Perhaps one of the most cerebral candidates to throw his hat in the ring lately, Kingsley Moghalu, spoke with The Interview about his years at the Central Bank of Nigeria, his role in the Economic Management team, and why he wants to be President.
You were Deputy Governor of the Central Bank and member of the Economic Management team under former President Goodluck Jonathan. Do you feel vicariously liable for the high level of stealing and mismanagement associated with that government?
How could I possibly feel that way? I was a central banker. The central bank was independent from the control of the (President Goodluck) Jonathan government, as it should be. We were the monetary authority not the fiscal authority that is more susceptible to political control. We did not control the nation’s fiscal resources from taxation or oil. We were not part of the day-to-day government in the sense of having to report every morning to the political authority of the day. No. We worked independently and took decisions about inflation and the banking and payment systems independently. It is wrong, in principle, to associate an independent central bank with a particular government because unlike ministers whose appointments are tied to the individual that is the President, the tenures of central bank governors and deputy governors are fixed for five years. I was appointed by Yar’Adua, and yet when he passed on I continued to serve while Mr. Jonathan was the President. The ministers appointed by Yar’Adua did not survive in the cabinet except in any specific case where the new President wanted such a person to continue and re-appointed him or her. Central bankers should not be responsible for the corruption of politicians except where a central bank governor willingly and knowingly makes himself or herself a tool for corrupt politicians.
When your former boss, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi accused the Jonathan government of mismanaging $20billion, you said he had crossed the line and entered into politics. Was it his approach that you were opposed to or did he get his facts wrong, in your view?
That was just a fleeting moment of disagreement and even then, it was about the approach and not the substance. Governor Sanusi and I worked very well and harmoniously together and agreed on most things. I have the highest regard for him (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi). We remain close friends and always will be. But I was not a sycophant while I was at the CBN as a Deputy Governor.
In your statement of intent to run for the Presidency, you said you would build “a formidable coalition of parties for the presidential election, that will represent a clear and credible alternative.” How do you intend to do that?
By ensuring that everyone who is tired of our failed political and economic order which is the vast majority of Nigerians, realises that the power to change this state of affairs is in their hands. We will present our plans to them, which we believe will take Nigeria in the direction it needs to go. So I hope we will have a coalition based on this fundamental understanding that the paradigm shift we seek for our country is too important for us all that share the same political values not to come together.
In one of your recent interviews, you said President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has failed because he made many promises, and “none of them has been achieved or delivered.” You are not giving him any credit for pushing back Boko Haram and retrieving parts of the country where the group had hoisted its flag before he came to office?
Boko Haram sauntered into Dapchi, abducted 150 girls, and sauntered off. Then, after getting ransom for them, returned the girls. Does that sound like a group that has been pushed back? One of Buhari’s cardinal promises was to make Nigeria more secure. The clashes between herdsmen and farmers, leading to a huge loss of life and property, renders this aspect of is government a complete failure. Whatever early success the government may have achieved against BH has been entirely negated by the subsequent heightened insecurity in Nigeria.
What are you going to do differently to make the country more secure?
Nigeria is currently severely under-policed. My plan is to increase the ranks of the Nigerian police to 1.5 million, from its current level of 350,000. Of that current number, many of them are assigned to VIPs and other aspects of the force that have nothing to do with day-to-day policing. We will professional and end political interference in the recruitment and deployment process and encourage specialisation in training. I also have and will demonstrate the political will to secure Nigeria’s presently porous borders with Niger, Cameroon and Chad. And we will address the root causes of the BH insurgency which include poverty and unemployment as well as the desertification of Northern Nigeria in the case of the herdsmen. My government will implement a ranching policy that will be beneficial to all concerned.
The constitution makes running for a national office/winning, very expensive and complicated. With less than one year to the election how do you or your group intend to fulfil the minimum conditions for spread and presence in the 774 local governments?
We will take our message to every part of the country. There are many who are unhappy with the state of the country today, and we will reach them and offer them an alternative. The movement I am part of is already building ground structures across the country. It is not impossible as you make it look.
Under what terms will you, personally, agree to work with a group or alliance that excludes the APC and the PDP?
Any such platform must be committed to a popular movement without any links to the current political elite who have led us to where we are. That is my major condition. We do not need permission to take back our country.
A number of other young candidates have indicated interest to challenge Buhari next year. Are you in talks with any or all of them?
I welcome and commend their efforts to put themselves forward for the highest office in the land.
Would you, at any stage, consider stepping down for any of the so-called outliers, say, Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye or Tope Fasua?
I certainly believe we all who believe in a more progressive politics and leadership should come together and forge a united front that puts forward the person that has the most persuasive attributes and is best placed as a practical matter to win the election.
Do you have to contest for the presidency to make consequential difference in service?
In principle, not at all. There are many patriots doing their little bit in public service to make things better. In my own specific case I have discovered, however, that the vision I have for my country is best actualized at the level of the presidency. And that is of course a legitimate aspiration. So, for me this is not an ambition. It is a vision. I also found out from my own experience that the ultimate decisions about governance are taken at the highest levels of political leadership and these are elected and not appointed persons. No country can make progress beyond the competence or incompetence of its elected political leaders. What we need now is for technocrats with skills to combine those skills with political authority. Only with that combination can we take Nigeria into the 21st century.
Do you think that the age of a leader is more important to young people in Nigeria today, than competence, character and capacity?
There have recently been good successes recorded by the #NotTooYoungToRun movement, seeking to reduce the age requirement for contesting public office. In a country with a median age of 19.2 years or so, young people have every right to demand that the required age for contesting political office be reflective of this reality. However, merely being young is not enough. Our corrupt and venal political class have passed on their toxic torches to many younger people. So, competence, character, capacity and track record will always come first.
You suggested in one of your interviews that one potential problem of zoning apart from its being unconstitutional, is that it will put the Southwest or the North in pole positions in 2023 and even beyond. Are you in the race to avenge the Southeast?
I’m not the candidate of any region of the country. My role is to tell people of my convictions based on where Nigeria is now. Zoning, as a concept has proved a failure, because we are more divided than we were before, and it has also failed in delivering improved quality of life for Nigerians. Poverty is king in Nigeria today. All zoning has done is focus the benefits of governance on a narrow, corrupt elite.
What is your relationship with Ohaneze Ndigbo? Have you been in touch with the group?
I have tremendous respect for our leading social and cultural groups such as Ohaneze, Afenifere, Arewa forums and others. I have friends in the leaderships of all the major groups and maintain excellent relations with them.
Under former President Jonathan, Igbos occupied a number of prominent positions in government. And yet did it now show in the level of service delivery in the Southeast. Do you think Igbo elite are largely responsible for their own problems?
A convenient myth! Goodluck Jonathan was not from the Southeast, and he was the elected President. The question should be more properly framed with regard to the South-South where he comes from. Conflating the number of appointees from anywhere with real political authority is a red herring in my view. More importantly, merely occupying positions in government has never been enough to improve the welfare of ordinary Nigerians in any area of Nigeria. If it were enough, then the Northern part of Nigeria from where a majority of our heads of government have come from since independence would be leading the world by now. What people need to understand is that there is no salvation in our current political leadership class, no matter what part of Nigeria they come from. They have no worldview. No philosophy. All they seek is power for the sake of power. That is why we are where we are today.
When we interviewed Ralph Uwazuruike he said the security services were using IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, to subvert the legitimate demands for the creation of Biafra. Do you share this view, especially in light of recent developments?
I do not know the inner workings of the movements led by Uwazurike and Kanu enough to comment on their disagreements.
What is your view on the government’s handling of the Nnamdi Kanu case?
The Nigerian government has a great track record of turning marginal figures into martyrs due to an absence of critical thinking. The Nigerian government behaves like a hammer, and it looks at everything as a nail. By locking up Kanu they made him far more popular than even he could have dreamed.
What is your view on Biafra?
The calls for Biafra, like Niger Delta militancy, like the herdsmen crises, like the Boko Haram insurgency, are just a symptom of the injustices meted out by the Nigerian state daily. These injustices make the state less and less legitimate, and there is no shortage of people waiting to take advantage of this. We must urgently reform the character of the Nigerian state. There is no more time to waste. In my own view what we really need is a smart constitutional restructuring of Nigeria to address the legitimate aspirations of all Nigerians for equal opportunity for a better life. A carefully and well-thought restructuring will stabilize Nigeria and lead to economic prosperity in a manner that works for all parts of our country. Everyone will be a winner in that scenario. The current type of “unitary-federalism” that we are practising, which concentrates all power in Abuja, can only assure the increasing poverty of Nigerians because it makes it impossible to diversify the economy away from oil, and will make our country more unstable as the clamour for justice and equity from many parts of the country like the Southwest, the South-South, the Middle Belt and the South-east continues. As President of Nigeria I will lead a smart restructuring process that involves the Nigerian people, the National and State Assemblies, and reduces my own powers as President for the greater good of Nigeria.
How would you tackle corruption differently?
I must say that corruption is not fought on the pages of newspapers or on the internet. It is time to get serious. The EFCC is seen to be doing the bidding of the presidency, and under my administration the EFCC will not be supervised by the presidency. It will be truly independent, merged with the ICPC, and other systemic reforms will be put in place, like mandatory release of audited accounts by government agencies. In my government we will put in place processes to reduce corruption dramatically, and impartial accountability will be the watch word. The fight against corruption will start inside my own government, not focusing on the opposition. We will stop the use of corruption as a political football while corruption continues to reign.
What is the government not getting right in its management of the economy? And how would you do it differently?
First and foremost, there is no philosophical foundation for the running of Nigeria’s economy. It is done in an ad-hoc manner. That’s why our results fluctuate so wildly between administrations. For this administration, it has mismanaged the oil price collapse by its ruinous foreign exchange policy, which led directly to the recession and high inflation. The completely needless recession led to the loss of many jobs, and drove more families into poverty. A Kingsley Moghalu presidency will reposition Nigeria for economic prosperity by creating the enabling environment for a productive, innovation-led economy that commercializes inventions and innovation through mass production, and smartly protects the interests of Nigerian entrepreneurs to do so. This, combined with a better approach to taxation will reduce our dependence on oil revenues. We will scrap the federal government’s ineffective and failed social intervention fund that claims to pay people to remain unemployed instead of creating real jobs and real wealth, and we will do so by establishing a public-private venture capital fund that will invest in new businesses by the unemployed, and those businesses will in turn employ more people.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources recently said the government was losing N1.4trillion yearly from “under-recovery” of revenue from the sale of petrol. That is basically euphemism for subsidy, isn’t it?
Yes it is. Absolutely. Subsidy, by any other name, is still subsidy. And it is better to subsidize production that to subsidize consumption as we do in Nigeria. What we really need is to deregulate the downstream petroleum industry and privatize the refineries after decades of imaginary “turn-around maintenance” that have only left more Nigerians sleeping at petrol stations.
How will you handle the question of subsidy?
At some point in the future the petroleum subsidy has to go, in order for the funds to be used in critical areas like healthcare, education, and our police force. The subsidy regime itself is tailor made for corruption, given the opacity of the way NNPC operates.
Out of 85million employable Nigerians, 16million are unemployed. What is your job plan?
The government does not create jobs, with few exceptions. It can mainly create an environment for job-creation, which is what the venture capital fund I will establish will do. We will also create at least two million new jobs in the reformed police force for a country of 200 million people.
Money will continue to play a big part in elections, especially Nigerian elections. You said you would crowd-source your funding. How much are you targeting and when will the campaign start?
The campaign will start according to the INEC timetable. Regarding the amount, there is no upper limit yet. We will stop calling for donations when we win.
Looking at the field of candidates who have either declared their interest in the Presidency or are on the verge of doing so, who do you consider your most difficult opponents and why?
My most difficult opponent is not any one candidate, but the apathy of Nigerians who are sick and tired of our politics. My biggest task is to convince people that I represent a clear difference from all those who have failed us so far. Nigerians have very good reasons to be apathetic, but they must be reminded that they have the power to make things different, no matter how bad things are now.
What’s your message to anyone out there who still thinks your candidacy is a joke?
The real joke is on such a person, and he or she is in for a rude shock. I’m running for President because I intend to win. I invite anyone who doubts that to take a look at my track record and my policy proposals.
What would you do on your first day in office?
On Day One, my First Eleven team will be known to the Nigerian people, ready for confirmation by federal lawmakers. The business of fixing Nigeria is urgent, and certainly cannot wait for seven months, like it happened the last time. My team will be ready from day one, and it will be an inclusive team.
Do you think Buhari still has any chance to shore up public confidence in his government and may be pull off a second term?
He will certainly try to shore up his popularity. But Nigerians will remember the actual record on his failed performance on his campaign promises on security, the economy, and on corruption.
Aisha Osori’s book, Love Does Win Elections, documents how Nigerian politics can irretrievably damage a contestant, however noble their intention? Is there something about our politics that really scares you?
What scares me most about Nigeria’s politics is that as currently constructed, it is designed to promote only the worst among us, and has been doing so over many decades.
Looking back on your time in the Central Bank, what do you think the bank could have done differently?
Nothing I can think of. Of course, there is no perfect institution and no perfect person. But on the whole, I am very proud of the work we did.
What is the single greatest reason why you want to be president?
The increasing rate of poverty in our country threatens our future. Is this the kind of country we want our children and youth to inherit? If you combine the poverty rate with population growth, the scenario in the near future is scary. Nigeria should not continue like this.
Which African success story, if any, challenges you?
I like Botswana’s story. It is a stable country. Leadership succession has been orderly and predictable for the past half century. Ever since their first president Sir Seretse Khama, every president of Botswana previously served as the vice-president. They are a great example of how an enlightened elite can put in place the structures necessary to ensure long term growth, due to an excellent use of their natural resources. They compare favourably with many countries in the world on human development indices.