“I’m in this for the long haul”
We eventually agreed to meet on Monday June 18, by 12 noon, at his campaign office in Maitama, Abuja. Our earlier plan to meet either on Thursday, June 14 or Friday June 15 fell through as he suddenly had to be in Kano during the period. I was already on my way for the scheduled appointment when I got another message rescheduling the venue to his home in Asokoro and extending the time of the appointment by 30 minutes. I knew that being involved in any form of elective office, especially gunning for the presidency, means literarily being peripatetic.
I got to his home before him and had to wait in one of the lounges. We exchanged pleasantries as he walked into the lounge. He was famished, he said, and called for biscuits and a bottle of Diet Coke. I comforted him by telling him that being too busy to even find the time to eat comes with the territory of seeking for the highest political office in the land. He apologized for being slightly late and we quickly got on to the business at hand.
I started with the story of Professor Pat Utomi – who needed no introduction to him. Professor Pat Utomi, one of the founders of Lagos Business School and an accomplished public intellectual, spent considerable number of years promoting ‘third way’ politics and even ran for the presidency of the country twice on the platform of a little known African Democratic Congress (ADC), which he founded, and which had absolutely no chance of making any impact on either the elections or the political process in the country. Professor Utomi recently announced he would contest for the governorship of Delta State on the platform of APC. Some say that Professor Utomi, by joining a major political party with a real chance of winning power, and also downsizing his ambition from the presidency to the governorship of his home state, has embraced ‘reality’ and abandoned the politics of idealism. I asked if there were lessons he could learn from Professor Utomi’s odyssey in Nigerian politics.
“There are always lessons to learn from other people’s experiences. But let me tell you that Pat (Prof Utomi) was ahead of his time. Nigeria had just emerged from a long period of autocracy; the PDP was still a behemoth and there was no real appetite for the sort of message he was preaching. But things have changed. For instance the social media was nowhere as significant then as it is now. The level of poverty was nowhere near what it is today.” He said that if he had tried to do in 2007 what he is trying to accomplish now, it would still have been far ahead of its time.
He rejected my suggestion that he was being idealistic and made a distinction between being idealistic and being a visionary. “I am a visionary”, he declared. “A visionary has a vision of a society, and develops concrete steps and road maps to actualize that vision. An idealist is more of a dreamer, an Ivory Tower sort of thinker”. He told me of his several town hall meetings and engagements with key political, business and traditional personalities across the country and said an idealist would not be bothering himself with such inconveniences with the attendant costs involved.
He also rejected any notion that his party, the Young Progressive Party (YPP) – has no structures across the country and informed me that the party actually has structures in 30 states of the federation – and still building more. He also talked of his grassroots support organizations – the Kingsley Moghalu Support Organisation (KIMSO) and the 1,000 Women Skills Training programmes conducted under the Kingsley Moghalu Women Initiative in partnership with the Isaac Moghalu Foundation – a foundation set up in honour of his late father who was a career diplomat. He believed that with these, it would be uncharitable to say he or his party does not have structures across the country.
I questioned the premise of his party which seems to be built around young people and a belief that if young people are empowered then the country would be better run. I reminded him that contrary to that assumption the country has actually been run by young people, and that if any group should complain of being marginalized, it should be people 60 years and above. I reminded him that all the military Heads of State we have had in the country came to office when they were less than 45 years of age (except Abdulsalami Abubakar who was 56 when he came to power). For the civilian leaders I drew his attention to the fact that Tafawa Balewa became Prime Minister at 48; Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik) became the first and only indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria at the age of 56 and ceremonial President at 59; Shehu Shagari became President at 54; UmaruYaradu at 56, Goodluck Jonathan at 53, Obasanjo as civilian President at 61 and Buhari at 72. I informed him that if he won the presidency he would be 56 which will make him the fourth (joint) oldest President the country has ever produced – behind Zik as ceremonial President and Obasanjo’s and Buhari’s second comings at 61 years and 72 years respectively.
He said chronological age was important but that the concept of ‘youth’ espoused by his party includes even more importantly the possession of modern ideas and being conversant with innovative ways of solving contemporary problems of the society. He did not think he was being idealistic in thinking that Nigerian youth would privilege their identity as young people over their primordial identities of ethnicity, religion and region when it comes to voting. “I am not dismissing outright the salience of the fault lines of ethnicity, religion and region but people are increasingly finding out that such mindsets cannot solve their existential problems. People have to be converted to new worldviews. I am not saying it is going to be easy but I am in this for the long haul. I believe the majority of Nigerians are looking for capable leaders around whom they can coalesce. And that is what I am offering”.
I asked why he wanted to be President instead of starting with say Governor or Senator. “My vision is incompatible with being a Senator or Governor. My vision is for the entire country so it requires presidential power to actualize the vision. My work experiences both at the UN and the CBN are also more aligned to solving national than state problems. There is a fierce urgency of now in the need to salvage this country from the predicament it has found itself”. He talked of his mastery of economic and development issues in his work at the United Nations and the Central Bank of Nigeria and argued that if the country’s economy is to be rescued, it “needs someone who actually understands economic transformation”.
I asked whether his party was in merger or alliance talks with any of the existing parties, reminding him that ruling parties in Africa have been defeated only when the opposition groups come together. He was evasive about that. “The elections are not yet over so anything can still happen. Right now I am focusing on the politics of sketching out my vision.”
He was visibly irritated at my question on whether he was possibly positioning himself to be a running mate to a presidential candidate of one of the major parties. He accused me of coming with a mindset that he would not win the election, which I denied. I explained that the aim of the interview was to ask some critical, even uncomfortable questions that will help create a proper portraiture of him for my readers. We quickly put this behind us and continued the friendly conversation.
As Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Moghalu was seen as the arrowhead of several of the controversial policies of the CBN under Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, (now the Emir of Kano) such as the introduction of Islamic banking. I asked if his recent visit to the Emir was for a political pay back for his unwavering support of his policies when he was the CBN Governor.
He said he had no regrets for any role he played as Deputy Governor of the CBN and the policies pursued. He denied that his visit to Emir Sanusi had anything to do with any quest for a political payback. He said he started to think of getting involved in politics only after he was appointed Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of the Tufts University in 2015. It was there, he said, that he began to develop the notion that for effective leadership in Africa “leaders must be technocrats who can combine their technocratic backgrounds with the legitimacy of political authority”.
His visit to Kano, and to the Emir, he said, was part of his ‘To Build A Nation Tour’ across the country, in which he uses the town hall format to sell his messages to Nigerians. He said that in Kano – as in several other places he visited, he was surprised to find that several industrial estates were no longer functioning. For him, the rapid de-industrialization taking place across the country, the increasing poverty and worsening despondency are sources of great concern. He talked of his plans to invest massively in entrepreneurship and innovation through a N1 trillion Venture Capital fund if he became the President.
I asked of what we should expect from him in his first week in office – if he is elected President. “The immediate task is to institute new ways of governance at the presidency – performance management functions, human capital development functions, modern 21 century governance systems. Ministerial nominees will be announced within 48 hours. It will be a broadly inclusive government where no one will be marginalized or have grounds to complain of marginalization. Don’t forget that a President is as good as his team so we will go for the best from all parts of the country.”
Professor Kingsley Bosah Chiedu Ayodele Moghalu was born in Lagos on May 7 1963. He studied Law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1987. He left Nigeria in 1991 for post-graduate studies and obtained a master’s degree in International Relations in 1992 from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, Massachusetts, United States. In 2005, he obtained a PhD from the London School of Economics. He also holds an International Certificate in Risk Management from the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) in London.
Moghalu joined the United Nations in 1992 and rose through the ranks to the highest career rank of Director. In 2006, he was appointed by Kofi Annan, then United Nations Secretary-General, as a member of the high-level Redesign Panel on the United Nations Internal Justice System with a nominal rank of Under Secretary. He was appointed Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2009 and served in that capacity until 2014. In 2015 he was appointed Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He has published several books and articles and is also a highly sought-after speaker at global forums.