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Toni Iwobi

Italy’s first black senator is a member of the anti-immigration League

Italy's first black Senator is a member of the anti-migrant League, led by Matteo Salvini.

Published: March 9, 2018, 7:15 am

    Nigerian-origin Toni Iwobi, is currently a Bergamo resident who has been in Salvini’s party for more than 20 years. Iwobi, 62, is an IT entrepreneur. He became a town councillor for the League in Spirano in 1995.

    Since then he has been a committed activist and has become the party’s immigration and security chief, speaking regularly on Italian TV. “My party is fighting to restore legal immigration,” he told the Guardian.

    Iwobi, a Christian, has lived in Italy for 38 years, before being elected as the country’s first black Senator in Sunday’s general election. He campaigned under the party slogan “stop the invasion”.

    Born in Gusau in northern Nigeria in April 1955, Iwobi is one of 11 siblings in a Roman Catholic family. He came to Italy on a student visa in 1976. “Back then no-one could get in the country without the right papers. It’s not like that anymore,” he said in a recent interview with Il Fatto Quotidiano.

    Meanwhile, Italian forward Mario Balotelli, who plays football for the club Nice, said on Wednesday that Iwobi was betraying his racial roots. “Perhaps I’m blind or perhaps they have not told him yet that he is black. But shame on you!!!,” Balotelli said via Instagram. Balotelli was born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents but adopted by an Italian family.

    Iwobi responded that “I prefer to ignore him”.

    But League leader Salvini did not. “I didn’t like Balotelli on the field, I like him even less off it,” Salvini said.

    Balotelli, who scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for Italy, has frequently been the target of abuse.

    Andrew Howe, the first black man in Italian athletics, said Iwobi’s being immigration chief “is a bit of a nonsense” but the official “has his political ideas, he has probably studied and decided what to embrace”.

    Young adults in Italy voted overwhelmingly in favour of Eurosceptic, anti-mass migration parties in the country’s election on Sunday.

    According to a survey carried out by Tecne, it was revealed that at least 44 percent of those aged between 18 to 30 backed the Five Star Movement, whilst a further 13 percent voted for the Lega.

    Another 3 percent of young adults backed the nationalist Brothers of Italy, meaning that in total 60 percent of young Italians backed parties critical of the Euro, anti-establishment and anti-mass migration.

    Talks between parties is now under way to come up with a coalition government.

    A similar trend was observed in the French election, where 44 percent of youngsters backed Marine Le Pen, with the pro-Frexit Presidential candidate more popular amongst young French voters than older ones.

    The anti-establishment rebellion surging across the continent, is being fuelled by young Europeans.

    Iwobi is not the first black politician in Italy however. Cécile Kyenge, became Italy’s first black minister in the chamber of deputies, the lower house of parliament, in 2013 and later served as integration minister in the leftist government.

    Kyenge suffered continuous attacks during her brief tenure, including having bananas thrown at her and being likened to an orangutan by a League senator, Roberto Calderoli.

    But Iwobi asked foreigners to “stay calm” when faced with racism. “Our policies are intended to bring peace and order to the nation,” he said.

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