Prof. Kingsley Moghalu is a man you underrate at your own peril. Articulate, well-educated, diplomatic experience at the UN under Kofi Annan, former Deputy Governor at the Central Bank who helped Lamido Sanusi evolve game-changing banking policies in corporate governance and risk management at CBN, Moghalu is propelled by the same wind of change that brought in Obama and Macron. For one hour, I interviewed him for my forthcoming book: Boardroom Leadership: Lessons on Corporate Governance and Strategy. We started off talking about his ambition to lead Nigeria and his thoughts on leadership which I found newsworthy. Excerpts:
For a start, my real competition is not Omoyele Sowore nor Fela Durotoye. My competition is Buhari. That is where I am going. It’s either I beat Buhari in the first ballot or there would be a runoff. When there is a runoff, all the forces that want change, would back me and we will take him out.
I am using the YPP. The Young Progressive Party. It’s the last party on the ballot. A lot of people don’t know about it. It is going to be my joker. When I announced my presidential candidature, I didn’t announce my party, because I wanted people to focus on me and the vision. YPP was formed by a group of young men. It’s not owned by one person. There are no moneybags. In fact, the party doesn’t have money. I too don’t have money. But I believe that faith in God and the people would see us through. As the message comes up more and more, people are seeing the difference. People are tired of the old political order. They are just confused. The more they see me as someone who can articulate their frustration and a possible path out of it, the more they would be rallying towards me. You would see what would happen. It would be going gradually, gradually. And at some point, it would explode. Many things would happen, between now and the election.
From Obama I am learning about the evocative power of an oratory that touches people and draws out their strength. Some people say: “You are speaking like Obama” and I laugh. Obama showed that you can beat the odds. The odds may be against you, but if you connect with the people and evoke the sense of possibilities, you can upturn the status quo. Same thing for Macron. Macron was able to position himself as an agent of something different from the old and the status quo. He dared the people of France to reach out for it. And he succeeded. This is what my campaign would eventually be in this country. We would break all this shibboleth of tribalism, political mafias and godfathers. I was very careful in coming out. No godfather. No party. Don’t announce a party, and don’t have a godfather. Come out first and begin to push the vision. As you push the vision, eventually you would have a party because right now we still don’t have independent candidates. If we had independent candidates, I would have run as an independent. Then number two, focus on your youth base. Number three, delegitimize the old political order. Don’t spare them. Make them your campaign focus. Tell the people they are recycled old politicians who have done them no good. And show them the alternative which you represent. The knowledge you have, the experience you have, the exposure and your track record.
The big challenge we have to that strategy is poverty. People’s poverty and politicians buying their consciences. But we are working on that too. We are explaining to them that selling your destiny for stomach infrastructure and flushing it down the toilet: na yourself you dey do. We are telling them: “Why don’t you sacrifice and move to a new order that can create a system that works for all of us over a longer term, rather than just every four years they would come and give you stomach infrastructure and your problems remain?” No light. No jobs. No hospitals. No good schools. What has changed? Every four years, it’s the same cycle. They would come and be distributing money to you. So we are directly hitting the issue. As I go around in my town halls, I am talking about it. It was while I was teaching as a professor at Fletcher School, Tufts University, Massachusetts after my time at the Central Bank that this vision came to me. I never ever thought I could go into politics. But something told me, if you have this vision, you might as well go into politics—make yourself available for the presidency and see what happens. I don’t see being an Igbo an obstacle. And that is why bypassing the traditional political class, especially in the Southeast is important. Because if you go to them, they have been defeated mentally. The highest position they can aspire to is vice presidency. That’s all they do. Lobbying to be VP, which has been offered to me by the people they are lobbying but I have turned it down. There is nothing that stops anybody in Nigeria from aspiring. If you have a vision to serve the people, why not? Why should you allow where you come from to defeat your vision? And why should the country rob itself of the possibility of progress because the people that can help bring that progress are from the “right” or the “wrong” tribe. I don’t have ethnic consciousness. Therefore my candidacy is not an ethnic candidacy. Because I have rejected that paradigm. My candidacy is a Nigerian candidacy for the Nigerian presidency. The vision that I have transcends these things that divide Nigeria. That’s why I feel that I would be the person to heal this country. Paradoxically, a lot of people have said it: the fact that you are actually from the part of the country you come from actually makes that likely because you are not from the political class in that part of the country. If you were, you wouldn’t even make it. But you are a technocrat, you’ve been abroad, you have a lot of international exposure, you have leadership experience at national level, you are not coming from an ethnic background, therefore the likelihood that you would be able to heal Nigeria is actually high. I want to heal Nigeria and I have the nation-building skills and experience from years in the UN. I have reconstructed broken nations around the world, from Cambodia to Croatia, from Angola to Rwanda. So why can’t I do it in my country? Two, I have economics background. I have a knowledge of what to do to fix the Nigerian economy. I have the diplomatic experience to restore Nigeria’s standing in the world. So at the end of the day, I believe there is no candidate standing that can offer Nigeria what I offer Nigeria. More importantly, we need a generational change in leadership. Because the rule of tired old men and tired old parties and tired old systems, they are in it for themselves. They are not in it for the reason I am in it.
Leadership is the secret of transformation of societies, institutions, of families. Other than God, leadership is the most important element of human existence. So you find that societies that make progress are societies that have a system of bringing up effective leaders. So when a society does not address its leadership problem as a society, you will find what you find in Nigeria: powerful leaders in the private sector, power leaders in various places, but in the political space, which is the most important, no leaders. Just politicians. Therefore leadership matters. Leadership defines the destiny of nations and institutions. So leadership is job No.1.