Meet Kamaldeen, the physically-challenged man Femi Gbajabiamila just appointed as SA

One of the greatest professional basketball player, Michael Jordan, once said: “Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

To Abdulsalam Kamaldeen life is a battle that must be won. In an interview published by The Nation in 2018, he said growing up was tough and his last option was begging to survive.

He became physically challenged at the age of three due to polio infection. At four, he lost his mother and his father left him and his siblings un-cared for. According to him, his father married another wife.

His appointment by the Speaker

The Speaker of the House Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila made public his appointment on July 17, 2019 as a Special Assistant on Special Needs and Equal Opportunities.

It is not the first time the lawmaker would be recognising Mr Abdulsalam Kamaldeen Idowu. In 2017, Mr Gbajabiamila invited him to the floor of the Lower Legislative Chamber for special recognition.

He was honoured then as a disabled and former homeless street beggar who sponsored himself through school to become a lawyer and political science graduate.

His challenges:

He started primary education at Erin-Ile, Kwara state, where he hails from in 1978. “As a kid, I watched all my peers go to school at Erinle Muslim Primary School, leaving me lonely at home.

“Soon I developed the habit of following them to school, where we played together and studied together, without anybody stopping me. I even wrote tests and examinations with them,” narrated.

Kamaldeen battled with what could be described as stigmatisation because he is physically challenged. “When it was promotion time, all my friends were promoted but I wasn’t. I went to ask what class I was and got shocking news. I was told that I was not one of the registered pupils, and that they only allowed me because they didn’t want me to feel bad. That was in 1987 and I should have been promoted to primary one.

Narrating his ordeals, he said his father was not bothered when he told him about what transpired in school.

Kamaldeen said: “He said I was too young and cripple and therefore would not be able to contend with the rigours or defend myself. But I told him I had never experienced any bullying, yet he refused.

“Even his mother, my grandmother, supported him until the neighbours intervened. Finally, he registered me but told me I would be on my own. I was only eight years old.”

How Kamaldeen started begging

There was no help anywhere, he was abandoned and left with no choice, Kamaldeen started begging for alms to survive.

In his touching story, he said, “That was how my journey into begging started. In the morning I’d go to school; on market days, I made very good use of the 30-minute long-break by going to the market to beg. On other days, I would go in the evening around 4pm to beg,” he said.

Luckily for him, he completed his primary education and moved to secondary school. That’s when the challenge became harder and harder and harder, but the determined physically-challenged man would not relent.

He pushed further by boarding a train from Offa to Lagos where he continued begging for alms and sleeping under the Dosunmu bridge at Idumota.

From the proceeds, he would go back to Erinle to pay for fees and continue schooling. He would return to Lagos during holidays to beg. “That was how I managed to pay my way through secondary school until 1999 and relocated to Lagos,” he said.

Kamaldeen’s journey to UNILAG

Against all odds, Kamaldeen would later rent an apartment in Ajegunle, a suburb of Lagos, he began to attend evening classes and started trading too.

According to him, “I started saving and when I had saved about N40, 000, I started doing business. I would go to Ore, buy Kolanut, and take it to Maiduguri. Coming back, I would buy sacks of beans; but I didn’t have a shop, so the only means of selling was to offload them into other people’s shops,” he said.

His taste for a university degree would come to reality in 2006 as he got admitted to study political science at the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) and graduated in 2010.

With a degree in Political Science, he wasn’t satisfied. Again, he sat for the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination and got an offer to study law at the same university.

He crowned it by passing his exams at the Nigerian Law School.

Never say NEVER!

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