ON Tuesday, the House of Representatives honoured two outstanding citizens, Miss Blessing Aarinola and Mr. Abdulsalam Idowu, for their rare feats and academic attainment. This was sequel to a motion by the Leader of the House, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila. Aarinola, now 24, was admitted into the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, to study Medicine and Surgery in 2011. She scored a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.74 in her first year. She maintained her flawless record thereafter, scoring distinctions in Anatomy, Medical Biochemistry and Physiology, Medical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Pathology and Pharmacology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mental Health, Dermatology and Surgery. The last achievement had been unmatched for a period of 28 years.
Enter Idowu, 38, a study in courage. He reportedly lost his two legs to polio at the age of three, lost his mother at the age of four, started primary school at eight, then engaged in street begging to survive. A mendicant throughout his primary and secondary school years, Idowu did not allow the harsh experiences on the streets of Lagos to deter him. Taking shelter under the Idumota bridge for several years, he managed the money gained from kind-hearted compatriots wisely and rented himself a room. Idowu obtained the General Certificate in Education (GCE) form in 2002, triumphed in the GCE and university matriculation examinations, and gained admission to study Political Science at the University of Lagos. While undertaking his degree in Political Science, he gained admission to study Law at the University of Lagos in 2010, and was called to the Nigerian Bar on 30th November, 2016.
We commend the House of Representatives on the laudable initiative of honouring these outstanding Nigerians, and for its plan to establish a parliamentary honours/award system in recognition of extraordinary achievements by Nigerians. In a clime where honours hardly come the way of those who excel, the recognition of Aarinola and Idowu is indeed great news. The House of Representatives should in fact go a notch higher by identifying many other Nigerians in diverse fields who are also breaking new grounds. Such persons abound across the country but are yet to be celebrated for their valiant efforts. It is heartening to know that Nigerian youths, in particular, are not all about gambling or dangerous voyages on the Mediterranean. And who says that the legislature cannot play key roles in keeping them on the right path?
The Aarinola/Idowu story is certainly a wake-up call on Nigerian youths. They must recognise that sooner or later, excellence will be rewarded. They should therefore strive to be the best that they can be at all times. By breaking a 28-year-old academic record, Aarinola has charted a good path for others to follow. And Idowu has shown that being poor, orphaned and physically challenged will not deter those who are determined to succeed. However, on its part, the government should consider ameliorating the plight of physically challenged persons in the country. There are hardly any facilities for them on the roads and in public places. For instance, there are hardly any elevators in the nation’s schools and people living with disabilities suffer a lot trying to navigate their way through the campuses. Many of them struggle even to get into class.
That there are systemic limitations that prevent the physically challenged from excelling across the country is not in doubt. But as the story of Idowu has proved, there is really no need for physically challenged persons to resign to fate. Fighting back against the odds has its own rewards. We salute Miss Aarinola and Mr. Idowu for their commitment to excellence and wish them resounding successes in their future endeavours.