As one of the most important countries in Africa and on the global stage, Nigerians are used to seeing fellow citizens becoming well-known and respected in a wide range of fields.
When the Nigerian diaspora is included, there are figures at the top of just about every area of society and life.
Nigerians have spread out across the world and become respected everywhere and that is especially true of those in the US.
Known as a country that is built on the ingenuity of immigrants from all over the world, the US has seen Nigerians involved in taking that great country forward yet further.
One of the areas where Nigerian influence has been more noticeable in recent years in the US is in politics. Nigerian Americans have now become a familiar force in the corridors of power.
From making decisions on federal laws to debating the future of sports betting in California, Americans with Nigerian heritage are helping make the important decisions.
Here are five such US politicians who can claim Nigerian ancestry:
Born to Yoruba parents in Ibadan in 1981, Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo moved to the US as a child and spent his early years in Southern California. After earning his degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Yale, Adeyemo entered politics by working for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
Although that campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, he went on to become the first president of the non-profit Obama Foundation and worked in that president’s groundbreaking administration too. In 2021 he was sworn in as the United States deputy secretary of the treasury in the current Biden administration.
John O. Agwunobi
This successful businessman and political figure was actually born in Scotland and is Nigerian on his father’s side. He moved back to Nigeria as a child and went to university in the country before traveling to the US to complete his master’s degree in public health.
It was that background that catapulted him into political service, acting as Florida’s secretary of health under Governor Jeb Bush. He then served as the assistant secretary for health from 2006 to 2007 under President George W. Bush. Since leaving politics he has worked in the corporate arena for Wal-Mart and Herbalife Nutrition.
One of a new generation of young politicians in the US, Carol Kazeem defeated the incumbent in the 2022 Democratic Party primary and then beat Republican Ruth Morton to become the representative for the 159th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
It was her commitment to her constituents that spurred Kazeem onto success, as well as her grounding in the community in Chester, PA. As a Nigerian-American citizen, Kazeem worked in the healthcare industry after leaving college and now looks to have a bright future ahead of her on the political stage.
Although Adeoye “Oye” Owelewa was not the first Nigerian-American to be elected to the US Congress, as was mistakenly reported in some sections of the Nigerian media, he is fast becoming a popular and well-liked political figure, known primarily for his advocacy for DC statehood.
Owelewa was born in Nigeria but moved to the US as a child and was raised near Boston. After initially working as a pharmacist, Owelewa moved into politics in 2018 and has been especially vocal in the areas of climate change and LGBTQ rights. His work campaigning for Washington DC to receive full statehood status has attracted a lot of attention and his ties to his current community are evident with the mentorship work he also performs with the youth of the city.
Blessing Adeyemi Mobolade, known as Yemi, is another Nigerian who has made a big impact in politics in the US. He was born and raised in Lagos but immigrated to the States in 1996 and earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in the following years. After settling in Colorado Springs, the 40th largest city in the country, he opened two restaurants and founded a church. But it was his move into local politics that really made the headlines.
He announced his candidacy for mayor of Colorado Springs in 2022 and ran as an independent in the 2023 election.
Not only did Mobolade finish first of the 12 candidates in the first round of voting, he then defeated a Republican former secretary of state in the run-off.
In doing so, Mobolade became the first ever Black mayor of Colorado Springs – as well as the first not known to be a member of the Republican Party. He is yet another success story from the Nigerian diaspora.
Nigerians in US Society
These five stories are about just some of the millions of Nigerians and Nigerian Americans who have succeeded in their chosen field – and, in some cases, fields – in the US. They have shown that there is a determination in the Nigerian diaspora to have a say in their local community, wherever that may be.
Politics is just one of the areas of American life that Nigerians have been successful in, of course. There are countless other examples in academia, sports, music and film, elevating further the standard of their heritage around the world.
Some of these politicians are only just embarking on their careers, and it looks as though there will be plenty more people who can claim Nigerian heritage making waves in US public life in the years to come.