Professor Kingsley Moghalu (PKM) is described by many national and international media outlets as one of Nigeria’s fastest-rising leaders in recent times. He is the first son of a former Nigerian Foreign Service Officer and civil servant, the late Elder Isaac Moghalu. A technocrat turned politician, Dr. Moghalu is increasingly a household name. His 2019 presidential campaign was phenomenal, inspired millions of young Nigerians, but ultimately failed because he was seen to have been ahead of his time. He had previously made his mark in Nigeria’s financial sector with his contributions at Nigeria’s apex bank as a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Moghalu, who has announced his intention to contest again in 2023, recently served as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) special envoy on Post-Covid-19 Development Financing for Africa. He is a man of many parts…. only time will tell.
Nigeria’s top job is tough
On 1 January 1914, a large part of West Africa became ‘one Nigeria’. One key reason for amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria protectorates with Lagos Colony was to provide a unified railway policy as reported by Richard Bourne in his book. “Nigeria: a new history of a turbulent century”. Another was to close the deficit financing gap for the Northern Protectorate with the surplus from the more economically developed Southern Protectorate. Nigeria is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups. The major tribes by population are Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo these make up the bulk of the country’s population. In addition, since independence, these main ethnic nationalities have dominated the political and economic sectors of the country. After more than a century, a truly built nation with unity of purpose should have replaced the earlier reasons for amalgamation, but this has not happened. Managing Nigeria’s diversity to build a nation out of a geographic country remains the country’s number one political challenge.
Why Moghalu needs to lead Nigeria
Nigeria practices a power rotation between the North and the South of the country, a gentleman’s agreement reached during the return to democracy in 1999 to foster political equity, stability and national unity. Since 1999, the highest political office held by a Nigerian of Igbo ethnic nationality was the SENATE PRESIDENCY. Evans Enwerem, Chuka Okadigbo, Ken Nnamani, Adolphus Wabara, and Pius Anyim all served in this important role, the third ranking in the order of state protocol. Sen. Ike Ekweremadu served as Deputy Senate President in the 7th and 8th Senate.
The Igbo have fared better in multilateral institutions in executive roles. Notably, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo, incumbent World Trade Organisation director general and former Managing Director of the World Bank and erstwhile two-time minister of finance and economy, achieved impressive feats in economic management both nationally and internationally. Elder statesman Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth from 1990 to 2000, is a true nationalist and role model to all of us.
In a 17-year career as a United Nations official, Moghalu led teams that rebuilt broken nations such as Angola, Cambodia, Croatia and Rwanda in international security, conflict resolution and governance operations. His subsequent five-year tenure at the CBN gave him increased exposure into the inner workings of Nigeria’s political class and its system from atop the financial and economic pyramid of the nation. Afterwards, he was appointed as a Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, USA. A strong economy is key to a peaceful and prosperous nation: Moghalu understands this, and his acumen and passion for Nigeria’s growth and development are strong. In essence, leadership runs in his blood.
With PKM having declared his intention to run for presidency in 2023, the question is that of whether and how he can overcome the hurdles placed in front of realizing a Nigerian President of Igbo origin given the anti-Igbo prejudices generated not only due to the Nigeria-Biafra civil war that killed nearly 2 million people, most of them Igbo, but even more by the current and increasing agitation for seccession by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu.
Though the governors of the Southeastern states and indeed a majority of the Igbo dissociate from the Biafra agitation, it nevertheless raises fears and concerns among many non-Igbo Nigerians who have been fed a false, essentially anti-Igbo narrative. Late Mallam Isa Samaila Funtua once said:“Igbo need to belong, meaning politics of association to regain trust of all segment of Nigerians”. The real question is: on whose terms should the Igbo need to belong, and why do some believe the Igbo need to “prove” their Nigerianness 51 years after a civil war after which then Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon declared Reconciliation with his “No Victor, No Vanquished” policy?
The Igbo believe they are in reality more Nigerian than anyone else given their penchant to reside, trade and assimilate in other communities throughout Nigeria. The tragic war of seccession in the late sixties was simply, in the Igbo mindset, a historical occurrence created by the political crisis of the time, and a last resort made necessary by the perceived renunciation by the Gowon government of the Aburi Accords reached in Ghana in early 1967 between between Gowon and Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, then Military Governor of the Eastern Region, to de-escalate tensions and restore stability to the Nigerian federation.
I believe the neo-Biafran agitation is an expression of grievances which can be settled through dialogue and negotiation, setting new rules of one nationhood. Even Ojukwu ultimately contested for Nigeria’s presidency, meaning he no longer believed in the realisation of a geographical Biafran republic. By implication, he believed in one Nigeria. Critically, the Igbo feel marginalized by a lack of fairness and equity in power sharing, resources, and states creation in recent times. But the key problem is the absence of TRUST among the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria since independence.
Kingsley Moghalu is a believer in one and united Nigeria, clearly seen from his utterances, actions and commitment to nation building, and from his many analyses of the Nigerian state in the world’s leading newspapers such as the Financial Times, USA Today, and Nigerian national dailies. Importantly, as a special envoy of the United Nations Development Program on Post-Covid-19 Development Finance for Africa, his impact has been felt in the fight against covid-19 pandemic in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, as well as in working hard to access vaccines from developed nations and raising awareness on the importance of massive vaccination to all Africans to defeat the common enemy.
Charity begins at home. Professor Moghalu holds the traditional title of Ifekaego of Nnewi Kingdom, conferred on him HRH Dr. K.O.N. Orizu, the Igwe of Nnewi. Moghalu is recognised a worthy ambassador of Nigeria and celebrated at home. Next is to use this role to unite Nigerians regardless of ethnic or religious persuasions. Dr. Moghalu needs the Igbo traditional institutions to rally support for him in other parts of the country at this critical time of our national history. Without fear or favour, Nigeria’s constitution allows any Nigerian regardless of state of origin to vie for the top job in the land.
Dr. Moghalu recently condemned the violence and advocated for a peaceful conflict resolution to end unrest in the south east that appears more political than real. On that note, this is an attribute of excellent and visionary leadership that, allowed to bloom, could result in peaceful co-existence among Nigeria’s disparate groups.
As a practical path to political power in 2023, Dr. Moghalu is likely to be part of a THIRD FORCE/NEW POLITICAL FRONT to challenge the two dominant political parties. The APC and the PDP are currently experiencing deep-seated crises that will leave both parties weakened before the elections, assuming they survive as political entities in their current form. Moghalu believes the old political order these parties represent has failed Nigerians, and that a new, modern leadership that will bring sanity into Nigeria’s political system is necessary. The major challenge is this– are Nigerians ready to take a bold step, particularly the youth that form the bulk of unemployment figures? In addition, the youth form the majority of the voting population.
Today, hardly a day passes without seeing Moghalu’s post in key social media platforms. He carries the youth along effortlessly and without rhetoric because he communicates with them directly. This is an excellent quality for effective leadership in the 21st century. He is also increasingly active on the ground in local communities in various parts of the country. The ability to establish and mobilize around a clear vision, which he demonstrated in his 2019 electoral campaign, is one of the things that marks Moghalu out and differentiates him from the typical Nigerian politician.
Next Action Plan
Surprisingly, Moghalu has declared his 2023 presidential aspiration early, in mid-2021. Literally, this is a man prepared for the tough job. He is familiar with Nigeria’s elitist system, and is widely accepted by different ethnic groups across Nigeria. He nevertheless faces the task of forming superior alliances and greater collaboration among the key geopolitical regions. He must talk to friends, allies of Nigeria in Africa and around the world to build better confidence, trust and alliances to get support in the quest to lead Nigeria to the Promised Land in the 21st century. Given his track record in leadership roles and exposures at home and globally, Moghalu is well placed to make and execute sustainable policies that can bring about unparalleled economic growth and political stability beyond imagination.
Educated at the London School of Economics where he bagged his Ph.D. in International Relations, Tufts University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he obtained a degree in law, the UK Institute of Risk Management, and with executive education in macroeconomic and financial management and corporate governance at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Business School, and the International Monetary Fund Institute, Dr. Moghalu is the author of four books including Build, Innovate and Grow (BIG) where he sets out his vision for Nigeria. He is a philanthropist who founded the Isaac Moghalu Foundation in 2005 in memory of his late father. The foundation — inaugurated at a local community ceremony in Nnewi chaired by Gen. Gowon on December 30, 2005 — has trained hundreds of people, mainly girls and women in the Southeastern states and in Kano, Nassarawa States and Abuja Federal Capital Territory, in entrepreneurship skills and in universities and secondary schools.
Finally, I believe Moghalu’s antecedents point the fact that he will not be an ethnic president, nor a coward, but a firm administrator and technocrat. His leadership experience managing teams of diverse races, nationalities and creeds in the United Nations has prepared him to handle Nigeria’s hitherto mismanaged diversity. He now needs to rally support from the youth around the country and convince them of why they need a strong, united and viable economy that creates wealth through sound economy policy, respect of rule of law and the inclusive governance that Moghalu preaches in both private and public life.
Dr Almustapha wrote from the Plymouth Business School, University of Plymouth, UK.