Friday, June 5th, 2009 saw the closing of the Local, European and by elections. Some people had cast their ballots by post and the last date for voting was the 5th. African candidates came out in their numbers too, for the first time but only one of them managed to win. Mr. Rotimi Adebari who made history years back by being the first black Lord Mayor of Ireland, the highest ranking political position ever occupied by a black person in Ireland, was re-elected by the people of Portlaoise.
"I am highly delighted and appreciative of the fact that people still have confidence in me," Adebari said after his win. A lot of people had confidence in him and one observer was quoted in the Irish times saying " He had all the credentials of a local candidate, irrespective of where he came from." Another said: " Thereís a huge amount to learn from how Rotimi does it.Ē
Other contestants did comment that they faced racial attacks during their campaigns and others even from surprising quotas like their parties. Ms. Benedicta Attoh did not expect fellow Fine Gaelers to jilt her but following their remarks that they would not support her they were true to their word. Political affiliation did not help in shielding candidates from nasty and uncalled for attacks. They suffered the same fate as those who were contesting indepently. Mr. Patrick Maphoso who was contesting in Dublin City did get a lot of racial taunts with some of them reported and shown by Prime Time and RTE programme that was following candidates on their campaign trail.
The one question that most people have been asking themselves is why so many did so poorly? Could they have done things differently? Some of the candidates believe they did all they could and there was nothing else they could have done. Amazingly, there is a huge debate still going on in the African community about what could have or should have been done. Some believe that these candidates were ill prepared for these elections. They didnít focus on the issues and mainly focused on migration and immigrants issues.
Mr Adebari said it was pleasing that many immigrants wanted to get involved in their communities, but he suggested a rethink was needed if more were to be successful in politics. His sentiments are shared by many. They feel that if Adebari did win then anybody could win. The question is about what they need to get there. Looking at the way Mr. Adebari has lived and managed his life in Portlaise others note with praise that Mr. Adebari did actively participate in his community and even went as far as setting up a network for the unemployed in the town. Adebari also actively participates on the Tidy Towns Committee. These he did before his first election win in 2004.
Other candidates have no notable local community activism. Mostly they are active at national level where people didnít see or pay much attention to. For some even though they would have been visible in the national scene they were known for that and not for local activism. One observer too noted that "Some candidates campaigned in areas that were mostly populated by other immigrants and didnít put as much effort to the rest of the constituency. This could have been because of the racial attacks and the abuse or maybe even lack of planning. Quite a number of candidates did not have well structured campaign people. Some felt their own people were abandoning them."
The one thing though that is clear to most observers is that these candidates if they want to have a second, third, or fourth round at this they need to rethink their strategies, learn from those that have made it and find others ways to connect with the locals. If they donít there will never be a serious political breakthrough and bill boards, placards and fliers will cease to motivate but become a nuisance that most people will not pay much attention to.