America is more than a place; it is an idea. It is the idea that everyone is created equal and deserves to be treated equally throughout their lives and that everyone should have a fair shot and an equal chance to get ahead. That is what has drawn people to our shores for centuries. It is what makes us who we are. And that very idea of America has been advanced by immigrants from every part of the world — my ancestors and yours. Their dreams built America, and during National Immigrant Heritage Month, we celebrate their courage.
Those were the words of President Joe Biden when he declared June 2023 as National Immigrant Heritage Month. Over the next couple of days, Afrik Digest will be bringing you brief stories on Immigrants who have come from all over the world to these shores and are making their mark across every sphere of American society. In this piece, we take a look at Gabe Okoye, who is a member of the Democratic Party and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, representing District 102.
Gabe Okoye hails from Enugwu-Aguleri, a community in Anambra state (Nigeria) with one of the oldest dynasties in south eastern Nigeria. He relocated to the United States in 1981 and worked for years as a security guard, working his way through college to become a licensed civil engineer. He worked as a Project Engineer with Ebasco/Foster Wheeler Environmental for six years, and in May 1998, established his own company called Essex Geoscience Inc.
Gabe Okoye has lived in Lawrenceville since 1992, raising his children, who graduated from Gwinnett County Public Schools alongside his wife Agnes, who is also an Immigrant from Enugu State, in South-East, Nigeria.
A lifelong Democrat and former Chairman of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, Gabe was integral towards bringing new diverse, and progressive elected leadership to Gwinnett County and protecting the voting rights of everyone in the county. He became the Gwinnett party chairman in 2016, and as of the time he emerged the party chairman in 2016, Gwinnett was a Republican stronghold, with only five of the 25 elected officials in the county being Democrats.
However, the tide turned when Okoye led the party into the 2018 midterm elections and recorded historic wins. He recorded massive wins that captured 13 seats out of the 25 seats available in the county, including the majority of Gwinnett seats in the Georgia state legislature, from the Republicans, who currently hold only seven positions. Those historic wins led the Georgia House of Representatives with Resolution 313 of 2019 to declare November 6 of 2019 as the Gabe Okoye Leadership Day.
The Democratic Party swept the two county commission seats that were up for election and also took one of the two School Board seats contested for. Also, the party reclaimed the office of the Solicitor General of the county after decades in the hands of the Republicans.
“Under my leadership of the party, we elected the first black commissioner, first black school board member, and also the first black Solicitor-General of the county in its 200-year history as of 2018.
“The Democratic Party also produced the first black state judge from this county under my watch,” Okoye told the News Agency of Nigeria back then.
“The Democratic Party also produced the first black state judge from this county under my watch,” Okoye told NAN.
The resolution that was passed in declaring November 6, 2019 as Gabe Okoye Leadership day partly read: “Gwinnett County is the most diverse and the second-largest county in the State of Georgia, but this diversity was not reflected in the county’s leadership.
“Gabe Okoye exhibited great leadership in mobilizing and educating the various communities of Gwinnett County on the fundamental right to vote.
“He worked hard to help make the leadership of the county more inclusive, and the result of his hard work was made manifest during the general election on Nov. 6, 2018.
“Therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives that the members of this body commend Gabe Okoye and recognise Nov. 6, 2019, as Gabe Okoye Leadership Day in Gwinnett County.”
Gabe says he is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work solving the problems facing his community and his state. Gabe is someone who believes that every problem can be solved, and that a thoughtful and collaborative approach to tackle the challenges ahead is what should be embraced.
Gabe immigrated from Nigeria to pursue the American dream, and through hard work and perseverance and the support of his family and the community in Gwinnett County has been able to achieve success as a small business owner of a civil engineering company and served his community in various capacities.
He has served the diverse community in which he resides as a member of the Gwinnett County Planning Commission, and as past Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization in the Americas (NIDOA).
Okoye told NAN that another of his main objectives was to bring the Nigerian community into the mainstream of U.S. politics. Okoye, who represented Nigerians in the Diaspora at the 2014 National Conference in Abuja, decried the absence of his fellow countrymen in the U.S. political and civic space, in spite of their enormous contributions to the country’s development.
“What we Nigerians do here is to attend our various ethnic meetings and then go home. “Our people don’t mix with the mainstream of this country, and I think it is wrong.
Gabe has made public service an important part of his career and he strongly believes that being elected to the Georgia State House of Reps puts him in a perfect position to help effect that change.