By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
Kingsley Moghalu is a politician, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and academic whose presidential ambition in 2019 general elections inspired millions of Nigerians.
Moghalu, who is now the President of the Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation (IGET), a public policy think tank focused on inclusive growth, and the CEO of Sogato Strategies, a global investment advisory firm, turned 58, May 7.
In this interview, he said until the government can secure lives and property, Nigerians must defend themselves against confirmed terrorists any which way they can. He spoke on the Igbo Presidency, the implications of election boycott and why Nigerians must vote a more capable candidate in
What are your reflections on the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria?
It is a sad state of affairs for us in Nigeria that our country has come to this. This is the practical consequence of a failure of leadership. When we say elections have consequences, and that the individual candidate on the party platform matters, this is what we mean. It can mean the difference between life and death. May God help us all. Until the government can secure our lives, Nigerians should defend themselves from confirmed terrorists in any way possible. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and it must kick in when the state, whose constitutional duty it is to protect our lives and property, has failed to do so.
Do you think the situation is redeemable or are we on the road to Somalia?
The situation is of course redeemable, but it will take a very different kind of leadership in our country to reverse this situation. I am familiar with Somalia, I was there as a United Nations Political Affairs Officer at Headquarters in New York in the early to mid-1990s, when I handled the Angola, Rwanda and Somalia conflicts. There are parallels because the breakdown of order in Somalia was caused by tribal conflicts between clans. But there is much more at stake in Nigeria in terms of economic investments and activities, and I hope that we can reverse the situation if the Presidency and the Federal Government of Nigeria will take a more conciliatory approach to disenchanted stakeholders and manufacture consensus, and if they can stem the rising tide of terrorism by all means necessary. It is a question of political will, on one hand, and capacity, on the other.
If the situation persists, do you think 2023 polls will be possible?
The 2023 polls could be threatened if the situation worsens, but I believe the elections will hold. Since we are still formally in a democracy, I actually think the real solution is for all of us to make sure we vote, and vote in more capable candidates, not just voting blindly for political parties and their structures even if a party puts up a chimpanzee as its candidate. I don’t believe in election boycotts. They place us at a political disadvantage.
INEC and other Nigerians have been pressing for the Electoral Act amendment, the process appears to be sluggish, do you think we can have a new Act before the election the way things are going? What do you advise?
We must. There is no alternative to a thoroughly amended Electoral Act if the 2023 elections are to have any meaning. I read that the National Assembly plans to have one passed by the end of June. I hope that is true and that it will happen.
What’s your view on Patanmi, the Communications Minister’s link with terrorism? Do you believe he has repented?
I was one of the very few political leaders in Nigeria to make a clear, unequivocal statement about the Patanmi affair. Given all the facts available, Patanmi should not be a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is irrelevant whether he has “repented” or not. He should not have successfully scaled the security clearance process. His terrorist sympathizing past having been publicly exposed; he should have resigned or been fired. Terrorism is a high crime. The handling of the matter suggests a double-minded posture towards terrorism and the devastation it wreaks around the world including here in Nigeria. It doesn’t matter whether it is Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, or Taliban.
What’s your view on the granting of asylum to persecuted IPOB members by the U.K?
Under international law, countries have the right to grant asylum to persons who are political refugees from their own country.
Do you think the recent crises in Chad would worsen our security situation?
Of course the situation in Chad has serious implications for Nigeria. We should watch it very carefully.
Insecurity, a poor performing economy, calls for secession and break up – where do you think the solution to the present problems lies?
The only long term solution is a fundamental restructuring of Nigeria under a new peoples constitution. There simply is no other way out. All the geopolitical zones in Nigeria agree now on this. Of course, that process and discussions will take some time. But if the Buhari administration were to take concrete steps to bring stakeholders around the table, I think it would reduce the political temperature in the country. Beyond that, we must elect in 2023 a president who will be willing without being prodded, and capable too, to initiate constitutional restructuring back to true federalism with more autonomous sub-national units, but without an overly weak Federal Government. The balance of power between the United States Federal Government and the 50 states is just about right. 70% of governance in America is run by states and local governments, and yet the American presidency and federal government are not weak.
Should FG declare a state of emergency on Security as proposed by the Reps?
I don’t think so. The FG should solve the problem because it can, if it really wants to, or at least look for people who can help them solve it. A state of emergency is a very extreme measure that should not be taken except in the most dire circumstances, because it leads to an abridgment of democractic rights and freedoms.
What are your plans for 2023? Will you be in the race again for the presidency? If yes, What are you going to do differently this time to ensure you achieve your ambition? If no. Why not?
I am thinking, watching, and moving. At a time of my choice, I will state my position on the matter of 2023.
If I decide to run, naturally, I will be guided by the experience of my previous effort, which I believe had a huge impact in many ways because it contributed to shifting the narrative towards political reform and the need for a generational change in our leadership. In such a scenario, I would work hard to build a formidable ground game in all the country’s local government areas. But a lot depends on funding. Most politicians in Nigeria are spending ill-gotten public wealth. I did not steal any public funds when I was in public service in Nigeria, and I have no regrets because that is my own value system. That is why the Igwe of Nnewi, my hometown, honored me with the traditional chieftaincy title of Ifekaego (“that which is greater than money”) of Nnewi Kingdom in December 2020. It is really up to Nigerians who say they want real change to put their money where their mouth is and financially support candidates who have capacity but may not be criminally wealthy.
If I don’t run, I will also explain why. There are several factors to consider in making such a decision.
Some people will say that you do not have a platform acceptable enough to Nigerians to win elections. What do you say?
Well, those who had an “acceptable platform” and won at the polls, how far? How is the country today? We must stop the worship of small gods like Nigerian political party structures and focus on person, not party, in elections. Nigerian party platforms have very little ideological integrity. They are simply vehicles to get to power. Therefore, we should focus more on the question: which candidate can get the job done well? And then vote for that candidate’s party platform. Doing it the other way around is why Nigeria is where it is today.
Can you assess the performance of the APC government under President Muhammadu Buhari?
It has failed to secure our lives and our country. Nigerians are poorer and more jobless today than when this government came in. And corruption is even worse. The question is: what is the best alternative? We have to think carefully, so that we don’t jump from the frying pan to the fire, and then back to the frying pan! We must break away from the old political elite in Nigeria if our country is to make any progress. The result is clear: they have failed.
What are your views on restructuring?
It’s the only way Nigeria can make real, genuine progress. Because it is the only logical path to our national viability, especially economically.
What are your thoughts on the Igbo presidency and how can the region go about it considering what is playing out currently?
I ran for the presidency in 2019 on the basis of a vision I have for Nigeria as a whole, including the Southeast. I believed I was a better candidate than the others, regardless of their ethnicity. So, we need a competent and visionary president if we are to get out of our national crisis and make progress. However, I also believe in equity and justice. Since the presidency has rotated between North and South since 1999, then why should the practice end when by that arrangement it should now be the turn of the Southeast? That would be injustice. We can combine equity and competence, and we should. Nigeria cannot be stable and prosperous without our country being anchored on justice. Injustice naturally creates a response, so anyone who truly wishes Nigeria well knows where the next President of the country should come from. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
You will turn 58 on May 7, how does that make you feel, what are your prayers for your country, family and the world?
I feel grateful to God for the gift of life, and thank Him for the many blessings He has showered on me. I pray for healing in Nigeria. I pray that my children will live and thrive and pursue their dreams, and I pray for the world to recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19 and how it has changed the way we live. Human beings are by nature social beings. Anything that makes us hide from one another is not a good thing.