Although he is physically-challenged, the Special Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Special Needs and Equal opportunities, Abdulsalam Idowu Kamaldeen has not allowed himself to be weighed down by his physical condition.
While many in his situation resort to begging perpetually as a means of survival, he took education with all the seriousness he could muster, seeing himself through school with funds he raised from begging and ending up bagging two degrees from the University of Lagos, including a BSc in Political Science and an LLB which he capped with BL, having graduated from the reputable Nigerian Law School.
Yet he believes that even with his academic attainments, he would be nowhere without the favour he got from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. He reckons that Gbajabiamila’s decision to appoint him as one of his aides is the master stroke that has turned his life around completely.
In a chat with our correspondent, Kwara State-born Kamaldeen said he would be eternally grateful to Gbajabiamila for singling him out of the estimated 25 million physically-challenged people in the country for the appointment.
Kamaldeen, a lawyer, said: “Who says the Speaker cannot appoint an able-bodied person as his assistant on special needs. He only deemed it fit that a physically-challenged person should occupy the seat. It is a great credit to him that he was able to see ability in my disability,” he said.
He believes that his appointment amounts to a breakthrough for people with disabilities, saying that many people would now expect Osinbajo’s move to be replicated at every level of government.
He said: “The creation of the office is from the good intention of the Speaker, and I know that a lot of programmes will now flow from that good intention to the advantage of physically-challenged people.
“Let me be fair with you; this is not an issue of money. It is an opportunity to let people know about the physically-challenged and stop discriminating against them.
“I said the other time that a lot people celebrated the Speaker. I belong to a lot of associations of the physically-challenged. I saw how people celebrated the Speaker over the appointment. A lot of associations and NGOs were calling me. They were very happy.”
He said the fact that political office holders have now started realising the need to involve the physically-challenged in governance made them glad. “So, it is not all about me. It is about creating awareness, because this can go a very long way in the future to extent of it being replicated across the 36 states if they would emulate the Speaker,” he said.
In 2017, Kamaldeen was singled out by the National Assembly for special praise as one of the few Nigerians who endured extremely tough conditions to go through school. Speaking about the honour, he said: “For me to be so honoured by the National Assembly, you can imagine someone from under the bridge, now getting to National Assembly and being honoured. That was the greatest moment of my life. I felt very great.”
Kamaldeen recalled that Gbajabiamila had given him a car long before he appointed him as his aide. Now he says he is looking to the future with optimism and would soon be getting married.
“Yes, I will, very soon,” he said in response to a question about his plans for marriage. Although he would not volunteer the exact date for marriage, he said he was already in a relationship.
“I can’t give you a date,” he said when the reporter asked when he would likely tie the nuptial knot with his Kwara-born heartthrob.
Asked what advice he would give to other people in his condition, he said: “First and foremost, once you are alive, you must expect both good and evil no matter how hard you pray. So, when you find yourself physically challenged, what it mean is that that part of the body is permanently disabled or partially disabled, so you can’t use it normally. But you can use all the other parts, so you need not condemn yourself.
“I have never in my life grieved over my condition. I am happy the way you are happy. I hardly fall sick. My advice will be this: if you can’t use your leg or you can’t use your eyes, it does not mean the end of life. You can utilise the other parts of your body to become somebody so important, if not for the society, at least for yourself.
“The worst human being in life is one who is useless for himself or herself.”