In his first major interview since the February 23 presidential election, Young Progressive Party presidential candidate, Professor Kingsley Moghalu, said though he is disappointed, the outcome of the election reflects the mindset of Nigerians.
As a presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential election, how would you describe your experience?
It was overall a great one. We ran a serious campaign within the limitations of the resources available to us. Millions of Nigerians heard my vision and my message and, despite the fact that I lost electorally, the broad reaction to my candidacy has been very positive.
I think it gave people hope for a better future and points in the direction of the kind of leadership we should have as a country. That in itself is an important victory. I do not despise small beginnings!
You rejected the election result. Is your party going to challenge the outcome of the election in the court?
I, Kingsley Moghalu did not formally “reject” the election result. I saw a statement issued by the YPP party executive saying YPP “rejects” the election result.
The statement was not discussed with me before it was broadcast, so I would be unfair to myself if I let anyone attribute to me a decision I did not take.
I issued a subsequent personal statement saying that the legitimacy of the election had been called into question by the credible allegations of rigging and the operational failures of INEC.
There is a nuanced difference between those two statements, because only a court case and a judicial pronouncement can conclusively settle the question.
You must understand that, except in a few parties where the party chairman and the presidential candidate are one and the same, there is a difference between a presidential candidate and a national executive of a political party.
I am not a member of the national executive of my party, the YPP, so whilst my candidacy undoubtedly brought the party to national prominence and many people therefore conflate me as a presidential candidate with the YPP as a party, the truth is that there is a difference between the two.
As the presidential candidate of the YPP my personal view was that, although the election was marred by many irregularities, the question of going to court is neither here nor there as a practical matter.
If we had come second to the candidate that was declared the winner, then it would make practical sense to go to court. But that’s not the case, and the candidate that came second is already in court, so my own effort from now on will be to campaign for fundamental electoral reforms that solve the problems at their root.
My candidacy was particularly targeted by the status quo because they took it seriously, again because of the credibility of the candidate
With the votes you polled nationwide, you did not make it into the first five candidates, are you disappointed?
Yes, I was disappointed. But I also understood why that happened. The first point is that the result of the election reflects the mindset of Nigerians as of the 2019 elections, so anyone that complains should first look in the mirror.
Did you vote? If so, for who? The status quo or for something new, different and bold? Were you one of those who understood and agreed with my message but found some excuses to vote differently from the message, maybe based on who you believed would win?
Where was the so-called “youth vote”? And some alternative parties got more votes than us because their names and initials were mistaken for the APC or the PDP by voters! Second, the truth is that the results announced for YPP in the presidential election were not our actual results.
This is so even though our actual results would still not have won at the ballot, based on the point I just made about where the society is at this point.
Nevertheless, our votes were stolen, suppressed, diverted, and we had many credible indications of this. You see, my candidacy was particularly targeted by the status quo because they took it seriously, again because of the credibility of the candidate.
The status quo politicians knew that my message was being heard loud and clear by Nigerians and felt threatened. So, they took some panic measures, including a massive fake news campaign on social media targeted at me and my voters to the effect that I had stepped down for both Atiku and, separately, President Buhari.
I was the only presidential candidate targeted with such a massive fake news campaign a few days to the election. Although we issued statements rebutting these fake news, these campaigns of course also depressed our votes because many people in the Northern States (Buhari’s voting base) and the Southern states (Atiku’s main voters) believed it.
As the presidential candidate of the YPP my personal view was that, although the election was marred by many irregularities, the question of going to court is neither here nor there as a practical matter
What’s next for you and your political party?
The first thing is to rest and recover from my first missionary journey! I am considering my options, but top on my mind is to proceed on a non-partisan basis now that the period of elections and partisan campaigns are over.
To Build a Nation (TBAN) a non-partisan platform that I convened and established a year ago, before I joined the YPP, will remain a part of the national conversation on a number of issues. The party itself will of course continue to be active as well, I am sure.
What are your takeaways from the 2019 presidential election?
We need fundamental electoral reform in our country. If we do not do that, then we are just deceiving ourselves that this is a democracy.
There are too many loopholes for electoral fraud. Our people need to vote and not have voter apathy, but for that to change, they must have confidence that their votes will be counted and will in fact count.
We must move to electronic voting and collation if we are to achieve this. Citizens need massive amounts of voter education. INEC performed very poorly in 2019.
The performance failures were just too many. They need to change their systems and procedures towards effective project management.
Elections should be seen as projects to be delivered on time, under budget, and with quality assurance. Populating the process with university professors instead of good logistics managers (which could be private sector firms) is not a recipe for success.
We need fundamental electoral reform in our country. If we do not do that, then we are just deceiving ourselves that this is a democracy. There are too many loopholes for electoral fraud
What were your best moments during the campaign?
Traveling around the country and meeting and listening to ordinary Nigerians who just want a better life was a high point. I also danced a lot, including in marketplaces! The formal presidential debate was a good moment.
It was great to be able to put across my message and vision to an estimated 60 million Nigerians to viewed or listened on TV and other media platforms.
I was also encouraged by the endorsements I received from many Nigerians, especially my endorsement by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.
Those endorsements meant far more than whether they translated into electoral votes. They are part of the historical record!
What surprises did you find traveling around the country during your campaign tour?
I was actually surprised by how warmly my candidacy was received around the country. I never met any hostility, either on ethnic or religious basis.
But I was also shocked at the extent of a sense of entitlement in some places to receive money in exchange for their votes. So, the first surprise was pleasant and the second was unpleasant.
Were there things you would have done differently?
I think I would have spent more time in grassroots campaigns in rural areas. I did a lot of that, but maybe not enough because there was too little time and we did not have the name and party recognition of the APC and the PDP.
What do you expect from President Muhammadu Buhari's second term?
I hope President Buhari will run a competent and inclusive government and create a powerful positive legacy for himself as a leader.
Populating the process with university professors instead of good logistics managers (which could be private sector firms) is not a recipe for success
There are assumptions that the electoral defeat of outliers at the poll could be a catalyst to present a formidable front in the next election. Would you honour an invitation for a merger? If yes, which party would you consider merging with and what are your conditions?
It is premature to speculate on such matters. I am focused now on non-partisan activities such as voter education and electoral reform. These are the two things our democracy needs most now.
Are you prepared to publish a detailed account of how you financed your campaign?
I will comply with all legal requirements regarding transparency. We are transparent, but we should avoid double standards. Have you asked APC and PDP to publish a detailed account of who financed their campaigns?
What is your message to Nigerians?
We cannot overcome poverty, youth unemployment and other challenges if we do not elect the right people. By this I mean political leaders that can make a real difference, regardless of their party platform.
The worship of party platform is robbing our country of the chance to make real progress. The candidate matters, although the strength of party organisation matters also.