Chijike Ndukwu has spent his career identifying community problems, designing measurable community-led solutions, and developing permanent local institutions to sustain positive impacts – experience that will serve him well as he seeks election to the Assembly in District 34.
A lifelong progressive Democrat, Chijike is running as an independent because he no longer believes that the current political party structure is invested in solving the problems of ordinary people in his district. The corrupt party system in New Jersey has resulted in what Chijike calls “learned political helplessness” among the very citizens who should be shaping their communities. As a member of the Assembly, he hopes to re-engaged his fellow citizens and provide them with a progressive, sustainable and real democratic opportunity in shaping their own future.
Chijike’s interest in community engagement and activism began when he was a young man in Nigeria. His pursuit of this passion eventually led to his becoming a United States citizen. From 1999–2006, he served as the National Secretary-General for the Nigerian Chapter of the International Student Movement for the United Nations. In this position, he visited the United States for the first time to attend a program at the UN Headquarters in New York. This visit changed his life, both personally and professionally. During this visit, he began learning about the green building methods promoted by the U.S. Green Building Council, and he decided to refocus his architecture practice toward sustainable building in Nigeria. And at the very end of his visit – passing through New York Penn Station on his way back to JFK Airport, in fact – Chijike met a very interesting young woman from New Jersey.
In 2007, Chijike returned to New York to learn more about green building practices. He reconnected with Judith, the woman he’d met in Penn Station four years earlier. They fell in love and married in 2009, and are now raising their twin daughters in East Orange. Chijike became a U.S. citizen in 2012, the same year he co-founded Afrikind International Foundation, Inc. As Executive Director of Afrikind International, Chijike has used his extensive community organizing and professional experience to promote progressive poverty alleviation and economic development projects in Africa and Haiti.
In 2015, Chijike had his first direct encounter with the realities of New Jersey politics when he tried to engage with local institutions in East Orange to promote youth engagement and progressive community development projects – the sort of work he’d previously done abroad in his nonprofit work. To his shock, he experienced roadblocks at every turn, even when offering to donate his time and experience to help solve community problems. The thwarting of every effort Chijike made contribute to his immediate community prompted him to start thinking of viable alternatives.
Chijike realized then that the problems he saw in East Orange and all over New Jersey had their roots in a political system that discourages real competition between candidates, and which had become a threat to the future of the United States more generally. He realized that these problems would not change until New Jersey’s political system changed. Chijike believes that government must be a force for positive, measurable and inclusive change for the good of all citizens – rich or poor, healthy or sick. As a member of the Assembly, he intends to promote economic justice, alleviate poverty and drive a regimen of sustainable economic growth. He will donate part of his salary as a member of the New Jersey Assembly toward setting up and sustaining the District 34 Foundation, a nonprofit that will raise funds for local schools, promote STEM and youth entrepreneurship, provide property tax rebates for seniors, provide health insurance for the uninsured, and create jobs in urban agriculture and community solar energy solution.
Chijike is disappointed that leaders in New Jersey politics have prioritized their own interests and shut citizens out of the political process. If elected, he pledges to serve the people of District 34 with honesty and integrity, to consult with constituents regularly, and to hold himself accountable to them in how he votes on or advances legislation in Trenton.