‘I am humbled to be named first Black Canadian Minister of Justice and Solicitor General’
On August 25, 2020, KAYCEE MADU was sworn in as the first Black Canadian Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta Province. In an exclusive interview with KEMI AJUMOBI, Associate Editor, BusinessDay, he shares on being the first black Canadian Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, how Nigerians in the diaspora are changing the narrative despite the varied international beliefs about Nigerians, and the Nigerian legal system vis-à-vis what obtains in developed countries like Canada, among other matters. Excerpt:
Being First Black Canadian Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
I feel humbled and privileged to have been elected to serve the good people of Edmonton-South West as their member of the legislative assembly.
I was excited but humbled to be named the first Black Canadian Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Provincial Secretary, and keeper of our Province’s Great Seal. This role makes me the chief law officer in our province, responsible for the justice system, law enforcement, and the safety and security of our citizens.
Raised in the SouthEastern part of Nigeria, graduated from University of Lagos, relocated to Canada; through separate journeys, what have you learnt?
While I have experienced adversity in my life, it has helped make me stronger, better, and more successful. These experiences also confirm my belief that one must never allow today’s obstacles to prevent them from pursuing their dreams.
Nigerians in the diaspora, changing the narrative
Nigerians are some of the most brilliant people in the world; they have exemplary work ethics and are forward thinkers. While there is no question that there are bad apples who are involved in fraud, drugs, and other malfeasance, that is true of any society. In fact, there is a saying that no society on earth is devoid of the bad ones. So while this is true of Nigeria, it is also true of all nations on earth. My disappointment, however, is that many of Nigeria’s systems, including its politics, leadership, and institutions, do not reward hard work and merit. For the country to make progress it must pursue better politics and a public service based on meritocracy. Nigeria must respect the merits of all her peoples and regions.
Migration of Nigerians to Canada, other western countries
The large migrations of Nigerians to Canada and other Western countries is a direct indictment of the abysmal failures of the country’s governing institutions and political leadership. In countries with functional democracies like Canada, nearly all of today’s Nigerian leaders would not come close to the corridors of political power. To put it bluntly, Nigeria’s political leaders often lack the understanding of what it means to govern and the critical role of the public service in the development of a nation, amongst other failures.
Did you ever think you would be in such a position in a ‘foreign’ country?
I have always known that if I work hard and abide by the rules, I could achieve my most full potential because I live in a society that values hard work and meritocracy. Having uprooted my adult life from Nigeria, I knew it would be challenging to settle into a new Law profession, raise a family, and adapt to Canadian life. But I also know that this is a country that values merit and that as long as I work hard and conduct myself in a manner that respects the rule of law, I would have a chance to succeed and make up for the lost years.
The Nigerian legal system
In my estimation, the Nigerian legal system needs to be revamped. Tribalism, nepotism, corruption and political interference have caused so much damage to the justice system in Nigeria. There can be no justice for ordinary citizens in Nigeria within the system that currently exists.
Advice to young lawyers
My advice to young lawyers is simple: work hard, discipline your legal mind, and make yourself an effective and competent lawyer, but above all, do not compromise your integrity because that will erode public confidence in the justice system. My hope is that today’s young lawyers will fight for an independent, fair, and uncompromised legal/ judicial system. My hope is that a new generation of leaders will assume the mantle of leadership of the country so Nigeria can become what the founding fathers envisioned: a successful and robust country based on merit, a true superpower on the continent, and a responsible member of the democratic international community.
Practising Law in Canada and Nigeria, what differences abound?
Although both Canada and Nigeria are common law jurisdictions, the experience of the practice of law is completely different. One of the main differences I can point out is that there is more rigorous and comprehensive regulation of lawyers by the Law Societies in Canada than in Nigeria.
Kaycee Madu was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, representing the constituency of Edmonton-South West, on April 16, 2019. He was appointed as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General on August 25, 2020 and previously served as the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Madu has been a Lawyer for 16 years, practising in both Nigeria and Alberta. He operated a Law office with his wife and has worked for Legal Aid Alberta. He volunteers with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and the Lawyer referral program of the Law Society of Alberta.
Madu was awarded the Premier’s award of excellence in the bronze medal category in 2009 with a team of his colleagues at the Government of Alberta, where he worked as a senior technical advisor focusing on legislative and regulatory reviews, operational and strategic public policies, issues management and stakeholder consultation.
Born and raised in the southeastern part of Nigeria, Madu graduated from the University of Lagos with a bachelor of Laws honours degree in 2001. He and his wife, Emem, migrated to Canada in 2005 and have three children.
Madu enjoys poetry, soccer, travelling and strategic military studies. He volunteers with Alberta’s Nigerian and Igbo communities.