Nigerian athletics coach becomes first African Lord Mayor of Leeds

Abigail Marshall Katung has been named Leeds’ next Lord Mayor, making her the first African to do so. Becoming the 130th Lord Mayor of the city, the Nigerian-born councilor will take over from Al Garthwaite. Throughout her term, she will have the assistance of her spouse, Nigerian Senator Sunday Marshall Katung, the Lord Mayor Consort.

Speaking of her appointment, Katung said in a statement: “It is with great appreciation and humility that I embrace the privilege of becoming this great city’s 130th Lord Mayor. Since arriving in Leeds in 2000, the city quickly became my cherished second home. It was not just the city where I lived, studied, and worked, it’s where I chose to raise my children and become a public servant.

“My appointment as Lord Mayor has been widely celebrated in the city’s African community and is a shining example of the enormous contribution international students make to UK society. As Lord Mayor of Leeds, I am committed to working tirelessly to ensure voices are heard from all areas of the city and every triumph is recognised and celebrated.”

The newly appointed Lord Mayor has, as is customary, designated the Leeds Community Foundation as the charity she will support during her term. She selected this organization because it supports a variety of small, local nonprofits that address important societal injustices, including mental health, digital inclusion, food poverty, and health disparities—all issues that are near and dear to her.

The trailblazer, a native of Zaria, Kaduna State, came to the UK in 2000 as a postgraduate student in the Politics & International Studies Department at the University of Leeds.

In memory of her father, who she describes as having had a “profound influence” on her life and who instilled in her the value of “education for service,” she remained committed to her studies in the UK after he died in 1999.

Following graduation, Katung started her own company and had twin boys, who are currently attending college. The appointee made history in 2019 when she was elected to represent the Little London and Woodhouse wards in the city center, becoming the first African member of the Leeds City Council, according to the Leeds City Council website. She was eventually re-elected in the 2023 elections.

Along with holding numerous roles within Leeds City Council, Katung also served as the lead member for faith and belief, chaired the hate crime strategic board, served as a food champion, and chaired the scrutiny boards for adults’ health and active lifestyles, infrastructure, investment, and inclusive growth.

Aside from her political career, the mompreneur is a passionate sprinter and coach. She also holds positions as a trustee for Age UK and Caring Together, a governor at Leeds City College, and co-chair of the David Oluwale Memorial Association.

Dollita Okine

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