Rotimi Adebari is a Nigerian-Irish politician who made history in Ireland after becoming the country’s first black mayor.
In 1964, Rotimi Adebari was born to unnamed parents in Okeodan, Ogun State, in the Western nation of Nigeria. Much of Adebari’s life isn’t largely documented. However, Adebari did receive a Bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Benin, Nigeria, in 1993. He later occupied a position at the sales and marketing unit at the Ogun State television station. During his time in Nigeria, Adebari who was a Muslim converted to Christianity. His livelihood was interrupted due to religious persecution between Muslims and Christians in southwestern Nigeria in 2000. Together with his wife, Ronke, and two sons, Damilare and Opeayo, Rotimi sought asylum in Ireland.
Adebari and his family arrived in Portlaoise, Ireland in 2003. His asylum application was initially rejected but the family was able to get residency rights in the country since Adebari’s wife conceived a son in Ireland. While living in the city, Rotimi became engaged with the activities of several organizations including volunteering at the Abbeyleix Tennis Club in Abbeyleix, Ireland. He was also a training consultant on intercultural and anti-racism issues with the group Optimum Point.
In 2004, Adebari earned a master’s degree in intercultural studies at Dublin City University and meddled in local politics that same year when he was elected to the Portlaoise town council as an independent candidate. In 2006, launched an initiative integration called Voices Across Cultures. The initiative uses food, arts, and music to promote cross-cultural appreciation in Ireland.
In 2005, Adebari was selected to be a jury member for the European Programme for Integration and Migration in Brussels, Belgium. Adebari was also credited with establishing the volunteering initiative for the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. His role is to encourage students to volunteer to address various social problems. He was also a Director for the Portlaoise Educate Together National School Board of Management and the Irish National Organization of the Unemployed.
In June 2007, Adebari was elected mayor of Portlaoise, becoming the first black mayor in Ireland’s history. During the June 2009 elections, Adebari retained his Town Council seat while securing a seat in the Laois County Council. His victory made him the first immigrant to be elected to that level of government in Ireland. In 2011 he was an unsuccessful candidate in the Irish National Parliament general election.
Rotimi Adebari has served as a member of the Community, Economic Development, Cultural Heritage, Sport, and County Promotion Strategic Policy Committee of Laois County Council. He has been the host of the radio program Respecting Difference, which celebrates cultural diversity and promotes racial integration. Adebari organized a non-profit organization called Books for Africa Ireland. The organization was responsible for donating books to institutions of higher education in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 2012, Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice and Equality appointed Adebari a Peace Commissioner which is an honorary position in Ireland.
Adebari has received many awards including the Worthy Ambassador and Global Achievers Awards, Bold and Beautiful Magazine Person of the Year, Xclusive Magazine Person of the Year, RTE & Metro Eireann Media and Multicultural Award, and the Social Entrepreneur Award.