One of the U of R’s own runs for mayor
Hafsa Hassan Kombo
U of R student Meka Okochi is in the running for mayor of Regina. The 34-year-old Nigerian-born Canadian student is currently pursuing a PhD in water infrastructure at the University of Regina. Okochi, who came to Regina in 2004, is also employed at the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission as the head of economics development.
Okochi, one of four city council candidates affiliated with the U of R, made his announcement to run for mayor in early April of this year.
Like many politicians before him, Okochi has focused his campaign on maximizing opportunities for the people of Regina and engaging them in civic governance.
“I dream of Regina as a working class city,” Okochi said. “A city diverse in terms of culture, the economy, and career opportunities. A city with easy access to accommodation.”
Okochi believes that through a diversity of new ideas he will be able to capture the creativity of the public and get them engaged in the election process.
In order to avoid the typical low voter turnout of previous municipal elections, Okochi plans to use communication and social media to boost public participation. One of Okochi’s ideas, he has decided to engage in a series of house calls where people invite him to their homes and talk to him about the challenges they face. He claims that it also has the added benefit of allowing other people to get to know him.
“No matter the outcome, I hope I can inspire a new generation of voters.” – Meka Okochi
In regards to how he intends to get students involved, Okochi is looking to devise different tactics to get students interested in voting. One such tactic revolves around getting URSU involved in the municipal election process; however, he is still waiting on their response. If he gets URSU’s help Okochi plans to engage students in debates with the candidates so as to create a dialogue between the students and their future leaders.
“This will help to create a government that listens,” he said.
In addition, Okochi feels there are ways that the city could be getting involved to improve post-secondary education in Regina.
“Education is an experience that ought to be enjoyed by every individual,’’ he said.
According to Okochi, the city should do more to help students have access to affordable housing by providing them with more options.
“The people of Regina should be given sustainable solutions both for the long term and short term.’’
The new football stadium has clearly landed itself as the number one issue in the municipal election. Many advocates of affordable housing are claiming that the money for the new football stadium could be better spent on developing new homes for low income individuals. Although he is not opposed to the stadium, Okochi believes the city’s decisions were made with too much haste.
“I would have done it differently,” he said. “I would have not made any decisions until the issue had been critically looked at and had the engagement of citizens with more discussion about the issue.’’
Although he is a new candidate, Okochi is full of optimism and believes that this could be his year.
“No matter the outcome, I hope I can inspire a new generation of voters.”