#POLITICS: I am Going To Run For President said Chike Ukaegbu. - WELCOME TO FACTS ZONE NEWSPAPERS

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#POLITICS: I am Going To Run For President said Chike Ukaegbu.

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Chike Ukaegbu is the youngest presidential candidate in Nigerian history. His campaign is being run by an improbable and eccentric cast. One evening last summer, Chike Ukaegbu, a 35-year-old New York tech entrepreneur, called his uncle, Augustine Akalonu: “Are you sitting down?” Ukaegbu asked. Dr. Akalonu was sitting down; he was driving home from his pediatrics practice in the Bronx.

Ukaegbu had just been named among the global 100 most influential people of African descent under forty. He had been speaking at conferences around the country and running a lauded tech accelerator in New York. But he wasn’t calling about any of that.
“I’m going to run for president,” Ukaegbu said, a characteristic note of mischief in his voice.

Dr. Akalonu, a jovial man in his mid-sixties with an easy, unhurried manner said, “Great. President of what?”

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“Of Nigeria,” replied Ukaegbu.
“I nearly had a car accident,”

Dr. Akalonu told me a few months later in November, at a fundraiser he hosted in Nyack, New York. Ukaegbu had become the youngest presidential candidate in Nigerian history.

“Gerontocracy.” That’s the word critics use to describe Nigerian politics. The country has a population of almost 200 million—the largest on the continent, and the youngest: Sixty percent of Nigerians are under age 30, only six percent are older than 60. But government leadership positions are overwhelmingly filled by the aged.

This disparity illustrates a broader African trend. In 2017 researchers estimated the median age of the continent’s population was 20, while the average age of a head of state was 62. In May 2018, however, a month after angering Nigerian youth with disparaging comments at an event in London, President Muhammadu Buhari, 75, signed a law lowering the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 35.

Ukaegbu came to the U.S. in 2002 at the age of 19 to study biomedical engineering at the City College of New York. That’s where I first encountered him, although we were not friends and moved in different circles.

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“I don’t remember all students who participated in our program, but I do remember him,” Nora Heaphy, then a program director for the college’s Colin Powell Fellows in Leadership and Public Service, told me. “He was extremely charismatic, very open to learning, very engaging.”

While many fellows went to entry-level jobs at D.C. think tanks upon graduation, she said, Ukaegbu stayed in New York. In 2010, he and a friend he had met at a church concert, Kevaughn Isaacs, launched a non-profit called Re: LIFE, training disconnected youth in Harlem and Washington Heights to develop business plans and helping them complete their education. Ukaegbu himself enrolled in distance learning courses in business management and venture capitalism at Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford, as his plans expanded.

In 2013, Re:LIFE ran its first startup class requiring each trainee to launch a business by the program’s end, and Ukaegbu began noticing what he saw as bias.
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“I saw several brilliant founders who were not getting funded,” he told me.

“And I heard several bullshit stories from investors explaining why they’re not funding these people.” In 2015, he founded Startup52, a Manhattan-based “start-up accelerator” aiming to offer young entrepreneurs from underrepresented demographics intensive coaching in polishing their business plans and investor pitches. Two years later, the accolades for Re:LIFE and Startup52 helped him receive a green card through the United States’ National Interest Waiver category.

“This is the new Nigerian dream,” Damilare Ogunleye, Ukaegbu’s 33-year-old Lagos-based campaign director, told me when we met in Lagos in January. “To leave, embed in the system in the U.S., U.K., or wherever, and skip all the problems of Nigeria.”

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