Kingsley Moghalu: A new Nigeria is possible
We will set up the institutional and market infrastructure for economic activities that will take our country from poverty to prosperity.
Kingsley Moghalu, Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) discusses why he thinks the 2019 presidential election is more than just an election and what he wants to achieve by being President, in this exclusive interview with Financial Nigeria Editors. Moghalu was the exclusive front cover personality of Financial Nigeria magazine, January 2019 edition.
Financial Nigeria (FN): When you signified your intention to run for president in 2019, you said some people wondered why someone of your professional pedigree and pleasant nature would dive into the murky Nigerian politics. Ten months into your campaign, what has continued to motivate you in the race?
Kingsley Moghalu (KM): What prompted me to join this race and has kept me in it is my belief in the possibility of a different and better Nigeria. This belief is becoming stronger with each passing day. And that’s because of three factors. The first is that it is clear to most Nigerians that the old, recycled politicians have failed and have nothing new to offer us.
Secondly, most Nigerians are tired of the status quo. This means the ground is fertile and ripe for disruption. However, the challenge that remains is for our people to make the leap from agonizing to organizing and vote out the failed politicians. Thirdly, coming from nowhere, politically speaking, 10 months ago when I announced my bid for the office of the President, the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and my candidacy now effectively constitute the Third Force in Nigerian politics. Various independent polls show us as the favourite alternative to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – and also the leading party among the “alternative” candidates.
Of course, we intend to overtake the APC and the PDP, both of which represent the failed, old order, and go on to win in February. But I am motivated by the fact that we are already creating a new reality on the ground in our democracy because the narrative is changing. The possibility of something other – and better – than the APC and the PDP is now very concrete.
FN: What does it mean for the country that citizens seem to believe that our politics should be left for people whose pedigree and worldview are the antithesis of yours?
KM: It’s a sad thing because it means our citizens have been psychologically abused by the failed political class. This has made us lose confidence in ourselves and caused us to continue looking up to politicians whom we know have demonstrably failed. All this happened subliminally, aided by the sharp rise in poverty in our country.
As people focus on how to survive on a day-to-day basis, they have lost the ability to think long-term. This means a lot of psychological reorientation and political education of the citizens is very necessary. Much of my campaign has, therefore, been about psychologically empowering our people across the country and letting them know that a new Nigeria is possible, and that they have the power through their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) to make it happen.
As for Nigerians at the grassroots – both in rural and urban areas – it means communicating the possibility of a different kind of Nigeria to them in very simple terms.
FN: What do you want to achieve by being President of Nigeria?
KM: Simply put, I aspire to be a transformational president that takes Nigeria into the 21st century, much in the same way Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore and Mahathir Mohamad reshaped Malaysia. But I realise I will not have the two decades and more they had to do the job in their countries. That is why we have to be realistic and realize I can only set the foundation and execute foundational reforms in a number of specific areas within four years.
I want to build Nigeria into a real nation, wage a successful war against poverty, and restore Nigeria’s standing in the world.
FN: You are doing quite well in the online polls of the presidential candidates and your party was nominated to participate in the vice-presidential and presidential debates. Nevertheless, what do you think are the obstacles to your winning the presidential election in 2019?
PKM: The obstacles to winning the election lie in the mindsets of Nigerians. If we say we are tired of the status quo and yet vote for the APC or the PDP, that would mean we are not yet really serious about changing our circumstances in a very fundamental way.
Another potential obstacle is the question of whether the elections will be free and fair. We must find a way to check the tendencies of vote buying and the use of security forces to advance the partisan interests of the ruling party.
FN: What would be the highlights of what will be termed “Moghalunomics”, i.e. the major economic policies you will pursue, if you ascend to the presidency at the end of May?
KM: The major highlight of “Moghalunomics” is that I am an economic thinker and policy maker who emphasizes the importance of the philosophical foundations of the economy if we are to achieve progress. My approach is that we must have a clear economic philosophy. This is the differentiator between me and other presidential candidates. From that foundation, we will develop an economic vision, and then an economic policy that will aim to achieve the vision. We will set up the institutional and market infrastructure for economic activities that will take our country from poverty to prosperity.
Entrepreneurial capitalism is the right economic philosophy for Nigeria but we must bring to our economic policy a proper understanding of the balance between the role of the state and the role of the market. This is important because on one hand, markets are not perfect; on the other hand, states cannot replace the role of the marketplace.
We will also apply an understanding of the difference between economic growth, economic development, and economic transformation – and the relationship between all three. This in-depth approach has been lacking. The present and past governments have focused on ad hoc, disjointed activities and transactions that are short-term and not forward looking.
This is why, despite becoming Africa’s largest economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and achieving high economic growth rates in the past, our economic growth has not been inclusive and poverty has risen so markedly that we have now become the poverty capital of the world.
So, the major policies my government will pursue, if I become the President are, first, we will establish the foundations for a successful capitalist economy that is nevertheless pro-poor in its orientation by creating opportunities for the poor to achieve escape velocity from poverty. This means introducing policy reforms to strengthen property rights, achieve an innovation economy, instead of reliance on oil and other natural resources, and ensure there is enough capital in the system through easier and diversified access to finance for small businesses and start-ups.
That’s why my government will establish a N1 trillion venture capital fund that will provide equity capital investment to start-ups and for innovation. It is necessary to go beyond the excessive reliance on credit from banks as we have it today. It is partly because of this reliance on bank loans that access to finance is so difficult today.
The second major policy of my administration will be human capital development. This will be the driver of the Nigerian economy in my presidency. It will require a fundamental overhaul of the education sector to make the sector more skill-based so that graduates can be more practically employable and able to employ themselves. We will establish a skills training centre in each of the 774 local government areas to train young secondary school (for those unable or unwilling to go on to university) or university graduates in skills such as IT, welding, machine operations, mechanized agriculture, vulcanizing, furniture making and so on.
Young people with these kinds of skills can find jobs more easily, or be better able to set up new businesses with support from the venture capital fund. These new businesses, as well as a massive expansion of the agricultural value chains of cultivation, transportation, storage, processing and export of processed agricultural products will create millions of new jobs.
FN: You have said the next election is more than an election. This being the case, what are your messages to each of these three distinct demographics of the elders of the country, the middle class and the youth in this electoral cycle?
KM: Yes, I believe that 2019 is more than just an election and is in reality an election of destiny. Basically, it is a choice between the past and the future; it is a choice between continuing in poverty and achieving real prosperity. So, to the elders I say: set Nigeria free by encouraging a transition into the future by a younger, competent leadership. Any society that does not regenerate its leadership with new blood cannot regenerate itself.
To the middle class I say: we should be ashamed of ourselves because we are the ones who put Nigeria into this rut. We turned our backs to politics and allowed poor peasants who can be bought with two thousand naira to decide who our leaders will be. Not surprisingly, many of those who have voted in the past have not made good choices. We the middle class who are more enlightened and know the right thing have been too cowardly to get involved in politics and too lazy to even go out and vote. In 2019, stand up to be counted for a paradigm shift. It is time.
To the youth I say: you hold the key to our country’s future. You make up over 60 per cent of our population. Go out and vote for a younger but well experienced leader who understands and has relevant experience in nation-building through the institutions of the state, economic management, and foreign affairs. Don’t vote for candidates only because they are “youth” candidates. If they do not have the right exposures and experience, they are likely to be incompetent, too, albeit for different reasons from our failed and older politicians. Fortunately, there are candidates like me who are relatively young but also very experienced in statecraft and have verifiable track records. I am a tested and trusted hand.
FN: Previous administrations strongly advocated for Nigeria's permanent membership of a reformed United Nations Security Council. You worked at the UN for 17 years. How would your leadership relate with such ambitions and the notion of Nigeria’s leadership in Africa?
KM: I believe that Nigeria can only be as powerful abroad as it is strong at home. Unfortunately for us, our economy, security and stability at home have progressively weakened in recent years. This has made it difficult to project power and protect our interests abroad. As President of Nigeria, I will focus on creating a strong domestic foundation for our foreign relations, and review our international relations to put Nigeria’s interests first.
This means going beyond symbolic quests such as permanent membership of the UN Security Council based only a notion of “demographic power” because we are Africa’s most populous country, to developing a coherent policy of the concrete outcomes we seek in the world based on a clear philosophical foundation, a worldview of who we are, where we are coming from, and where we believe we are going in the world.
We must understand in this context that the phrase “international community” is simply an aspiration; it is not real. What we have in reality is anarchy in an international society of self-interested states. That is why the UN’s Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council Reform in the 1990s quickly became known as the “Never-Ending Working Group”. Indeed, what we have is “controlled anarchy,” because of the contending self-interests of states. So we must put Nigeria first, even in the context of our policy towards Africa. We have been a Father Christmas for far too long.
FN: Although the election is just few weeks away, what support does your campaign still need?
KM: We would be happy to have financial support and in-kind support in terms of logistics such as vehicles, broadcast media advertising slots, and so on. Above all, those who believe in our vision of a new and better Nigeria must continue to spread the word and remain confident that we can and will win in 2019.
FN: What is your outlook for Nigeria and the world in 2019?
KM: I am optimistic that real change will happen in our country in 2019 if we vote for the YPP and a Kingsley Moghalu presidency. But we must not take it for granted that the old guard will want to give way easily when we defeat them. We must, therefore, be ready to protect our votes from their desperate urge to cling on to power.
As for the world, beyond the consequences of the trade wars between China and the United States, it will, in my worldview, remain divided between the countries that are making progress and those, such as ours, that are not. My first task as President will be to move Nigeria into the column of those countries that are making and seen to be making real progress in attaining the wealth of nations.