OYE OWOLEWA Historic Eye on US Congress

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Adeoye Yakubu Owolewa is aiming to become the first Nigerian-American elected into the United States Congress. He has already won the nomination of the Democratic Party for District of Columbia, DC, for the elections in November. Simply ‘Oye’, this pharmacist is aiming for a ‘shadow’ seat in the Congress. He sheds light on his programmes if elected and his Nigerian background, in an interview with Ferdinand Ekechukwu

@oye4dc Instagram handle doesn’t substantially come close to having a strong presence on social media with just 176 posts and 542 followers. Perhaps he has another Instagram account used for some personal purpose. Maybe the aforementioned handle is one of his campaign tools specifically created to reach a specified audience. But all that does not matter. What interestingly matters is that when the 2020 United States elections hold on November 3, 2020, the personality behind social media handle @oye4dc, a Nigerian, Adeoye Yakubu Owolewa will be vying for a ‘shadow’ seat in the United States’ Congress.

He is the Democratic nominee for District of Columbia; that’s the US Capital. “Greetings everyone, my name is Adeoye Yakubu Owolewa and I’m the Democratic nominee for the next DC US Representative,” he shared in a recent post. “If elected, I’ll become the first Nigerian congressman in US history. I’m glad to be here and thank you for having me.”

Oye’s aim of becoming the first Nigerian-American Congressman if elected speaks volumes. Can he speak a little more about this? “Yes, there has never been a Nigerian-American elected into US Congress. If I win this election, that’s a big first step. The next step is to make DC a state. Once that occurs, I’ll have an official seat and will thus become the first Nigerian American Congressman,” the Boston native told THISDAY via telephone chat.

He then reiterated his manifesto. “Dr. Oye Owolewa is a registered pharmacist in DC and campaigning to be your next U.S. ‘Shadow’ Representative, where he will fight for DC statehood. Oye aims to expand the conversation beyond voting representation to educating democratic voters on how statehood affects our lawmaking independence as well as our criminal justice system in DC. Oye will also use his past experience in advocating for statehood, where he lobbied Congress members to co-sponsor 2019’s HR-51 bill supporting DC Statehood.

“Once DC becomes a state, Oye plans to use his Congressional role to advance the cause of equality and fairness in the United States. Oye’s committed to implementing a universal health care system that would reduce health costs while improving outcomes. Oye will also advocate for policies to combat income inequality and ensure the wealthiest are paying their fair share. Lastly, Oye plans to use his opportunity to serve the interests of the African community.”

Oye Owolewa, a first-generation Nigerian-American is the grandson of Chief Mrs. PC Ajayi-Obe, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, late, recently buried at Omofe Cathedral, Ilesha, Osun State. Oye hasn’t forgotten Nigeria but had reason to visit just once: “I was in Nigeria as recently as 2017. I visited, but never lived for more than a month. I visited my grandmother (recently passed) SAN Phoebe Ajayi-Obe,” Oye revealed.

An accomplished and astute lawyer, Phoebe C. Ajayi-Obe, was the first female SAN from the Old Eastern Nigeria and second female SAN in Nigeria.

Oye obliged further on his family background, giving his status as well. “My dad is from Omu-Aran and my mother is from Ibadan. They met in the States and had a family. I’m the 4th of five children. I grew up in Boston and moved to Washington DC after becoming a pharmacist. I’m 30, single and earned my Doctorate of Pharmacy from Northeastern University, Boston.”

His parents, born and raised in Nigeria, raised him with two guiding principles, a value in community service and an early exposure to science. This exposure became a love for science, culminating in him achieving a Doctorate of Pharmacy.

Upon completing his degree in pharmacy, Oye moved to Washington, DC to begin practicing pharmacy and impacting the community. Oye has dedicated his energy to educating and advocating for DC statehood and equality. He participated in the historic March 2019 lobby day, resulting in a majority of the House of Representatives supporting DC’s Statehood for the first time in American history. Soon after, Oye took his efforts to Annapolis where he joined the effort to end big money’s impact on US lawmaking. In 2018, Oye was elected commissioner of his neighborhood in Southeast DC. In this position, he served as the medium between the community and the local government.

Oye worked to bring resources to the underserved by advising DC lawmakers based on continued community feedback. He has served as a commissioner since 2018, his first elected office. As commissioner, Oye learned the value of being an advocate and community resource. Some of Oye’s most notable achievements were increasing science enrichment programmes in Southeast elementary schools, adding traffic safety measures and helping to bring a Senior Day Center to the neighborhood.

According to a US online news outlet, Dr. Adeoye ‘Oye’ Owolewa who represents Advisory Neighborhood Commission single-member district 8E01 wants to take his passion for D.C. statehood to the next level.

Owolewa had said he wants to replace Franklin Garcia as the shadow representative this year to help the statehood movement go forward. “I believe it is a critical time for the statehood movement,” Oye said. “I think D.C. is very close to being a state.” District voters elect one shadow representative and two shadow senators to lobby Congress on D.C. becoming the 51st state.

Owolewa says the congressional momentum favours the District becoming a state and a “perfect storm” of a Democratic Senate and White House. The party retaining control of the House in the 2020 elections could make the District a state within a couple of years. He said if the “perfect storm” happens, he would push Democrats to put statehood at the top of their agenda: “The Democrats have to be accountable to us” he said. “In 2008, we had a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress but we were not prepared and therefore put on the back burner. We have come a long way since then and we need to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.”

The US Congress voted July this year to end a 210-year injustice and to give equal representation to the 700,000 residents of Washington DC. For the first time in history, D.C. statehood was approved by the house, passing the House in a 232-180 vote.

Despite the vote, and increasing support in the Senate, the question of statehood remains unanswered and likely will until at least after the general election in November. If he wins, Oye will be a shadowy Representative as DC’s full states status lies in the U.S Senate.

The posts of shadow United States Senator and shadow United States Representative are held by elected or appointed government officials from subnational polities of the United States that lack congressional vote. While these officials are not seated in either chamber of Congress, they seek for their subnational polity to gain voting rights in Congress. The election of shadow congresspersons from the District of Columbia was authorized by a “state” constitution, which was ratified by D.C. voters in 1982 but was never approved by Congress. The current DC shadow representative is Franklin Garcia.

Shadow representatives and senators are not allowed to vote either in full floor votes or in committee.

They also have their offices in the John A. Wilson Building, rather than in the Senate office buildings. They are also not paid by US government. So if they can’t vote, what do they do? Those from DC push for D.C. to become the 51st state and, thus, for them to become fully vested members of Congress.