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‘It is clear Buhari wants to perpetuate himself in power’

By Leo Sobechi
13 February 2019   |   3:29 am
Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, says Nigerians are hopeful that the election would be credible, stressing that President Buhari allowed Nigeria to drift. Prof, a lot of people did not take you serious. How did this journey actually begin? FIRST of all, I…


Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, says Nigerians are hopeful that the election would be credible, stressing that President Buhari allowed Nigeria to drift.

Prof, a lot of people did not take you serious. How did this journey actually begin?
FIRST of all, I hope they are taking me seriously now, because nine months later, I am the third force in Nigerian politics after APC and PDP.

That is a long way from where we began on this journey and it shows the possibility of creating new realities if you have the vision and if you back up that vision with an effective strategy.

I began to think about contesting for the Nigerian presidency while I was a professor in the United States at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tuft University, where I took up a teaching position after my tenure at the Central Bank of Nigeria.

As a university professor, and especially at such a prestigious institution, I had, for the first time in a long time, a lot of freedom to think independently, to write and express my opinions independently.

As I began to watch Nigeria descend into the economic hell that life has become in Nigeria today since 2015, I began to have a deep sense of disappointment, because, to be very honest, I was one of those who supported the candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, because I felt the time had come for a leadership change, because PDP clearly had some very serious failings.

But as it turned out, disappointingly, President Buhari was no better and within one year of his administration, it became clear that President Buhari, after seeking power for 12 years and after winning on the fourth attempt, had no real vision or plan for Nigeria and that his quest for the presidency seemed more of a quest for personal redemption from the psychological aftermath of his overthrow in 1984 than any real policy transformation he was bringing.

So, as I began to watch poverty continue to rise and given the thoughts and ideas I had about how we could take Africa out of poverty and to prosperity, especially based on my book that I wrote while I was at the Central Bank, Emerging Africa, about how the global economy’s lost frontiers can prosper and matter.

I put out a lot of ideas on how African economy can be transformed in that book.

I said to myself, you have all these ideas and the only way it can help my country is to use it at the political level and not the technocratic level, because when you are a technocrat, you are under political authority and if you are under the political authority of incompetent politicians, which many of the recycled politicians in Nigeria surely are, then you would meet a lot of frustration.

So, I decided to offer myself to Nigerians at the political level with the vision that I have for the country. So that is what led to this journey. I returned to Nigeria in November 2017 to set up my think-tank, Institute of Governance for Economic Transformation.

While I was doing that, a lot of young people across the country, especially from the North, began to put additional pressure on me to think about running for the presidency of Nigeria in 2019. I felt encouraged by that additional pressure and I decided to put myself forward for the presidency.

In February, I announced my candidacy, two days after launching my fourth book: Build, Innovate and Grow, which in reality was my vision for Nigeria as its president.

Two presidential candidates picked their running mates from the Southeast. What is there for you?
First of all, let me be very clear; I am not an ethnic candidate for the Nigerian presidency. I am a Nigerian candidate for the Nigerian presidency.

Let me first make that clear; then looking at the Southeast as a region in this country, it is very clear that it has been politically marginalised, but it is also clear they have played an important role in their own political marginalisation and that a lot of elites in the Southeast are mental slaves and content to play second fiddle as though they do not have constitutional rights like any other Nigerian from other parts of the country, whether from the North or the West, and this has conditioned them to a feeling of political inferiority complex.

This situation does not serve the average Nigerian citizen from the Southeast, but the traditional politicians from that place.

A lot of them, not all, have this mentality and it has been a very big disservice to Nigerians from that part of the country because people from the Southeast have a lot to contribute to the Nigerian project in terms of leadership, economic management and so on.

Nobody’s interest is served, except those who do not want Nigeria to make progress by people from the Southeast that is politically second-class.

I do not have that mentality. Like I said, I am not an ethnic candidate but I am a proud Igbo man; I have no apologies for God creating me as an Igbo man in Nigeria but at the same time, I see myself with a worldview that transcends my ethnic or religious affiliation and it is only that worldview that can make Nigeria a united and prosperous country.

So I fundamentally disagree with the psychology of zoning because it has shown us that it is basically an exercise of recycling mediocrity, which kills merit and robs this country of the kind of leadership it deserves.

I want to tell you that zoning will die a final death in 2019 because many Nigerians, young and old, would vote Kingsley Moghalu in as the next president of Nigeria in 2019 regardless of his ethnicity or religion, because they are tired of the recycling of poverty and mediocrity that has been our lot for the past 20 years of democracy in this country.

What do you have to say about leadership selection process in Nigeria? Do you think the election would be credible?
We hope it will be credible, but all the signs show that the government in power is inclined to rig the election and perpetuate itself in power. I believe that if that is the case, they would get a response from Nigerians that they would not expect.

The time for that kind of thing is over. Nigerians would stand up and ensure that their votes are not only counted but count in 2019.

I believe that leadership should become a fundamental part of education. People need to be educated on ethics in other to confront corruption much more effectively and in a more foundational way and people need to be educated in the subject of leadership. It is not as many people confuse it to being in a position of power.

Leadership is the ability to use elective authority or situational authority like being a head of a family or being the head of a club, to be able to envision a future for your unit or for your country or family from a specific place to a specific point over a period of time. You must have the ability to mobilise, motivate, and inspire, and the ability to take calculated risks as a leader and must have courage. Courage is a very fundamental aspect of leadership.

You said young people from the north are behind your aspiration. It sounds amusing, because the issue of power shift or zoning is always of interest to them. What specific roles are northern youths playing?
They are playing a very big and strong role. My personal assistant, who is my closest aide, is a young man from the North, Shettima Dan Azuni; he comes from Potiskum, Yobe State, and he was one of those young people that I have been mentoring in my previous life as a professor for Central Bank.

Many of them began to attend meetings in my house and we began to discuss the political and economic situation.

So even till today, many of those young people from the northern part of Nigeria and young people across Nigeria: West, East, South-South are involved.

The interesting thing about my candidacy for the presidency is that it has such an amazing support base across the country, and that is because my worldview is clear: I am not an ethnic candidate.

I am a candidate with ideas that can reshape the destiny of this country for the better and many young people, regardless of what part of the Nigeria they come from, could easily see that. And so this is one of the reasons I connect with the youths of this country so viscerally because they can see a role model, they can see what they believe a leader should be: passionate about the future of the youths, passionate about this country, and patriotic, knowledgeable and experienced.

That is what a young president should be. It is not enough that you are young; that is not in itself a qualification for the presidency.

The presidency is not for boy scouts. You need to have relevant experience to be an effective president of Nigeria.

If you make your decisions on who should be president based on emotions or sentiments, as we did in 2015, you will find out that certain subjective assessments are not the equivalent of competent leadership.

For example, integrity is a good thing of a leader, but in and of itself, it is not enough.

If you have integrity and you are not competent at governance and leadership then you will not be effective as a leader. Therefore, young people, boys and girls, men and women are keying to my candidacy.

Recently, I announced my running mate; she is a 37-year old young woman from Kano State, Umma Ghetso. That has also added even more attraction to our followership among the youths and amongst the women across the country.

The young people are playing an important role in my campaign, because they recognise that my candidacy is all about the future of the youths of this country.

The perception out there is that you are a diaspora candidate and as such you would encounter difficulties appointing ministers or raising a team to deliver on your mandate. How true is that?

Absolute bunkum. My cabinet as president of Nigeria, 50 per cent has already been formed. I will announce my ministers within 48 hours of being sworn in as president in 2019. If anything, my international exposure helps me in terms of knowing what standard of people I should be looking for to man very critical aspects of the government in this country, whether it is economy, security, social affairs.

So given the high level of experience and exposure one has with global best practice and in addition, being an authentic home-grown Nigerian, (I went to primary school in Nigeria, I went to secondary school in Nigeria and went to University in Nigeria), so I am not somebody you can call a diaspora candidate. Most of my time abroad was as a United Nations (UN) official.

I spent 17 years in the UN; that is not in diaspora. I did not immigrate to live outside Nigeria in a foreign country.

I was an international civil servant of the United Nations, which is more of a diplomatic career, and I served in five duty stations in four continents – New York (UN headquarters), Cambodia, Croatia, Tanzania, and Switzerland.

So I did not live in any one country for a long time; so, I have more of an international perspective than the perspective of one particular foreign country. That is a misplaced notion; it has no basis in reality.

Like others, you supported the change of leadership in 2015. What critical issues convinced you that Nigeria was not headed in the right direction?
It is very clear and obvious. The complete and abject failure of the Nigerian state; bandits, terrorists and herdsmen have taken over the Nigerian space. Nigeria is a killing field today. It is a failed state. We are just pretending about it.

Boko Haram has technically degraded the Nigerian Armed Forces, which is a very sad spin of the propaganda of this government that they have technically degraded Boko Haram. That is the reality in Nigeria today; no amount of propaganda can cover it.

Armed bandits are threatening to take over Zamfara State. Armed bandits in Kaduna wreak havoc. Terrorist herdsmen are killing people in Benue State and other parts of the country.

It is obvious that the government has failed in its fundamental duties to the security of our lives and properties.

Another reason that reveals that Nigeria is drifting aimlessly is that the economy has collapsed. We went into the worst recession we have had in 30 years because of the economic incompetence of the present government and we are still not out of it regardless of the technical exit from recession with poverty on the rise and the economy is still almost in a coma. The economic growth rate of 1.8 per cent is just too minimal and miniscule to make any real impact.

Third is that the standing of Nigeria has also been very sharply downgraded in the world; Nigeria’s standing in the world, that is what I mean. We have been reduced to going around begging for humanitarian assistance for victims of Boko-Haram.

We get that humanitarian assistance, bring it to Nigeria and grasscutters eat it and there is no accountability.

We have increasingly looked more and more like a basket case and that pains my heart very deeply, because I am a very proud Nigerian who believes that this country is so blessed with human capital that is not utilised, blessed with all kinds but bad leadership has made us remain at the level of potential 60 years after independence.

I want to stop talking about the potential of Nigeria and I want to talk about the reality of Nigeria as an economically, diplomatically and militarily powerful country and that is why I am running as president.

As a president, I will make this a reality. I have what it takes. I have the training, the experience, the knowledge, and the track record.

Everywhere, I have performed all over the world; my track record has been one of excellence, whether at the United Nations helping to rebuild failed states like Rwanda, Croatia and the former Yugoslavia after the Balkan wars, or whether as Deputy Governor of Central Bank, where I led very consequential reforms that stabilised the Nigerian financial system after the global financial crisis and introduced important reforms in the payment system like the Bank Verification Number (BVN) or as an intellectual who has shaped economic, legal and political thinking around the world.

It is easy to talk glibly. If you become president, what sectors would you intervene as low hanging fruits to convince Nigerians that you can walk the talk?
We are going to move very decisively and quickly to secure this country and protect it from terrorists. We are going to do that in four ways. First is to bring a more sophisticated understanding of what national security actually means.

It is far more than just Boko-Haram. We must address the endemic poverty in this country which is a national security threat, because a lot of people go into terrorism because they have no economic freedom and economic opportunities.

So, our understanding of national security need to rise to the more modern and effective levels.

Two, we need to professionalise the national security leadership of this country.

Now, we have simply tribalised it and therefore trivialised it because most of the leadership of the national security agencies are from one part of the country and one religion. What we have is regime protection and not the protection of the Nigerian state.

Three, I will have the political will to secure this country. You can have everything but if you do not have the political will to do what is necessary to ensure national security, then you have failed.

The first requirement of a leader is vision and political will to act. I will be a no excuses president especially when it comes security.

I am not going to be faffing around, shuffling and waffling around, giving excuses and turning myself to a prayer warrior when I am elected to actually protect Nigerians.

Political will is important to take the necessary steps no matter whose ox is gored provided you are on the side of the people. I will be on the side of the people as a Commander-in-Chief. I am going to be a very strong Commander-in-Chief. I will lead from the front.

Four, we will reform the control of Nigerian borders to create an effective border security for this country so that our borders are not so porous that people can just walk in, commit crime and walk away. I will demarcate the Nigerian borders very clearly and they would be manned both with human resources and technology to make sure that nobody can enter Nigeria without the government knowing about it, without a record about it.

Finally, as a president of Nigeria, I am going to create a 1.5 million personnel modern 21st Century police force.

We will recruit them, equip them and train them so that we can have better policing of our community and stop the militarisation of the Nigerian public space, which we have today because we do not have an effective police force.

So you find the army all over the country, when they should be protecting us from external aggression, they are busy in operation: python dance, alafia dole, crocodile smile, etc, trying to quell internal descent which is a backdrop of the failure of governance. That is the security low hanging fruit.

On the economy, from day number one, I will do what has not been done in this country before. I will lay out the philosophical foundation of the Nigerian economy.

The philosophical outlook is what will bring about effective economic vision and effective economic policy to execute that vision. Based on these three things, you can now have an effective market and regulatory environment.

The reason this has not been done is because our leaders do not have the type of intellectual depth and philosophical worldview that is necessary to achieve it.

Every country that has a prosperous economy, it has never happened by accident. It is the product of a philosophical foundation and effective policy. Whether they are capitalists or whatever variations of capitalist they are.

Everybody in the world now is capitalist but there are different variations of capitalism, which has policy implications. If you want to be a welfare state, it has policy implications.

If you want to be an entrepreneurial capitalist state, which is what I recommend for Nigeria, it has policy implications. If you want to be a chronic capitalist state like Russia or Nigeria today, it has policy implications because what it means is that most of the time is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

If you want to be a capitalist like China that has policy implications because you need to ask if the state has the capacity, intellectually and bureaucratically, to direct the state and balance its relationship in the private sector.

The philosophical foundation of the country must balance the role of the government and the role of the market place. Our politicians do not get it right.

Most of them either lean towards two extremes. It is like in the Jonathan years; they allowed the economy to be taken over by chronic capitalists and our economy became privatised to a few barons and we talked about it as the market forces; that is not true. Or as we have in the Buhari government; it is a very high degree of “statism” which has turned out to be incompetent and inefficient and that is what put Nigeria in recession.

Starting from when they fixed the currency after the fall of the oil price and they created a fixed foreign exchange regime; that is what ruined the economy.

I will proceed to some practical things. First, the establishment of N1 trillion venture capital fund that will finance new businesses that creates jobs.

Job creation is the next practical phase. The venture capital fund is not a loan; it is not credit, but equity; so the fund is invested in new businesses and innovations.

New inventions that should be commercialised to get into the market place; young man gets an investment from the venture capital fund or a young woman gets N500, 000 or N1 million to set up a new company.

That is money that they will not be able to get from the bank as a loan, either because they do not have collateral or the interest rate is too high to pay it back. They would co-own the business with the venture capital fund, which may own 40 or 30 per cent as the case may be.

As the business grows, more and more people are being recruited into it, and as it makes profit, the venture fund exits and you own the business yourself.

Your talk about securing the country and making the economy, which sounds elitist but…

It is not elitist because these are things that affect people’s lives. Whether the economy is good or bad determines whether you will get a job when you graduate from school.

The economy is the real deal and Nigerians are concerned about the economy. In fact, it is their number one concern outside of security.