Seven candidates of Nigerian heritage have made the country proud by emerging winners in the recently concluded United Kingdom parliamentary elections. Most notably, out of the seven Nigerians elected into the UK parliament in the Thursday poll, five are women.
Some pundits are of the opinion that Nigeria should take its cue from the UK election and create a level playing field for all and sundry in its forthcoming elections, adding that the country’s politics, as currently structured, has continued to hamstring women from clinching key elective positions or excelling in the nation’s politics.
The five female winners are; Fiona Onasanya, Peterborough; Chi Onwurah, Newcastle; Kate Osamor, Edmonton ; Kemi Badenock, Saffron Walden, and Helen Grant, Maidstone and The Weald.
The other two winners who are male are; Chuka Umunna representing Streatham and Bim Afolami representing Hitchin and Harpenden.
Onasanya, who ran on the platform of Labour Party, beat Stewart Johnson of Conservative Party to Peterborough seat in the election. A solicitor and local councilor, she was until her election, the Deputy Leader of the Labour group on the Cambridgeshire county as well as its councilor.
A woman with a lofty dream, Onasanya is aspiring to become Britain’s first black female Prime Minister.
In an interview before the election, she revealed that she never set out to be a politician.
“Well, I never intended to be/become a politician. The secretary for a political party was in earshot of a discussion in a local pub with a friend about the London riots and asked if I’d considered politics. My response was simply “no!” I was not interested as law had been my focus – I’d never studied or even considered politics. The gentleman gave me his card and suggested I look into what his party was about and if I felt their ethos was something I agreed with, to become a member and come to some meetings. So I did! That was the start of my journey.”
Prior to the election, Onwurah, 52, has been the shadow minister (department for business, energy and industrial strategy) (Industrial Strategy).
A labour party politician, her major political interests are in the areas of business, innovation and skills.
Born to Nigerian parents in Wallsend Newcastle in 1965, she studied Electrical Engineering at Imperial, College London.
Her family relocated to Awka, capital of Anambra state, when she was a baby, but following the breakout of the Biafran civil war, her mother returned Chi to Newcastle, while her father enlisted in the Biafran army.
Before venturing into politics, she worked in the private sector in Nigeria, UK, France and Denmark.
In 2010, the 50-year-old politician contested under the Labour Party and got elected as the Member of Parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne central, replacing the previous Labour MP Jim Cousins, who decided to step down. She is Newcastle’s first black MP.
Aged 48, Osamor was appointed shadow secretary of state for international development in June 2016.
In 2014, she was elected a member of the national executive committee of the Labour Party.
She worked for the National Health Service (NHS) for 15 years and is a trade union activist, a women’s charity trustee and a member of LP’s national executive committee. She funded the NHS, opposing its fragmentation and standing up to government cuts the centrepiece of her campaign. She has lived in north London her whole life.
Badenock has been a member of the parliament since September 2015.
She is the GLA conservative’s spokesman for the economy and also sits on the transport committee as well as policing and crime committee. She is aged 37.
Kemi has been a member of the London Assembly since September 2015. She is the GLA Conservative’s spokesman for the Economy and also sits on the Transport Committee and Policing and Crime Committee.
Prior to the assembly, Kemi was a director at the Spectator Magazine and before that an associate director at Coutts & Co.
She holds two degrees in engineering and law, from Sussex University and Birkbeck College respectively. She is currently a board member for the Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life and for nine years was a non-executive director for a London housing association.
Her other areas of interest include engineering and technology, social mobility and integration. She provides regular mentoring to women who wish to pursue careers in technology and has spoken at several conferences including the global TEdX speaker series.
Grant, a Conservative Party politician, has served as the Member of Parliament for Maidstone and The Weald since 2010.
Aged 55, she has served as the parliamentary under-secretary of state for justice as well as the parliamentary under-secretary of state for equalities.
Born on September 28, 1961, to a Nigerian father and English mother, Grant is a British Conservative Party politician and solicitor.
She grew up in a single-parent family after her parents separated and her father migrated to the United States. She was raised in Carlisle where she lived on the city’s Raffles council estate with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
Her political career kicked off in 2004 under the Labour Party, where she was asked by a senior local party figure to consider becoming a local councilor, but she rejected the idea and joined the Conservative Party two years later, claiming that the Labour party showed little interest in her and left her feelings disillusioned.
Grant is the first black woman to be selected to defend a Tory seat and her election in 2010 also made her the Conservatives’ first female black MP.
She received her first government appointment in 2012, and played dual roles of under-secretary of state for justice, and under-secretary for women and equalities.
Chuka Umunna representing Streatham is a Labour MP for Streatham, he entered the House of Commons on 6 May 2010. He was the shadow business secretary from 2011 to 2015.
39-year-old Chuka Umunna, a graduate of law from the University of Manchester, was re-elected as Member of Parliament of Streatham, a seat he has occupied since 2010.
Prior to his emergence as shadow business secretary, he was a member of the treasury select committee.
Ummuna had his primary education at Hitherfield in Streamham, south London, and became deputy head boy at the Boys’ Independent Senior School, St Dunstan’s college in southeast London during his secondary level. He went on to study English and French Law from the University of Manchester, where he was awarded with an upper second class LLB.
He was adopted as the Labour party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for streamham in 2008 and polled a majority of 3,259 votes at the 2010 general election to become an elected member of parliament for streamham.
His Nigerian father, Bennett, died in a road accident in his homeland in 1992. His English mother, Patricia, is a solicitor and daughter of Sir Helenus Milmo QC, the Anglo-Irish high court judge.
Afolami, a conservative politician in the parliament, works as a corporate lawyer.
He attended Bishopsgate prep school, Eton and Oxford, studying modern history and was vice president of the Oxford Union Society.
He was then a political adviser at the House of Commons and worked in corporate law before moving onto finance as a senior executive at HSBC.
The father of two is also a school governor and has mentored teenagers.
He lives in Northampton and has previously contested the Lewisham Deptford seat in 2015, where he achieved 15 per cent of the vote, gaining 7,056 votes in a Labour stronghold. He is described as an ‘astute public speaker’.
He was quoted by The Comet just after the election as saying: “I’m feeling completely over the moon to be the new MP for Hitchin and Harpenden. It’s such a great feeling. I’m completely honoured. I would like to pay tribute to my opponents who fought a fair and democratic fight.”