My relative-in-law by the name of Oye Owolewa is one of at least three Nigerian-Americans I’m aware of who just got elected into legislative positions in the United States.
The shadow House of Representatives member-elect from the District of Columbia is the grandson of my aunt-in-law, that is, the older sister of my wife’s father.
His maternal grandmother, the late Chief Phoebe Chiadi Ajayi-Obe, about whom I wrote in a July 18, 2020 column, is Nigeria’s second female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Eastern Nigeria’s first female SAN.
Although I have never met the younger Owolewa, his father, who is from Omu-Aran in Kwara State, attended my wedding. He came to me after the wedding ceremony and said, “Asalamalaikum, brother! I’m delighted to welcome the second Muslim into the family.”
The newly-elected congressman is a product of tolerance and compromises along Nigeria’s primordial fissures. His maternal grandmother was an Igbo woman from Anambra State who married a Yoruba man from Osun State, and his mother married a Muslim from Kwara State. Just like his maternal grandmother “converted” to a Yoruba identity, his mother converted to Islam.
The Owolewas are devout Muslims, and the House of Representatives-elect brought his Muslim identity to the fore during his campaigns. “As a Nigerian-American and a Muslim, I look at [Donald Trump’s] policies as a direct finger at me saying, ‘You’re not welcome here,’” he said in a campaign video. “Even though I have done my best to provide for my community…I still feel I’m not good enough for Donald Trump.”
In spite of his “outsider” identity, Owolewa won more votes than his two other competitors combined. So in spite of Trump’s racist, juvenile vileness, America is still a great, tolerant country.
Plus, I doubt that the three young recently elected Nigerian-American legislators would have had a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected if they vied for equivalent positions in Nigeria.
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