Supporting Local News

Nigerian hopefuls ensure international dimension for local elections

Islammiyah Saudique-Kadejo is not a name that rolls off the tongue; nor does it fit easily on an election poster. But on the credit side of the ledger for the Nigerian native plotting to win a seat on Galway County Council, it’s a name that will stand out on the ballot paper.

So too will her pen picture – as of now, Saudique-Kadejo is the only black person running in the Tuam Local Electoral Area (LEA).

If sucessful, she will become the first person of colour elected to County Hall. She’d be the first Muslim Galway County Councillor, too.

Her Green Party colleague is attempting to achieve a similar feat in Galway City East. Ballybane-based Joyce Mathias (main photo), a Nigerian national, is looking to make Green gains in one of Galway’s most culturally diverse electoral areas.

Both were approached to run in next year’s Local Election by Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly.

“I see it as a bigger platform to do more for the community,” said Ms Saudique-Kadejo, from Abeokuta in southwest Nigeria.

The Claregalway resident has never before been involved in electoral politics but is big on community development and social justice.

She came to Ireland eleven years ago, living first in Oranmore and now Claregalway. Married to a man who arrived ten years earlier, she’s a mother of three children, aged 7, 10 and 11, who attend the local Educate Together school.

She holds a masters in gender, globalisation and human rights at University of Galway. A founder in 2021 of GOCOM Radio, Ireland’s first community radio for ethnic minorities, she also founded Amdalah Africa Foundation, a charity that promotes justice, recognition and representation of women of African descent.

Islammiyah Saudique-Kadejo, who is running for election on Galway County Council in Tuam LEA.

She’s a board member of Galway City Community Network and works to promote integration and to support marginalised minority groups.

Ms Saudique-Kadejo is an author of three books; one about sickle cell anaemia, one on child paternity; and one about domestic violence. She’s writing a fourth, about child violence against their parents.

“Always social issues,” she said.

Social issues are at the core of Joyce Mathias’ motivation to enter politics, too.

“When I see injustice it hurts me to the marrow of my bone,” she said.

“It’s about equity. It’s about treating everyone right. It’s about the same service, the same amenity, the same homes for every single area. If I say I’m not upset, I’m lying. Upset is an understatement.”

Born in Kaduna States in northern Nigeria, she has lived in Galway City’s eastside for 21 years, including on Headford Road, Doughiska and now Ballybane.

A lone parent of three daughters aged 20, 13 and nine, she found life as a migrant “very rough” initially. Working as a community employee with Galway Simon Community, a homeless charity, helped her settle. Then she returned to education and earned a degree in marketing at ATU and a masters in strategic innovation at University of Galway.

But “my passion was in humanity, not business – I find fulfilment in helping people,” she said.

A volunteer with Trocaire, Ireland’s developing world charity, Ms Mathias regularly returns to rural areas like her local town, Kafanchan, to give back.

That happens through toiletries donations, motivational talks to girls in secondary schools, or raising awareness of injustices, including in prisons, where inmates could be jailed for theft of something worth €1 “because of hunger and starvation”.

Ms Mathias works in retail and is popular with staff and customers of Tesco on Fr Griffin Road. She also works as a translator for various state bodies.

She joined the Greens “because of my love for nature” and agreed to contest next year’s local elections to improve services in City East.

“I hope I win the seat because I really intend to right the wrongs,” she said.

Transport is one major issue, including lack of school buses from Ballybane to Merlin College, poor bus services generally, and the need for better infrastructure such as pedestrian crossings. But anti-social behaviour is her priority.

“What is the cost of that anti-social behaviour? What is the rationale? People who are acting out, why are they doing that? Why is the place being littered? I feel the area has been neglected for so long, especially Ballybane. There is no youth centre in Ballybane. The only time you see politicians in this area is election time,” she said.

Ms Mathias has begun canvassing and so far the reception has been positive.

“About 90% of people who open the doors have been fantastic. Very friendly, and very accommodating. They love me but I don’t know if they’re being polite or if that will translate to votes,” she added.

Ms Saudique-Kadejo agreed she needs more than migrant votes to take one of the six seats in Tuam LEA.

“Sure,” she said. “I will be serving all marginalised groups. It’s not just about Nigerians. I am all about community, it’s not about Nigeria and it’s not about colour. I want communities to see my value, to see my passion for what I can deliver for them, rather than me being a migrant or from Nigeria, because I’m not doing it for that.”

But she is acutely aware, too, of how her bid to take a seat on Galway County Council is pioneering.

“I am the first Muslim running. Ireland is very Catholic. So someone like me, a Muslim, I think it’s a big step for representation. It is good for diversity, it is good for multiculturalism and it is good for Ireland, which is becoming more diverse and multi-cultural every day.

“I think it’s a good thing. I am so proud for the future of Ireland,” added Ms Saudique-Kadejo.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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