Totally Real with Ikechukwu Amaechi

November 10, 2022

In Canada, Kelechi Madu soars high like an eagle

Niger Republic

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

THREE years ago, precisely on April 30, 2019, Nigerian-born Kelechi Madu, popularly called Kaycee by acquaintances, made history in his adopted country, Canada, when he took oath of office as Minister of Municipal Affairs of the Province of Alberta, with the third largest portfolio of over $3.7 billion. But that was only half of the story then. On May 21, 2019, he also took another oath of office as a lawmaker, having been elected on April 16, 2019, to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta representing Edmonton South-West.

These were incredible achievements, no doubt. But for Kelechi Madu, the sky will only be a stepping stone, not the limits of his potential for pulling off extraordinary feats, which explains why a year later – August 25, 2020 – he was appointed Minister of Justice and Solicitor General for the Government of Alberta and Provincial Secretary and Keeper of the Great Seal of the Province of Alberta – another new high.

He, thus, became the first African Minister of Justice in a Canadian government. That particular achievement caught the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, who described Madu’s appointment as “historic,” and a proof that Nigerians are go-getters, who will always “distinguish themselves in different walks of life.” Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said Madu’s feat was proof that “Nigerians are indeed global players with unlimited capacity to impact our world positively.”

But barely one year after this historic feat, there was a career-threatening setback when on March 10, 2021, Madu was pulled over by the Edmonton Police and issued a $300 ticket over an alleged traffic offence. The Justice Minister, who felt he was unjustly profiled, called the Edmonton Police Chief, Dale McFee, raising concerns about the context of the stop – discussing people of colour being stopped by police and tension with the Lethbridge Police Service.

The Police Chief, who said he didn’t even know exactly what was on the ticket, admitted in a December 2021 interview with the CBC News that, “Minister Madu did contact me via the telephone concerned about a ticket. But just to be very, very clear, he never asked to get out of the ticket.” Yet, when the incident became public knowledge on January 17, 2022, there were calls for his resignation on the suspicion that he was trying to pervert the cause of justice, and he was placed on a leave of absence later in the day by Premier Jason Kenney, who appointed a retired Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice, Adèle Kent, to investigate the matter.

When the report of the investigation which was received on February 15, 2022, was made public, Madu was cleared of any wrongdoing. But he was subsequently transferred to the Ministry of Labour and Immigration where the Premier said he will now lead “important reforms to the Alberta Advantage Immigration Programme and continued implementation of the Fairness for Newcomers Action Plan to help break down barriers to the economic success of immigrants.”

“It is clear from the report that his motivation in making the call was not to reverse the ticket but to raise broader concerns, particularly related to racial profiling,” Kenney said in a statement, quoting the investigator’s conclusion that Kelechi Madu “being angry, wanting assurances that he was not racially profiled are all understandable reactions, given the context of the phone call.” In his new position, Madu was also expected to “help deliver on the Alberta Work Initiative, a key part of Budget 2022’s plan to connect unemployed Albertans with available jobs through expanded training programmes.”

As if his vindication was not enough vote of confidence, on October 24, 2022, Kelechi Madu took yet another oath of office, this time as Deputy Premier of the Province of Alberta, while retaining his portfolio as Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions (previously Labour and Immigration). Again, another first. “It is with humility that I announce that I was sworn-in on October 24, 2022 as Deputy Premier and Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions for our exceptional province of Alberta,” a fulfilled Kelechi Madu wrote.

“I am grateful to Premier Danielle Smith for her confidence and trust in me to help her lead our people and province. Premier Smith’s commitment and vision to defending Alberta, unequivocally protecting our charter rights and freedoms, ensuring the best economy and opportunities, as well as, protecting our most vulnerable population are ones that I share deeply… May God bless Alberta and may He always keep our province strong, free and prosperous.”

Kelechi Madu’s accomplishments in Canadian politics are awe-inspiring because of his peculiar circumstances. He is a full-blooded Nigerian. As at the time he emigrated to Canada in 2005 and became Canadian by naturalisation together with his wife, Emem, who he met as a student at the University of Lagos where they both read law, he was already 31 years. And he equally attended the Law School in Lagos and was called to the Bar in Nigeria.

Yet, despite this dizzying height attained by dint of hard work and character, he has never forgotten his roots. Incidentally, this counts positively for him in his country of naturalisation. When he won the United Conservative Party’s nomination in December 2018, the then party leader, Jason Kenney, extolled his sublime qualities, one of them being his ability to identify with his roots. “Kaycee enjoys giving back to the community and volunteers his legal skills with the Law Society of Alberta Lawyer Referral Programme and the Edmonton Community Legal Centre (ECLC),” he wrote.

“He is a member of the Igbo Cultural Association of Edmonton and supports his community league activities and his church.” And that is true. Till date, Kelechi Madu remains a committed and distinguished member of Mbaise Leadership Forum, MLF, a grouping of Mbaise sons and daughters both at home and in the Diaspora formed to harness the enormous socio-economic and political potentials of their people and to rebuild Mbaise into a first world community in a third world nation, a community not defined or limited by geographical boundaries.

As the news of his latest elevation in Canadian politics broke, his people back home in Nigeria erupted in indescribable ululation. Congratulatory messages poured in individually and collectively. Engineer Chris Ohanele, Moderator of Mbaise Leadership Forum, whose Board of Trustees is chaired by Dr. Sylvester Ugoh, the 91-year-old Harvard-trained economist, former Minister of Education and Science and Technology, who also hails from the same Umuokrika community with Kelechi, wrote: “Hon. Kaycee, you continue to excel and we are the happier for it.

Dr. Collins has today shared on MLF platform news of your elevation to the post of Deputy Premier of Alberta Province. Please accept my personal congratulations. May God continue to guide you and give you the wisdom to fulfil your huge responsibilities to your constituents and to the people of Alberta in general.” As Nigerians continue to grapple with the consequences of a leadership recruitment process on the blink, it is heartwarming that folks like Kelechi Madu are making giant strides where character, integrity, competency and sundry skill-sets are the yardsticks for leadership recruitment.