Adeoye “Oye” Owolewa has a full-time job as a pharmacist, providing medications and health advice to clients in Washington, D.C. She also works on what she calls a key prescription for the District of Columbia’s overall wellness. As seen – Banana is the 51st US state.
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“Right now, we pay the taxes. We pay our fair share as US citizens,” said Ovoleva, the US-born son of Nigerian immigrants. “We don’t get back what everyone else does. … A lot of people outside DC don’t understand the inequalities, the inequalities of what’s going on here in the nation’s capital. They don’t understand that there are 700,000 Americans who There is a lack of voting representation in the Congress.”
In November 2020, nearly a quarter-million Washington voters elected Ovoleva as their “shadow” US representative for a two-year term, joining two longtime “shadow” senators. (Ovoleva prefers the term “unseated”) Although the district accepts them as elected officials, Congress does not. They cannot serve on congressional committees or speak on the floor of a chamber, unlike Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s non-voting representative in the US House of Representatives, who serves on several committees and subcommittees.
Their main mission is to advance statehood. Success would give the district autonomy over its budget and local laws, which are currently subject to approval by Congress. Statehood would also give DC two seats in the Senate and one in the House. But since voters in the minority-majority district overwhelmingly support the Democrats, the state quest faces strong Republican opposition—especially given the Senate divided into 50 seats for each major party.
“In the short term, (statehood) is just too bleak to pass,” said Stella M. Rouse, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
influenced by parents
Meanwhile, with her elected status unpaid, Ovoleva has “continued my daily practice as a healthcare professional. And all that’s done is get me to focus on health care as well as a DC state.” Inspires,” he said.
Ovoleva said both roles involved a commitment to education and public service that was nurtured by her parents.
They came separately from Nigeria – their father from Kawara State and their mother from Oyo State – to study in Boston, Massachusetts. They met at Northeastern University, earning degrees in medical technology and civil engineering, respectively. He married and had five children; Adoy, 31, nicknamed Oye, is their fourth.
“We were raised with a love of science, a sense of community, a duty to give back,” Ovoleva said at an October online youth summit sponsored by the Nigerian American Public Affairs Committee (NAPAC) Foundation, a non-profit organization. “So, that inspired me to become a pharmacist.”
At the Northeastern School of Pharmacy, Ovoleva was the only black male in the graduating class of 150. He told VOA that he saw other minority students “falling out” from the program, lacking adequate support. So, in his final year, with his younger brother entering the school, he created a counseling program and merged at least a dozen beginner pharmacy students with more advanced ones.
“All those students, they all graduated on time,” he said.
He graduated in 2014, moving to Washington to work. He settled in a predominantly black and poor Ward 8, in the southeast of the city. He began volunteering in health clinics as well as public schools, he said, “to inspire kids who looked just like me” to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
In late 2018, Ovoleva was selected as a DC advisory neighborhood commissioner, encouraged by a pharmacy client who previously served as a commissioner.
“He was really interested in helping others,” said Brian Nadeau, who is now a DC council member representing Ward 1. He also cheered on Ovoleva’s pursuit to become the shadow representative of the district.
“I think one of his strengths is that he cares a lot about the people he serves. He’s very genuine, very accessible and very dedicated.”
Millennials can grant statehood
Over the past year, Ovoleva has knocked on doors, encouraging Washingtonians to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He has organized workshops for small business owners on applying for aid during the pandemic. He has participated in health screenings and this fall started a fundraiser to provide food for immigrants arriving from Afghanistan. It raised about $5,000 in early November.
All the while, Ovoleva is trying to raise public awareness of the state for D.C. – the only federal capital worldwide that does not allow elected representatives of citizens to vote on their behalf in the national legislative body – and electoral politics. To solicit more participation in
He said that he, his family and friends view his election as a Nigerian American “not only as a victory for me, but also as an opportunity for the younger generation to be more inspired in the political process – not only as Nigerian Americans but above all people of the diaspora.”
Today’s youth may eventually help lead to DC statehood, said Rouse, author of The Politics of Millennials, which Ovoleva and others follow.
“Millennials, in general, are a much more progressive generation than the older generation. And that’s true, even as they’ve gotten older,” Rouse said. With DC’s diversity, which also includes a sizable African American population, she speculates that “as millennials get older and really take on leadership positions, I think… Maybe there’s a better chance.”
For now, Ovoleva said, she’s delighted to have “the opportunity to really get involved in the solution to what’s happening in our community and to make life a little more comfortable, a little easier for the next person. And that’s the one.” Opportunity that I take this very seriously.”
Betty Ayoob of VOA Africa Division contributed to this report.