Four Nigerian-Americans are contesting for various seats in the U.S general elections taking place today, November 8, 2016.
All four are product of currents of civic engagement by hundreds of immigrants and first generation Americans who maintain their ties to Nigeria even as they live relatively comfortable lives in the United States.
The four Americans of Nigerian descent who will also be contesting in grassroots elections at township and county levels this year are; Charles Ejike Onyejiaka, George Chidi, Rasheed ‘BJ’ Dawodu and April Ademiluyi.
In Franklin, New Jersey, Charles Ejike Onyejiaka, a democrat, an immigrant from Imo State, Nigeria, will be contesting for Ward 3 Councilman seat. He was one of three men presented to Franklin Town Council as fill-in candidates for the unexpired term of Phil Kramer, former Ward 3 Councilman, who became Mayor of Franklin last January.
Charles Onyejiaka has a degree in Electronics Engineering from Thomas Edison State University, he is also something of a veteran public servant with experience dating back to Nigeria’s Second Republic.
Born in Nkwerre, Mr. Onyejiaka grew up in a family of public servants whose record of civic engagement reached its zenith during Nigeria’s Second Republic when Sam Mbakwe was governor of Imo State. His uncle served as a commissioner while an aunt worked as special assistant in the governor’s office. Charles has followed the footsteps of his Nigerian family in his new country.
In 2015, he mobilized voter turn-out in numbers that proved good enough to give Democrats their first mayoral victory in Franklin Township. He is prominent member of the local Catholic community and has served on the Township Planning Board.
Rasheed Dawodu, also a Democrat, is running against Republican Kristie King for the position of Tax Commissioner in Fayette County, Georgia.
Mr. Dawodu has degrees in accounting, law, public finance and is a certified fraud examiner. He has worked for Fortune 500 firms including General Electric and Georgia Pacific.
A small business owner and seasoned financial management professional, Dawodu relocated to the United States from his native Lagos (Isale Eko) more than 20 years ago. He worked extensively in the public sector before going into private practice, his bid for office of the Tax Commissioner is actively supported by Fayette Chamber of Commerce and his immigrant constituency.
The only female of Nigerian descent contesting in the general election is April Ademiluyi, and she is contesting for a judicial not administrative position. She is a candidate for the Seventh Circuit Court in Prince George’s County, Maryland. April is a first generation American with roots in the Ademiluyi royal family in Ife.
April Ademiluyi has a first degree was in Chemical Engineering, law degree from an Ivy League university and has been recognized by Congressional leaders for working with families facing foreclosure.
George Chidi whose father is a native of Umuoye in Imo State is running for a seat on the Board of Commissioners in DeKalb County, Georgia.
George Chidi has a bachelor degree in Journalism, MBA from Georgia Tech and was chief executive officer of a firm that markets competitive intelligence for corporate clients.
Almost like Barack Obama’s story, his dad arrived Massachusetts in 1970 on a student visa, met his mum who is a Caucasian of Polish descent.
They got married and, unlike Obama’s dad, the older George stayed in the United States. George junior was an active duty soldier in the 25th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army for five years and, he has been a journalist and civic leader for twenty years.
George Chidi seems to have the deepest connection to his constituents and the widest name recognition among Americans and Nigerian-Americans alike among the four Nigerian-Americans running for office.
He defeated eight other aspirants to become the Democratic nominee for this general election which he is strongly favored to win. He is very supportive of the Nigerian immigrant community, he is a known face at their social events and an active promoter of worthy causes, including the candidacy of Rasheed Bolaji (or ‘BJ’) Dawodu.
The rising crescendo of political engagement by Nigerian-Americans is, in some ways, personified by the emergence of Nigerian-American Public Affairs Committee or NAPAC-USA, a self-described “political and social welfare think tank where the intellectual and numerical assets of Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans could be harnessed to invigorate our active participation in American political and civic life”.
The organization originated from the exertion of an intense, voluntary, electioneering campaign by some Nigerian-Americans on behalf of a Democratic candidate in California’s 36th District during the 2011 special election.
Spurred by the impact of their collective energy, the volunteers decided to create a permanent front which, with an eye on the 2012 general election, was organized as a political action committee named Nigerian-American Political Action Committee or NAPAC.