Dr. John Akude (56) has made history. The native Nigerian is the first black man in the history of the city of Cologne to join the council.
On Sunday 13 September, millions of voters went to the polls in towns and cities across North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, to vote for Lord Mayors, Mayors, Councillors and the Integration Councils.
Many candidates of African origin participated at the elections but Dr John Emeka Akude, a Nigerian-born political scientist, was elected member of the Cologne City Council (Stadtrat). He made history by becoming the first Councillor of African origin in Cologne, Germany’s 4th biggest city with about 1 million inhabitants.
His “Climate Friends” party won two seats in the council election (2.01 percent). Akude will occupy one of them, the other gets top candidate Nicolin Gabrysch (44), who also ran for the mayor election (3.45 percent).
“I am proud that this historic event happened to me. I am aware of the importance and significance of this task, ”says Akude, who lives in Vogelsang with his wife and two daughters (18, 12) and runs a consulting agency for development and investment in Africa.
Reacting to Akude’s victory, Rahab Njeri, the only other African-origin candidate who took part in the election in Cologne said though she was not elected but all African-descendant inhabitants of the city were winners with the victory of the Nigerian-born politician. Both ran on the platform of Klima Freunde (Friends of the Climate).
Other results that have been released show that several African candidates won elections into the Integration Council (Integrationsrat) in their cities and towns, including Kevin Uguru in Essen, Pastor Lumbu in Dortmund and Elizabeth Kaneza in Aachen.
Akude has had a relationship with Cologne for a long time. “In 1992 I watched a program in Nigeria that reported on the Bundesliga. Even then I was a fan of 1. FC Köln. Also because red and white is my absolute favorite combination, ”he says. “A few years later I ended up here for work by chance.”
Akude feels at home in Cologne. “I love the city,” he says. So far, he has rarely experienced racism. “What I like about Cologne is that it is really cosmopolitan. Now I’m looking forward to helping make the city even better. “
Integration Council – in some cities also known as Ausländerrat or Ausländerbeirat (Foreigners’ Advisory Council) – is the official representative organ of the residents of foreign origin in a city, municipality and district.
The main task of the council is to represent the interests of the foreign-origin population and, above all, to advocate for integration and equality between foreign and German residents at the local level.