On April 30, Kelechi Madu, a University of Lagos law graduate, took the oath of office as Minister of Municipal Affairs in Alberta, Canada. Popularly known as Kaycee, Kelechi is one of the 22 new cabinet members Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney, swore in on Tuesday morning at the Government House in Edmonton. But that is only half of the story. The other half is that he was also elected this year to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta representing the electoral district of Edmonton South-West.
On May 21, he will be sworn in as a lawmaker. When that happens, this distinguished Nigerian will be serving in dual capacity as the Minister of Municipal Affairs of the Province of Alberta and at the same time a member of parliament representing his Edmonton South-West constituency. The ministry is the third largest in Alberta with over $3.7 billion portfolio and it is to be superintended by an immigrant that has sojourned there for barely 14 years.
A lone United Conservative Party, UCP, lawmaker in Edmonton, Madu won in one of the closest races in the provincial election, garnering 7,742 votes to beat his competitors: John Archer of the New Democrat Party, NDP, who polled 6,974 votes; Mo Elsalhy of the AP with 2,111 votes; Marilyn Burns of the AAP who polled 178 and Rigel Vincent of the GPA with 108 when 62 of 64 polls reported. The significance of his victory is underscored by the fact that Edmonton remains solidly orange, an opposition column.
When Madu won the UCP nomination in December 2018 defeating fellow party members Sohail Quadri and Kevin Greco, the then party leader, Jason Kenney, who also took oath of office on Tuesday as Alberta Premier, issued a statement extolling the candidate.
“Today, more than 1000 United Conservative members in Edmonton-South West cast ballots for their preferred candidate for the next election from amongst three great contestants. I would like to congratulate Kaycee Madu on winning this highly competitive race. Kaycee is a committed conservative, a lawyer, and a father of three. Prior to coming to Canada with his wife, Emem, Kaycee graduated from the law school and was subsequently called to the Bar in Nigeria.
He has since established a law firm in Edmonton where he continues to practice. “Kaycee enjoys giving back to the community and volunteers his legal skills with the Law Society of Alberta Lawyer Referral Program and the Edmonton Community Legal Centre, ECLC. He is a member of the Igbo Cultural Association of Edmonton and supports his community league activities and his church. Kaycee’s legal expertise and his unique understanding of the challenges faced by newcomers to Canada make him a valuable member of the United Conservative team as we work to present Albertans with a common-sense alternative to the NDP.
I am pleased to welcome Kaycee as the United Conservative candidate in Edmonton-South West.” His law firm’s website says as much, stating that he is a lawyer with a background in civil litigation and employment law who has worked for the provincial government under the Progressive Conservatives, helping review and develop laws and policies around the minimum wage. Alberta’s temporary foreign worker programme, employment standards for firefighters, and youth employment. These are the values that matter.
In Canada, as exemplified in Madu’s (E1) meteoric rise in the Alberta political circuit, an individual’s character and the qualities he brings to the leadership table matter in the recruitment process. But not in Nigeria. After constituting the 23-member executive council,Kenney, Alberta’s 18th premier, who also took over the role of minister of intergovernmental affairs, said the main focus for his team over the next four years would be economic growth, job creation, getting pipelines built and standing up for Alberta. And the job, he declared, started there and then.
“I promised to Albertans we wouldn’t waste a day, or an hour, getting to work to renew the Alberta advantage. That begins this afternoon.” And to get the job done, what mattered most to the Premier is the diversity of his cabinet, which members speak 13 languages, have a variety of personal and professional backgrounds and an average age hovering around 40. Madu migrated to Canada in 2005 with his wife who enrolled in postgraduate studies at the University of Alberta. Today, he is the toast of Canada’s political class.
The jury is still out as to whether the man who hails from Umuokirika community in Ahiazu-Mbaise local government area, Imo State, would have achieved such a great feat outside his home state in his country of birth, Nigeria. I have never met him though we are from the same local government and his ancestral community is my maternal home. But I am acquainted with his elder sister, Mrs. Eucharia Anyanwu (nee Madu), who was a year my senior in secondary school. On December 31, 2018, when old students of our alma mater, Secondary Technical School Obohia, SETESCO, held their alumni meeting, the first in the school’s 41-year history,
First Lady, as we fondly call her, a retired school administrator, was elected the second vice president of the fledgling alumni association. Her own story is every inch like her brother’s. She has grit. She is intelligent and her leadership skills are exceptional. I was, therefore, not surprised when the story of Kelechi’s political exploits broke shortly after. Theirs remains a very humble background. A family of 11 children, illiterate parents, their father who is almost 90 years old now was a petty trader and farmer, the Madu siblings, like most Mbaise people, were determined to better their lots in life.
“Ours was a very humble beginning,” Eucharia enthused on Wednesday when I spoke with her on phone. “Our parents were not educated and we didn’t have much in terms of material possession. Our wealth were the values of hard work, honesty, integrity and dignity, they gave to us. Kelechi was determined very early in life to be a success. His perseverance is unrivaled.” Today, that doggedness has made his dream a reality. He is the first Nigerian to be elected Member of Parliament in Alberta, Canada. The question that concentrated my mind as I savoured the good news is, what if? What if he had contested this election in Lagos State in the same 2019?
Fourteen years after migrating to Canada, the 45-year- old Nigerian lawyer of very humble background, with neither a political godfather nor deep pocket has just become a major political force while his kith and kin back home in Nigeria are visited with violence in some parts of the country for daring to vote for candidates of their choice in a general election. For daring to exercise their franchise, they have been told that they are illegal immigrants who should be seen but not heard in their own country. For daring to vote according to their conscience, they have been branded unconscionable land grabbers.
Even after the elections have been won and lost, their businesses are systematically being targeted by those who claim they own the land. When he was announced winner, Kelechi tweeted: “I am humbled and honoured to be standing before you, no longer as a candidate, but as the MLA-elect for #yegsw … this is my home and Alberta’s capital city, and it deserves strong representation in the legislature.”
That is what matters. It is a call to service. 2019 elections not declaration of war, Buhari urges politicians Societies desirous of making progress in the 21st century use the ennobling qualities of character, integrity, competency and sundry skill-sets as yardsticks for leadership recruitment. Others, like Nigeria, deploy ethno-religious cleavages and debilitating primordial sentiments in making the decision. Little wonder the country continues to plumb the depths of wretchedness and desolation.