to continue his education.
He had just N39,000 as savings from his begging business when he got admission.
But he exhausted the money after completing his first semester registration.
He was however lucky that some compassionate Nigerians and organisations decided to sponsor him after reading his story in Punch Newspaper.
Speaking on Wednesday, he attributed the inspiration which drove him to bagging two degrees as “God’s miracle”.
“I thank God because if not for Him and those He used to come to my aid, I can be nowhere now.”
Other members who spoke glowingly of the achievements of the duo of Aarinola and AbdulSalam are: the Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuff (APC, Osun); Rep. Edward Pwajok (SAN); Rep. Sunday Adepoju (APC, Oyo); Rep. Johnson Oghuma (APC, Edo); Rep. Saheed Akinade Fijabi (APC, Oyo); Rep. Sodaguwo Festus-Omoni (PDP, Bayelsa); Rep. Dapo Lam-Adesina (APC, Oyo).
The Lawmakers gave the honourees a standing ovation while the Speaker of the House of Representatives shook hands of Aarinola and Abdulsalam and charged them to keep hope burning having succeeded in shattering the glass ceiling. A larger number of lawmakers and staff of the National Assembly were seen taking pictures with the honourees.