Kingsley Moghalu: Nigeria’s Political Elites Are Not Sincere About Bettering Nigeria


Nigeria’s central bank ex-boss and presidential aspirant, Kingsley Moghalu, has explained that he left the little known YPP for another small party ADC because he does not believe the mainstream parties, PDP and APC can “accommodate or execute” his vision for Nigeria.

He said the entire elite Nigerian political class is not “sincere or capable of changing” the country for the better.

Moghalu was a former professor of practice in the USA and currently an academic visitor to the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations, UK. He says he plans to contest the presidential election again in 2023.

The renowned economist and former UN diplomat was taking questions from Mani Onumonu in a popular television show, The Chat which airs on Channels TV, Lagos.

He decamped from Young Progressives Party (YPP) soon after losing the 2019 election to the incumbent President Buhari, and on 8 October this year joined the African Democratic Congress (ADC) where he is hoping to help build the “Third Force”, to challenge the mainstream parties.

Until his decision, speculations were rife that the big parties were wooing him, as political permutations are pointing towards the next president coming from his southeastern region of Nigeria.

Prof Moghalu likened the current political and economic state of Nigeria today to those of countries such as Cambodia and Rwanda in the build-up to war and economic collapse there. He says his experiences in monetary management at the central bank [2009-2014], and his work at the United Nations “rebuilding broken nations like Cambodia or Rwanda” primed him for the transformative work necessary to get African’s lame giant on its feet again.

He posited that Nigeria’s economic managers were wrongly obsessed with economic growth instead of focusing on economic development which diversifies the economy and reduces poverty by delivering better healthcare, education, skills and jobs to the people.

 Here are excerpts from the incisive interview on The Chat.

The Interview

Q What were you like growing up?

Ans I was the first of my siblings and got a lot of responsibility. Am from Anambra State. Spending time in my village during Christmas and during the war connected me to the local culture. I lived through the horrors of the civil war. My uncle, a Biafran soldier died in that war. I was about 6. I remember the wailing at his death and every now and then there were similar situations in other families. It was painful. It made me hate war and violence and to recognize that conflicts can be better managed. Ultimately I went into a career in international diplomacy managing conflicts and rebuilding broken nations like Cambodia, Croatia and Rwanda.

Q How different were the situations in Cambodia and other countries you mentioned from Nigeria of today?

Ans Not different. I was the United Nations political desk officer for Rwanda at the time of the genocide. We tried to stop it but Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was insisting on a military victory. The United States refused to let Security Council intervene because of the experience in Somalia earlier but after the genocide, we got involved with nation-building. You realize that when people get so attached to ethnic identities and don’t care about the country as we have in Nigeria today, it becomes a fundamental problem. That’s one of the reasons am in politics, seeking the opportunity as the president to unify the country with a vision for the 21st century and to demonstrate to all Nigerians that we can be bigger than the sum of our parts.

“Young people are leaving the country because there’s so much misery and frustration and my heart goes out to them. I don’t blame them for leaving but I want to create a new Nigeria.”

Q The Bank Verification Number (BVN) you created while at the central bank helped to reduce the interest rates. Did it not?

Ans Yes, it did a lot. I and my team needed to clean up the payment system, make it safer and provide access to profiles of bank users. We were frustrated by the slow development of the National Identification Number (NIN) so we went ahead with the BVN. Today we have about 40 million customers with their BVN and this has made the payment systems more efficient and secure. We did a lot on financial stability and inclusion, setting up consumer protection and actually recovered over N100 billion naira for customers in wrong bank charges. There were other big-ticket achievements including stabilizing the banking system, making sure no bank failed. I was also a member of the Monetary Policy Committee, NPC, which brought inflation down to single digits at 8% and stabilized the currency exchange rate state at N150 to N160 to the United States dollar.

Q In the 1980’s, the Naira was at par with the US dollar. What happened to the Naira today?

Ans Well, it’s a phenomenon of economics. At the time there were fixed exchange rates. Later the Nigerian economy was liberalized which meant Naira had to find its market value. Nigeria’s source of external earnings is still not diversified; it still relies heavily on crude oil sales. We need to develop a productive economy, produce value-added complex products, and our economic environment more attractive to foreign investors which brings in the forex to help stabilize our currency. There’s also the demand and supply and inflation components to the problem. There’s also too much government involvement in the central bank and in the market, and both don’t respond well to political instructions in terms of the actual dynamic of the exchange rates.

Attempts by the central bank to control the exchange rate hasn’t been successful because the foundation of the economy hasn’t been addressed. We need a fundamental restructuring of Nigeria so we can move away from sharing oil revenues to being a productive economy. Nigeria today exists to share oil revenue and nothing more. We must move away from dependence on imports, incentivize exports that earn us dollars. Subsidizing Naira is subsidizing imports. On the other hand, if the naira is floated in a carefully managed way, and the dollar value rises to the Naira, this incentivizes local production for export to earn dollars. We also need to keep an eye on our trade policy. But all these require the right political leadership with economic competence.

Q Africa is one of the fastest growing areas in the world but what’s keeping Africa behind and from prospering?

Ans This is a powerful question. There’s a difference between economic development and economic growth. Economic development is about quality of life; clean water, good health services, maternal health, lifespan etc. Economic growth is about the sum of all goods and services produced in a country, GDP. Nigeria is a big country with a big economy but that does not translate to economic development and welfare of citizens. My economic philosophy is that we should focus on human development; education, health, skills, jobs etc. I start from the foundation which is human development, then economic growth and then structural economic transformation. It’s a three-stage trajectory for Nigeria and Africa to be as developed as our peers in South Korea, Brazil, Malaysia etc.

“Nigeria today exists to share oil revenue and nothing more. We must move away from dependence on imports, incentivize exports that earn us dollars. Subsidizing Naira is subsidizing imports.”

Q To personal issues now; when did you start your family?

Ans I got married in 1994 while at the United Nations. My wife and I have 4 lovely children. In building my family, I also took a page from how our parents brought us up together with my own ideas. This is a different era though. I strive to inculcate strong family values in my kids.

Q Are your children here in Nigeria?

Ans No.

Why not?

Ans Because of the nature of my career my kids were born abroad and are in schools abroad. It’s not the same as a corrupt politician resident in Nigeria and his kids are abroad. My kids want to return to Nigeria which is why they support my political career in hopes I can lead the creation of a Nigeria to which they can happily return. Young people are leaving the country because there’s so much misery and frustration and my heart goes out to them. I don’t blame them for leaving but I want to create a new Nigeria.

Q What trends in Nigeria are you most unimpressed about?

Ans I do not believe that the Nigerian political leadership class is sincere or capable of changing this country for the better.

Q Does that include you??

Ans It doesn’t.

Q Has anyone ever given you a piece of advice that you took?

Ans Yes, lots of it. As a political leader, you get a lot of advice but you have to weigh them carefully.

Q Which is the best piece of advice you’ve ever got?

Ans My best advice is the ones I give myself. For example, in 2019, I faced the temptation to join the PDP or the APC but I advised myself to introduce my vision to Nigerians and take a long term approach to my political career. I did not come into politics to feed fat on the commonwealth of Nigerians. These big parties are not able to accommodate or execute the vision I have for Nigeria. I needed an alternative platform. So, I advised myself to be faithful to my original vision and not waiver by joining them. I’m glad I listened to that advice and also family members and friends supported me.

“…am in politics, seeking the opportunity as the president to unify the country with a vision for the 21st century and to demonstrate to all Nigerians that we can be bigger than the sum of our parts.”

Q Do you have any regrets in life?

Ans No regrets other than sometimes misplaced trust in a few friends.

Q Any examples?

Ans Well, sometimes some friends because of their limited imagination may not see, for example, my running for president as achievable may make unkind remarks or are simply unsupportive. Those can be regrettable – because they’re friends.

Q How would your late father describe you today?

Ans My late father, who passed in 1998 at 73 would say of me, ‘my brave son’. I think he felt I have a lot of courage in terms of seeking new opportunities and being unintimidated by obstacles.

Q Let’s suppose you have to go on a journey to an island for10 days, what five things would you consider essential to take with you?

Ans My Bible, a couple of books particularly those on the transformation of nations, some music and movies (if possible) and a bicycle.

Q What would you be reflecting on during that period?

Ans I tend to reflect a lot about the future; what the future could be and the needs of people around me. At this stage am not interested that much in personal success because I have been a phenomenal success by the grace of God. I’ve led a balanced and productive life.

Q What would your wife say about you?

Ans She would say am a very responsible husband and father and that am loyal. I think she would say that I love her and have taken care of her.

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