The Journey So Far

While recuperating from the energy-sapping session to elect Marcy Winograd of Santa Monica, CA., a group of well-meaning Nigerians who congregated at Mrs. Lara Okunubi’s pristine residence in a suburb of Los Angeles, contemplated the fact that if they could mobilize a collective effort for Marcy’s election campaign, and even raised a decent amount of about $6000, they could do the same for a viable advocacy entity – a political and social welfare think tank where the intellectual and numerical assets of Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans could be harnessed to invigorate our active participation in American political and civic life.

As the growing numerical strength of Nigerians, wide- ranging professional, and entrepreneurial accomplishments speak for themselves, this idea of a viable political advocacy group gained traction, hence, NAPAC-USA was conceived. It was in May 1, 2011 and the maiden election of officers to pilot the affairs of this nascent entity was conducted four months later on September 17, 2011.

Keeping Faith With The Mission

With deliberate modesty, even as the dreams of the founding elected officers were understandably ambitious, NAPAC-USA went to work to keep faith with its mission – to energize the massive, but very politically passive Nigeria-American community, into active participation in the civic and political life of America.

Using the conduit of the advocacy group to rebrand and re-package our battered image as a community became as important as also using this advocacy group to help elect Nigerian-Americans and native born Americans, who share our values and common interest, into the local, state, and national elective offices of the country.

The presidential election season of 2011 provided an opportunity to put our corporate name on the national civic map. Thus, NAPAC-USA was first formed as a Political Action Committee (PAC), to help raise money for the successful re-election of President Barack Obama.

This PAC was able to raise a decent sum of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) for the re-election efforts of the president, thanks to the collective efforts of illustrious Nigerians who graciously hosted pockets of fund-raising events across Southern California and beyond.

At this juncture, it is important to emphasize that the decision to raise money for the president’s re-election was not driven by any corporate ideological or partisan preference. NAPAC-USA is strictly a non-partisan advocacy group. This fund-raising effort was to symbolize our excitement that someone with African roots had the historic opportunity to seek and was actually elected to the highest office of the land, and supporting this effort would also help put the name of NAPAC-USA in the national political map, if not attract the needed attention of habitually passive Nigerians. The organization has since evolved from a PAC to 501 (3) (c) and 501 (4) (c) organizations.

Consolidating The Gains

With two years of corporate existence, about one hundred and five nominal and dues-paying registered members, five registered state PACs across the United States, and a foundation conceived to lead all fund-raising efforts, NAPAC-USA has put viable and sustainable structures in place and all well-meaning Nigerians must not equivocate in rallying to consolidate our corporate gains.

Even more visionary is the deliberate nurturing of a promising and dynamic youth wing! After all, our youth, who are the expected leaders of tomorrow, must be carried along so they can seamlessly take over and advance the legacy being put in place.

As the current leadership is hopeful and ambitious about the promise of tomorrow, I must not fail to warn that the enduring constraints of political apathy and the absence of unrestrained altruism which tend to persist in our community could be a threat to the full realization of NAPAC’s mission. Thus, I urge the good people of the Nigerian-American community to learn and imbibe a fundamental tenet of American political culture – the politics of interest groups. No politically passive community has ever had one of their own elected into any public office or have their interest or issues even discussed at the local, state or national legislative power houses. We have come of age in this country, evolving in second and even third generations and our presence and contributions at all professional segments of this society should no longer be taken for granted – even by ourselves.

Conclusion

Fellow compatriots, as we begin to contemplate a transition to a new set of leaders to guide our corporate journey, we can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. The vision that was contemplated at a suburb in Los Angeles two years ago is now a reality and there is no going back.

The organizational structures are in place; our collective efforts raised monies for the campaigns of President Barack Obama, Gloria Tinubu, Stephen Anyaka, and some Nigerian office seekers in Northern California, etc. NAPAC-USA even collaborated with the local county Registrar’s office to register thousands of voters during the last election season. If these are not sound and compelling examples of civic commitments and duties what are? Indeed, we have come of age!

It is now up to us to continue to believe and to shake-off the insidious weight of political apathy and claim our place in the civic and active political life of the United States of America. We must do this as we also prepare and nurture our youths for even greater leadership of tomorrow.

Long live NAPAC-USA, long live Nigeria, and long live the Nigeria-American community.

Sincerely,
Charles I. Onunkwo
Rancho Cucamonga, California
(626) 483-0297

Charles Onunkwo, was past Treasurer of NAPAC-USA and has been a healthcare professional for over 23 years. Currently the Director of Health Information Management at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, he is also an Adjunct Professor of Health Informatics and Health Science at DeVry University, Pomona. He loves traveling and is a passionate commentator on cultural, social and political issues of public interest.