At 28, Victoria Oluboyo has joined the national leadership of the PD. A city councilwoman in Parma, she is part of the group of new recruits that Secretary Elly Schlein has decided to elevate to the ranks of the party’s top leadership.
Ms. Oluboyo, what is your background as an activist?
I started with volunteer work and student associations. I was a university representative with UDU and vice president of the Nigerian association in Parma – we opened an anti-violence center for trafficking victims together with them. Then, in 2017, I joined the PD and in the last elections I was elected to the city council of my city, Parma. When Elly Schlein ran for the secretariat, I decided to follow her because she represents the issues that have been at the core of my political activity: from immigration to asylum rights, from the condition of youth labor to the serious housing crisis that we are going through, especially here in northern Italy, and including civil rights and the environmental crisis.
Back when you joined the PD, the issues she talks about were not exactly central to the party’s agenda.
It’s true. Over the years I’ve seen so many people leave the PD because they didn’t feel represented, but I always felt that I had to fight from within so these issues would become important to the party. I think Schlein’s focus on these issues helped her in the primaries. For the first time, the choice of the PD members was overruled by non-members, and this was because the people who gravitate towards the PD wanted to come home, to find a place where they could see themselves reflected, and they knew that this would only be possible with Schlein’s victory. Now we have to work for these issues to be truly central: wages, labor, rights and the environment.
What do you think the relations with the minority in the PD will be like?
It will be important to find mediation. The PD was born as a progressive party with many camps within it, and it is indeed democratic, so everyone will have a voice. However, our voters are asking us for a clear line and Schlein represents a radical change: no more alliances of a certain kind, no more lowest-common-denominator compromises. We need strong choices. During the primary campaign we talked a lot about the mistakes made by the PD in the past years: it was necessary to answer the question of why we lost so much support. For example, the Jobs Act was a mistake, just as funding for the Libyan coast guard was a mistake. We cannot deny it, but we have acquired the understanding that we will have to act differently. I feel that there is a lot of confidence in that, and being in the leadership is a great honor and responsibility for me.
Meanwhile the country has lurched towards the right. What to do?
We often tend to blame the voters, but if many people voted for far-right parties, this is probably because they thought these could best represent them. Of course, now we see that the government is taking away the citizenship income, reducing minimum pensions and limiting rights. On our side, I think we will have to work a lot on those who did not go to vote: there was huge abstentionism in the last elections and we have to ask ourselves why. The PD must become a credible party again and able to speak to those who are no longer participating. We will have to have the strength of consistency: that’s what the people asked for in the primaries.