All it took to get everything out of him, like opening a Pandora box, was the simple question “What is your name?”.
“My name is Ahmed Salami, and this is my mum Rafat”, he responded forgetting that I brought him to the office and that I probably knew him much longer than he can comprehend. But he is used to that type of introduction. Raising Ahmed meant that we created protocols; he must know my name and call me by my name. It is a long story. I still enjoy it when he calls me by my name. It is like music in my ears.
We were comfortably seated in the office of Honourable Oluwole Oke who was gracious enough to agree to meet us. He shook hands with Ahmed. During the brief handshake, Ahmed asked him if he was the one in charge here (the National Assembly). Hon. Oke gave me a glance and I intervened- “yes he is in charge of this office”, I told my son and then led him to the adjourning seats away from the desk. Hon. Oke joined us immediately.
They exchanged pleasantries after which Ahmed continued:
“Please I need your help. Can you make some laws for us? “What law?”, Hon Oke asked him in return?
“Well, I want a law to ban my school. My teacher gave me a minus, and they also give me homework…3 homework. How am I supposed to finish it? My school wants to ruin my life”, Hon. Oke was bemused and I sensed this dilemma.
The legislator perhaps wondered what it was about but even before he could ask him another question, Ahmed went on
“Can you also make a law for all children to have bicycles especially children with special needs like me?” Then he went on his knees, fist clenched as he appealed and begged for a bicycle.
We were all taken aback. Those who know Ahmed would tell you he is always capable of springing surprises, but this was a new one.
“You need a bicycle we’ll look into it”, the lawmaker responded.
A very patient Honourable Oke listened and interacted with him and together they discussed the issue of the bicycle. But how a bicycle became the most important thing he wanted was a surprise.
At this point, I came into their discussion and asked if he (Ahmed) has told the Honourable that he is travelling.
“Oh, sir, I am travelling to Dubai. I am travelling on Sunday.”
“Oh really?”, he asked him
Then I came in again, ‘you are forgetting to thank him—o’.
“Oh yes, thank you sir for sending me to Dubai. But please can I ask for something?”. This time I held my breath, wondering at the next surprise from his requests’ bag: what is he going to ask for again?
“Can I have a selfie with you?”
I heaved a sigh of relief just as Honourable was on his feet and several shots were taken to Ahmed’s delight.
Well, I usually prepare him for any outing, so we don’t get what experts now call ‘oppositional behaviour’ when he encounters something new and out of his ordinary schedule. Raising a child with special needs comes with many challenges, one of which is that they may not adapt or adjust to any sudden change in their normal routine. So, I had prepared him for this visit but apparently, I could not have prepared to dissuade him from making these purely unanticipated, spontaneous demands for a law to scrap a school and bicycle or I left out certain details.
I had told him we were going to see my former boss -yes that is who Hon. Oke is to me. He was my boss nearly more than two decades ago. I told him the visit was to thank my boss, who has agreed to sponsor his medical examination to the Saudi German Hospital in Dubai. So, I told him he would just thank him for sponsoring us and that was it. On our way, he suddenly asked if the way we took was the way to my office. I thanked God that he knows the way to my office but then it occurred to me that I did not tell him where my former boss works. I had to tell him we were going to the National Assembly to see my former boss.
It was when we got to the precinct of the Assembly that some questions came in quick succession.
“Is this a mosque? The roof looks like a mosque some”, he asked with emphasis to the dome of the National Assembly. ‘Oh dear’, I quickly explained that it was a dome and most Assemblies have domes. Then he wanted to know why we were going to one side of the premises and not the other side; he wanted to know who was in charge of the National Assembly and what they do there. I quickly explained that they were law makers and that they make laws to guide everything we do. That was where his idea of a law to ban his school came from. He became excited and asked me to take him to see the person in-charge. “Mum who is in-charge of this place? I really need to see him.” I had to explain that there are two different chambers and that we were going into the House of Representatives and it is headed by the Speaker,Right Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila. He requested I take him straight to the Speaker. “I need to talk to him”, he demanded. I could not answer all his questions before we were received by the very friendly Toyosi, who took us in and got a bit of the questions from Ahmed. I made a mental note to take Ahmed through legislative processes and the arms of government. That is how Ahmed learns. Sadly, our educational system is not designed that way. It is focused on rote??, hoping you will use it someday. That means that we have to home-school, most of the times.
To put this visit to the National Assembly in perspective, at a chance meeting two weeks earlier in Bauchi between me and Honorable Oluwole Oke, the first time I was seeing him in nearly 20 years, conversations about family and what I have been doing came up. Of course, he is a public figure and his activities in public domain, so I have been following up on him. Honourable Busayo Oluwole-Oke of the People’s Democratic Party represents Oriade/Obokun Federal Constituency of Osun State and he is currently a fourth time member of the House of Representative. I filled him in and mentioned that I have a child with special needs who since January had been sick and needing urgent medical care, a care that I cannot afford. I told him what we had done and what next needed to be done. We talked about options and he said to me, “I will take care of it, that boy needs help”. Here we are, Ahmed is getting the comprehensive review in one of the best hospitals in the world, thanks to a man who has a golden heart and many others on whose broad shoulders we have had to lean on in the last 15 years. How could I, as a single parent, even if Ahmed were my only child, have been able to provide for him if God had not brought many people to be our pillars?
Anyway, my journey with Honourable Oke is over 20 years old and I am inclined to publish what we have done together, but… Only if you want to know. Please send a text to the editor or to me on 0803349432. if I get one hundred requests, I will publish.