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African native blends into local African American politics

DR. ERHOBA IGHOBARO African native blends into local African American politics

Dr. Erhoba Ighobaro

African native blends into local African American politics

By Derek Joy

     He is rolling along into the fourth month as a Miami Gardens Councilman.

    While it isn’t a national or statewide historical first, it is in South Florida. That is precisely the case.

    “No. I’m not the first in America. Not the first in Florida. There’s one in North Florida,” said Miami Gardens Councilman Dr. Erhoba Ighobaro, a native of Nigeria, the largest country on the African continent, with a population of some 70 million.

            “I’m the first Nigerian to hold elected office in South Florida. There are a lot of Nigerians in this country, probably around 20,000. There is a considerable number here, but there are more in New York and Houston, Tex.”

    The 20-year journey to his history-making appointment to the City Council by Mayor Oliver Gilbert III has a few interesting twists.

    Ighobaro was chief of staff for the late Rev. Dr. Bob Ingram at the Miami Dade Public Schools. When Ingram died, Ighobaro made an unsuccessful run for Ingram’s seat, which was by Wilbert “Tee” Holloway.

     Then there was the unsuccessful run for the Miami Gar-dens City Council. That seat was eventually won by Rodney Harris in a runoff against former Miami Gardens Councilman Ulysses “Buck” Harvard.

     That’s when Gilbert appointed Ighobaro to his vacant seat on the City Council. The appointment gave Miami Gardens three members – Gilbert, Ighobaro and Councilman David Williams – of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity on its City Council.

    “I came to this country when I was 19,” said Ighobaro, now 39. “I was given a basketball scholarship by Florida Memorial University.”

     He went on to earn a graduate degree from St. Thomas University and a doctorate in conflict resolution from Nova Southeastern University. Ighobaro now teaches at his alma mater – Florida Memorial University, where he might one day become the school’s president.

    But for now, Ighobaro navigates the political waters of Miami Gardens while pursuing his passion.

    “Education is my passion,” said Ighobaro, who took a quote from the historical Cuban patriot, Jose’ Marti. “He said: In order not to punish a dog, we must educate the children’.

    “That has always been my struggle. While education is not the purview of the City Council, if we want to create a level playing field, then we must educate the children.

    “We have to work together. My experience in criminal justice tells me we have to look at a comprehensive approach. By that I mean education, health, employment and other social aspects,” added Ighobaro,

    During his time with the Miami Dade Public Schools, Ighobaro is credited with establishing the first student exchange program between Miami Dade County and Africa.

    Thus far, 18 students have participated. Only one of the 18, noted Ighobaro, had a passport, which indicated a lack of travel experience for local students. He said one of the participating students landed an internship with Goldman Sachs and another is participating in an internship in London, England.

   As far as his political efforts in Miami Gardens, and being a standard bearer for the Nigerian nation, Ighobaro is practical.

    “My role at the City is trying to reduce the level of crime,” he said. “We have to look at it as it’s not my problem. It’s our problem. We have to start looking at ways to have a healthy society.”

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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