A former street beggar, Mr. Abdulsalam Idowu, heaved a sigh of fulfilment of a life ambition as he was called to the bar to start practising as a lawyer in Nigeria on Wednesday.
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.
The new wig, who 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 spoke with Punch on Wednesday at the International Conference Centre in Abuja, venue of the two-day call-to-bar ceremony.
He 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.”
He said his immediate plan was to get a job in a law firm.
“I wish to set up my law firm later and in the nearest future I want to become a judge,” Idowu said.
He thanked Punch and other Nigerians for helping him to achieve his life ambition.
He also thanked those he referred to as “responsible fathers” such as Mr. Peace Emokaro, Pastor Adewuyi, Alhaji Olajobi, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, Prof. Tolu Odugbemi and the late Prof. Tokunbo Sofoluwe for the supports he received from them.