After a history-making victory, Nigerian immigrant Yemi Mobolade was sworn in on June 6 as mayor of Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in the western U.S. state of Colorado.
Colorado Governor Jered Polis said he is inspired by Mobolade’s story.
“Somebody who has dedicated his life to making Colorado Springs and America a better place, whose story we can all identify with, who came here, who started businesses,” Polis said at the inauguration ceremony.
Mobolade moved to the U.S. 27 years ago as a student and became a U.S. citizen in 2017. He started a family, opened two restaurants and a church, and then won election in this traditionally conservative city as its first elected Black leader.
“I wake up every morning and I think it’s a dream, and then I realize, no, this really happened,” Mobolade said.
But what earned him the trust of many residents, some said, is his stint as the small business development manager for Colorado Springs from 2019 to 2022.
Some residents told VOA that Mobolade’s electoral victory sends a message that their state is welcoming to people from all walks of life.
“Colorado Springs is lavishly hospitable,” Michael Lipede told VOA. “If the natives of Colorado have not received us with an open heart, there is no way we will accomplish all we have accomplished,” said Lipede, a lead pastor at Redeemed Christian Church of God Living Faith Sanctuary in Colorado Springs.
In a city of nearly 500,000 people that is more than 75% White, residents found hope in the fact that so many voters were willing to support someone from a different background.
“Coloradans ... don’t believe in ethnicity, they believe in competence and capacity and capability, and they found out that Mr. Yemi has it all.” Olawale Akinremi, a Colorado Springs resident told VOA.
“I feel hopeful about today. I love our new mayor, Yemi Mobolade. He is a man of strength, faith, character, and courage. And we are so fortunate to have him leading our city,” Cindy Aubrey, Colorado Springs resident said.
Another resident, Nkechi Onyejekwe said “I think it is something that is very amazing to celebrate and I think it is something very timely as well,” she told VOA, adding that “Colorado Springs has a very diverse population and I think that their legislative bodies should also reflect that.”
Ami Bajah-Onyejekwe, a Pueblo Colorado resident said it is important for people to see someone they can look up to in positions of leadership. “Just by seeing someone who looks like you, who has similar background to yours and see where that person has reached, and the goals they have achieved,” she said, “gives hope and says, ‘I can do it as well.’”
Mobolade has pledged to be a leader for all of Colorado City’s increasingly diverse population.
“I think today matters for a lot of young black kids because it tells them that the sky’s the limit, that they too can step into the arena and lead,” he said.
This story originated in VOA’s Hausa Service.