Omotosho Seeks Council Seat As First Africa-born Member
'I wish to make my case for candidacy...' Dr. Omotosho's press conference. Photo: Asta Tall
[Race For NY City Council 2013]
Will Dr. Bola Omotosho make history by becoming the first African-born City-council member and also the first representing the Bronx’s 16th district?
Dr. Omotosho believes that his career as a medical doctor could give him the edge over his opponents in the race. While he originates from Nigeria he has been a Bronx resident for 20 years.
Dr. Omotosho is not a career politician, as he's quick to note, but he has been an active member of the community. For the past 14 years he has been a part Community Board 5. He has chaired its committees on: education, health, housing; and, economic development. Since 2007 he has served as the Bronx Chair of Community Board 5. Dr. Omotosho had to face off against four other African-born opponents, through presentations, to get the candidacy spot and the nod of the United African Coalition (UAC), an organization that represents the interests of African immigrants in New Yorker.
The group urged others to rally around a single candidate so as to boost the prospects of winning. “Dr. is not Black, White, and Yellow," says Bookola Shonuga, who is a part of UAC, and has confidence in Dr. Omotosho's candidacy. "He is the most qualified candidate.”
The 16th district covers parts of Highbridge, Morrisania and the Concourse.
State Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson, an African American, is seen as a leading candidate with the support of the Democratic party establishment in the Bronx. The incumbent, Helen Diane Foster, is also African American; she can't run again due to term limits.
The race is a crowded one and the Board of Election's website lists the following candidates: Pedro Alvarez; Carlton Berkley; Daryl Johnson; and Walter Newsome.
The other African-born candidates were Abiodun W. Bello and Ahmadou Diallo. Muhammed, Naaimat Muhammed, who also vied for backing for the race was born here but her parents are from Ghana.
Dr. Omotosho said he's a candidate for the entire district and emphasizes his role as a Bronx resident. “It’s beyond Africans. It’s a different movement,” he said, during a recent press conference to formally announce his run.
Other speakers also recalled how the Civil Rights Movement paved a way for Africans to enter the country and how African immigrants have played an important role in the community.
As part of his campaign promises Dr. Omotosho is looking to improve the quality of life of his district's residents. Dr Omotosho is hoping to use his knowledge as a doctor to better explain the benefits of programs such as the Affordable Care Act. “With my expertise of being a doctor and understanding what Obama care is all about, I will be able to translate that to city hall officials,” he said.
One backer, George Onuorah, was sold on Dr. Omotosho's health-related background. “ You have a doctor who understands healthcare," Onuorah said. "With Obama Care being one of the big things right now he will be able to leverage that opportunity and knowledge to address some of the big health issues here in the Bronx.”
His ability to translate the legislation, Dr. Omotosho says, is vital to improving the district’s poor health report card.
When it comes to areas such as reducing crime, Dr. Omotosho in 2011 hosted a gun buy-back campaign in collaboration with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office as well as the New York Police Department (NYPD). A total of about 100 illegal guns were collected. “We are going to do more and it’s an ongoing process," he says of the buy-backs. "I want to show our youth that the way to settle scores is not with guns. We can disagree and amicably move forward.”
Dr. Omotosho ended the press conference on an upbeat mood. He called for everyone to hold hands and he led in singing: “All we are saying is give us a voice...”