- Yet, another Nigerian gets an unusual appointment abroad
He is a Nigerian-born Canadian leader of whom his country of birth is proud. Kaycee (Kelechi) Madu just made history as the first person of African origin to be appointed Minister of Justice and Solicitor-General of Alberta, a province of Canada. His appointment to that office was not only historic, he has a historic mission and came a long way in his professional career and public service in his country of domicile to attain that height.
In an address at Madu’s inauguration, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said his appointment was expected to bring “needed perspective” to the province’s justice system. “At a time when we are all more sensitive to the reality of racial prejudice, I think it is a strong statement that Alberta will have its first justice minister of African origin; first Black Canadian justice minister, attorney-general or solicitor-general. He is a man who has experienced racial prejudice first hand, and can bring that sensitivity to this important role,” Kenney stated.
Speaking in a statement thereafter, Madu said he was conscious of the burden of history on him to make the society he’s been called upon to serve more equitable and just for all its dwellers. “I spent my entire professional career fighting for those who lacked means…I am determined to make sure our justice system represents all Albertans in a way that is fair and accountable,” he stated. Also in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Newsday, he said: “I do have a tremendous opportunity to make sure that we use the vehicle of the justice system to ensure that people are able to live their lives in a way that allows them to achieve their God-given potential.”
Forty-seven-year-old Madu was born and raised in South-east Nigeria. He graduated in law from the University of Lagos in 2001 and practiced law in Nigeria, then subsequently in Alberta where he relocated in 2005 with his wife, who also studied law and with whom he founded the Tisel Law Office in Alberta. In the course of his career and community service, he worked for Legal Aid Alberta, and volunteered with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and the Lawyer Referral Program of the Law Society of Alberta. But it was more of Madu’s political activism that brought him into public office. He belongs to the United Conservative Party and was a member of the legislative assembly of the province, representing the district of Edmonton-South West after winning the 2019 Alberta general election. On April 30, 2019, he was appointed to the Executive Council of Alberta as Minister of Municipal Affairs, from which position he was recently upgraded as justice minister.
Madu has done well for himself and is a showpiece of the Nigerian brand, hence he deserves being celebrated and applauded. Unlike some who by engaging in illicit activities have soiled Nigeria’s image before the world, he is a worthy ambassador of his land of nativity. His exploits in Alberta reflect the positive potential of the growing community of Nigerians in Canada. But also, he indexes amenability of the Alberta society to accommodate merit in diversity, and that is something to learn by Nigeria. Madu himself highlighted this point when he told BBC’s Newsday: “I love my home country Nigeria, but there is no question that I look forward to the day when my fellow countrymen and women in that country can achieve their God-given potential regardless of the part of the country they come from and regardless of who their parents are.”
There is much to learn from Madu’s fortunes in this country where the Cross River State legislature early this year rejected Justice Akon Ikpeme’s nomination as Chief Judge, for no reason other than she hails from Akwa Ibom State though she was born in Calabar, served her entire career in Cross River and is married to a Cross Riverian. A similar experience was that by Justice Elizabeth Karatu in Kebbi State.
Nigeria must learn to affirm qualification by merit over primordial factors where due.