Why I’m seeking Lowell’s council seat: Ben Opara campaigns in Massachussetts
USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu interviewed Benjamin Tyndale Opara, an aspirant in 2009 for a seat in the Lowell City Council in Massachussetts. Here are excerpts:
Tell us about Lowell?
Lowell is the northernmost city in the state of Massachusetts. To its immediate border to the north is the state of New Hampshire. It is governed by a slate of nine councilors amongst whom there is a mayor. It is for one of those seats that I am vying.
What will set you apart from your opponents?
I bring a wealth of knowledge and life experience to the table. Our city is a unique city that has seen a lot of challenges and setbacks in recent times. Our council has been plagued by infighting and discord. In such atmosphere, not a lot get done. In several boards that I’ve had the opportunity to serve on, my colleagues have termed me Mr. Congeniality.
I have a knack for working with people, despite differences, to get things accomplished. Results, results and nothing but results-oriented. Further, besides being the only person of African descent in the race, I will be an excellent representative of all blue-collar workers, irrespective of their ethnicity, gender or immigration generation. I have made it a point that while recognizing who I am, I run no race of color, as we know that term. I know no color outside of green for the environment and blue for blue-collar workers. With almost twenty years of running two businesses in the city, I know first-hand, what challenges small businesses routinely face; make payroll, balance budgets, personnel and human resource issues and still deal with governmental bureaucracy.
What are your key items for leadership for your district?
I have served in various boards in and around the city and the region. I have served in different capacities in these boards including chairman. I was a two-term vestry member in the oldest and most elite church in the city and ended up the canonical head of same church, as its warden.
I was able to guide that parish through what has been described as the toughest time in the life of that parish. That church is presently seen as one of the healthiest in the community and the diocese. I helped found and still sit on the board of the African Cultural Association (ACA) which has organized a world-class African Festival each year for nine years. All cylinders are already firing for next years’ tenth anniversary. Cities and towns around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond have been coming to us to emulate what we have succeeded in doing here. That is the Lowell pride!
Share with USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine readers a brief bio-profile of you….
I was born at the Owerri General Hospital in southeastern Nigeria to Moses and Agnes Opara of Irete, Imo State, I attended Saint Augustine’s Grammar School, a parochial high school built and ran by the Anglican Church. Upon graduation in 1977, I worked briefly with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing before proceeding to the University of Nigeria. In 1985, I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering. I completed a year-long national service under the National Youth Service Corps program before immigrating to the United States.
I worked at American Engineering and Testing in Braintree, MA before moving to Lowell to attend U-Mass Lowell in 1990. Upon completion in 1992, reluctant to move away from Lowell, I started Princeton Ritz Industries. We manufacture a complete array of personal-care products which sell across the country and the globe.
In 1993 I married my lovely wife Valerie (nee Langley) and moved to Dracut. We have been blessed with three lovely children; Ukachukwu 15, Adarema 12 and Chikere 9. Our children have attended and are still attending public schools in Lowell.
In 1998, with a desire to fulfill an entrepreneurial dream and to further contribute to the local economy, we started M & E Beauty Supply on Bridge Street. We run both businesses till date.
I currently live in Pawtucketville section of Lowell, MA.
How is the African community especially supporting you?
The African community has been incredible. The Nigerian Association of Merrimack Valley (NAMV) which I helped form ten years ago is fifty-something-family strong. Our members and the entire African community have been nothing but stellar. Simply incredible! To be able to raise close to eight thousand dollars on the first fundraiser by a first-time candidate, filling the banquet hall to capacity was energizing. What has been even more gratifying is the support my campaign has received from outside the African and African-American communities.
Were you inspired by Obama’s election to run?
As much as I would like to say that I was inspired by Obama, the thought of running for an elected office has always been there. His race did a lot though, to buttress what I have suspected in the past; that people are indeed more open-minded than they are given credit for.
What are your thoughts on regularizing the immigration status of persons who have been here and paying taxes and raising their families across your constituency and the U.S?
At the local level of politics that I am involved, I have little or no say on such issues as immigration and regularization of peoples’ status. Now, having said that, I believe that every legal immigrant deserves the right to the better future that this country promises its citizens, so long as they work hard and play by the rules.
Where do you see Nigeria heading, and your assessment of the leadership since 1960?
I have been out of Nigeria for a while, though I visit occasionally. Now, am I qualified to assess their leadership? Answers will be subjective. I will, albeit, take a bite at it.
Nigeria is a frustrating case, in the sense that one wonders if the leaders have any resolve to truly serve the country. There are two things primarily; do they have the resolve and do they have the talent, the intellectual ability to bring forth meaningful changes? I will score them very low in both.
(Published on USAfricaonline.com on Thursday October 8, 2009)
President Obama, hate-mongers and mob cons. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, www.Achebebooks.com, CLASS magazine, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica.TV, and the largest digital images/pictorial events domain for Africans abroad www.PhotoWorks.TV
USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York
Times as the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia
networks) established May 1992, our first edition of USAfrica magazine
was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994;
CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; www.PhotoWorks.TV in 2005