‘Nigeria is not Yet a Nation’


Coming into the presidential race with interdisciplinary knowledge in international economics, international law and diplomacy, and a global network of contacts, Professor of Economics and former deputy director, Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, is optimistic that he will emerge president in 2019. Shola Oyeyipo was at a session where he articulated his dreams for a better Nigeria.

Who is Kingsley Moghalu?

I am normal Nigerian professional leader. I am also a global leader. I lived half of my life in Nigeria. I am 55, so, that is at least between 20 and 25 years. So, I know this country. I am also somebody who has lived outside Nigeria by the virtue of my career. I did not emigrate out of Nigeria.

My family background is well known. My father was in the civil service. My father had a very important influence in my life for two reasons; ethics and morality. I remember him as a very jovial man but he would always say certain things. He would beat his chest and say, “35 years as a civil servant I never took bribe.” I grew up knowing that being a son of Isaac Moghalu meant something – you don’t mess around. That influenced my public service career.

Two, because he spent his life in public service, my own aspiration was also in public service. I never aspired to be a wealthy businessman.
I love world affairs. I had a worldview right from when I was a child. I always had a large dream. I was 13 years when I made up my mind that I would have an international career in the United Nations (UN). I was in secondary school.

My family is a family of five children. I was the first child. I grew up being a leader. In those days, my father gave me a delegated authority to discipline my siblings and they used to call ‘Mr Okoli,’ the headmaster. I had my cane on behalf of my parents and if you messed up, I will say give me you hand and cane you.
You have to maintain probity. Those things shaped my worldview. You had to sacrifice because you are a leader. You had to live up to that expectation from your parents and your younger ones.

I became interested in not just international affairs but in the position of the black man under the sun. Why is Africa poor? It always occupied my mind and as I went around in the service of the UN, I kept observing why certain societies prosper and why some did not. Why were some societies in conflict and the UN officials are there to fix it? How do you fix a broken nation? I learnt that practically. Nation Building 101, I learnt that over 17 years. From Angola to Croatia, Rwanda to former Yugoslavia.

Many people don’t know it, I was Political Officer at the UN during the Rwanda genocide and I was on the Rwanda desk. We brought to justice the perpetrators of Rwanda genocide – the big men who felt they were untouchable and whose impunity led to the genocide. We tracked them around the world, tried them and sent them to prisons in various countries. The rule of law is something I am familiar with.

Then my career took another dimension. I moved into Global Fund to Fight AIDS and Tuberculosis. I moved to development financing. My eyes opened to how the international community was shifting. The power of the private sector was becoming more than the power of the diplomats in stripe suits. Private capital flow overtook foreign aids flow. Again, I was part of the trend and as a senior officer at the global funds where I was director for global partnership, I helped toraise over $20 billion for the fund from the G8 countries and other countries, to make social investments in Asia, Latin America, Africa, including Nigeria.
I took a doctorate from the London School of Economics, studied Risk Management at the Institute of Risk Management.

My mind began to move to the private sector. After a while, I set up a consulting firm in Switzerland on Global Strategy and Risk Management. We were advising multinationals that want to do business in Africa on how to enter, manage their risks and gain market share. I was doing that when I was invited back to Nigeria by the late President Umar Yar’ Adua and Lamido Sanusi Lamido, who was then the Governor of the Central Bank. I am giving you the trajectory that saw me return as the Deputy Governor of the CBN in charge of Financial Stability, because of my Risk Management background that was very attractive to them.

We did a lot of reforms. We are still enjoying many of those reforms today. I believe that this country has a lot of potentials, but absence of leadership grounded Nigeria. Nigeria is not poor. Nigeria is impoverished.

It is obvious you are equipped with requisite knowledge to enable you lead Nigeria well but there are so many factors that influence the outcome of elections. These factors could include ethnicity, religion, political structure and all that, because when you don’t have a structure it becomes very problematic to win an election, no matter how brilliant you are. So, what is your strategy?

My strategy revolves around political education of Nigerians. You talked about some Nigerians who are politicking. I am also politicking. I am going round the country doing town hall meetings. Nobody else is doing that. It is part of my strategy.
They are playing their old game. I am playing a different game. You have to do things differently and create a different brand that people will identity with. If I am following the old politicians I am not competitive. I don’t have their money and I don’t have their 20-year structure. So, I must do something differently.

I am educating people on why they should act on their realisation that things are not working. That is a strategy! I am telling them how to do that is by getting their PVCs, because most of the people that are registering to vote are doing are not doing it to vote for the status quo. People are more aware.

Another part of the strategy is that I have set up the Kingsley Moghalu Foundation in all the 36 states of the federation. In each state, they are going down to all the local governments and wards. What is that? Structure. They are working. You may not see them on national television, but when the votes are counted in 2019 you will see the result of what they are doing.

When people ask, ‘how are you going to win election?’ I laugh. Do you think I just woke up, drank a bottle of wine and said, ‘I want to be president?’ We are working to win. The first Kingsley Moghalu Foundation that was set up that has gone to the ward level is that of Katsina State. Others are coming.

How realistic is it to achieve your ambition on Young Peoples Party (YPP) platform?

The first thing we are telling our people is that the individual is more important than the party. If you believe the individual has the track record then follow him to his party. We are publicising the party also. That is why I was silent on the party, at first, to force Nigerians to focus on what I am saying, not the platform.
Since I announced my entry into YPP, I can tell you, a lot of Nigerians are very interested in that party. We are getting people from different parties who want to join the party or have joined the party. We will continue until it becomes a household name. A number of people are going to run on the YPP platform for Senate, governorship and others, for the fact that I have joined.

Coming almost less than 12 months to the election, how can you catch up?

Ten months is a very long time in politics. When Jonathan was taken out in 2015, it happened less than six months. That is the truth. When people begin to identify their enlightened self-interest with something else, that is new, different, bold and not the old, they will shift to something new. A lot will happen between September and October.
APC was built under one year, but PDP had been in existence for 16 years. That is exactly what will happen in 2019.

Are you considering coalition with other parties?

That will happen but it will not be with strange bed-fellows like the APC. We will align ourselves with those who think the way we think.

What is your view on restructuring?

Restructuring is more than the national question. National question means what does Nigeria mean? Is Nigeria a conglomeration of ethnic nationalities – almost 400 of them or is Nigeria because of the political identity of citizenship? That is the national question. Nigeria is not yet a nation. It is a country. Nigeria should become a nation.

With the kind of leadership I promise, we will turn Nigeria into a nation; not on the basis of ethnic nationalities, but on the basis of political identity of citizenship. Why our ethnic nationalities are dragging us back is because we lack leadership. Precisely, we lack a leadership that has a worldview.

Restructuring is a core part of my vision. Nigeria has to be constitutionally restructured in order to make progress. There is no alternative to restructuring because Nigeria is not making progress but there are people who want to pretend that Nigeria is working because of their vested interests. But we all know that it is not and we continue to suffer because we are living in denial.

Why is Nigeria unable to become a productive manufacturing nation? It is precisely because of the constitutional structure of the country. It provides incentives for laziness that are too strong too strong for anybody to ignore. Why would you work if you can go to Abuja every month and get FAC allocation?

The only thing that will move us away from oil dependence is a constitution that restores true federalism. Nigeria should be constitutionally restructured whereby the six geopolitical zones become the federating units.

Many of the states cannot survive (on their own) but there is no geopolitical zone that is not economically viable. Why don’t we federate along the lines of the geopolitical zones?
Another aspect of restructuring is that I believe in resource control. I believe that whatever natural resources are found under the soil of each geopolitical zone, they own it! But because they are part of a federation, they must pay a tax to the centre. That is the way federations are organised.

I think we only have a class of people that are opposed to restructuring, not the people. There is a small elite class that has vested interest against constitutional restructuring and you think they represent everybody? That is not true.

Do I want a weak centre? No! That is where I differ with some people. I don’t think I want a centre that is too weak because if it is too weak there comes a problem of cohesion of nationhood. Zones may be tempted to strike off and contend with the centre. Like what is happening in Catalonia, Spain.

Restructuring is necessary for peace, stability and for the restoration of equity and justice.
In the matter of resource control, in my vision, I would not want the export of raw natural resources. If I am President of Nigeria,I will move for a legal framework that will say you must add value, because that is what will create jobs for our citizens.

You spoke about your expertise in fixing broken nations. How will you fix Nigeria?

The critical element in nation building is a vision that rises above the cause of the division. I am not an ethnic or religious irredentist. As a person, I have risen above all these things partly because I have seen the world in such a manner that whether you are Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that you are a human being and you and I are from the same country.

When you have this kind of vision, and based on a worldview; a mental map of the world and how to navigate that map. It can be a personal worldview, which we all have or it can be a national worldview. Those nations that have it, ultimately have been successful.
Until Nigeria has a leader that has it, we wouldn’t be able to realise our destiny. I have that worldview, clear! I have written books about it. When you read my book, ‘Emerging Africa,’ I explained how the worldview is the secret of economic prosperity because it begins to organise how governments, economies and institutions are arranged. Make me president for eight years and see if you will still be focused on your tribe.

Recently, in a chat with a south-south governor, Obasanjo said it was better for the south-east to wait till 2023 to contest for presidency. What is your take on that?

Any notion of zoning is retrogressive. It is not in the constitution and therefore has no force. Zoning was just an arrangement inside the PDP but people are trying to use it to hoodwink the country in order to maintain mediocrity. It is a subterfuge for mediocrity. Because it is the turn of this, whoever, even the lowest common denominator from that place becomes the president, not who can take Nigeria forward. So, zoning is wrong from that perspective.

If President Buhari’s son is qualified let him run for president. That was what the Deji of Akure said when I visited him. Therefore, your sourh-east governor who believes that people from his part of the country should not contest presidency until 2023 is somebody who fell for a political 419.

I am not a south-east candidate for the office of the president. I am a Nigerian candidate. So, I am analysing zoning as a Nigerian. In 2023, the APC will not give their ticket to the south-east. They will give it to someone from the south-west because they have elected people in the party who will be there. PDP, let’s assume their candidate wins – they have zoned it to the North, so, in what scenario that I have painted does the south-east get the turn?

For OBJ, he is an elder statesman. He is somebody I respect, but it is a democracy, he has the right to form whatever coalition he wants to form. All of us will meet at the field and the people will make their decision. All we are saying is, in 2019, Nigerians should decide who will be their leader.