By Jide Akintunde
Quite necessarily, we Nigerians now have a bright idea of the ideal next president for the country. We have been advised by the very recognisable fundamental inadequacies of those who have led the country since 1999. The generality of Nigerians has suffered untold political, economic, social and psychological repercussions of having the fundamentally inadequate leaders. It is great that our reaction is the growing resolve that the country must get its topmost leadership right in 2019.
Three of the qualities we want in the next president stand out. One, we want him or her to be young. This is not simply a matter of age, given the other qualities we want. But the youthfulness of the next president is important. We live in a fast-changing world. Keeping pace with the issues in today’s “digital” age can be very challenging for those whose prime years were in the “analogue” age.
In wishing he became President when he was much younger, President Muhammadu Buhari admitted that old age can be challenging in meeting the high physical demands of leading the country. Where a Nigerian President has been unable to function as a result of ill-health, which is common with old age, we have seen the usurpation of political power by the “cabal,” who frustrate legitimate, transparent and accountable use of political power.
Two, we want this relatively young Nigerian to possess sound intellect. This requirement derives from the awareness of the abundant supply of well-educated Nigerians. It also derives from the awareness that both the comprehension of the perennial Nigerian development challenges and the solutions to address them require high mental acumen.
For so long, the country has been led by people who are not intellectually equipped to solve the problems of the country. The notion that such leaders would make up for their shortcomings by working with technocrats has delivered very limited results. A technocratically competent leader will deliver optimal results by working with a good number of other technocrats at cabinet and advisory levels. Anything less will deliver, at best, underwhelming results.
Moreover, the Nigerian president is ultra-powerful, in the absence of strong institutions that act as checks on the powers of the president in the advanced countries that practice the same presidential system of government. Without sound intellect, the president would see little use of building or supporting strong institutions that would not be teleguided by him or her. This has been the case in Nigeria, to the effect of our underdevelopment.
What’s more, nobody is allowed to outperform the Nigerian president. That is why he or she should possess the intellectual prowess to be a top performer.
Three, we want this youthful and brainy president to be a good person. We don’t want him to be of the stock or a lackey of the corrupt, self-serving same old leadership we have been having. We have recently realised that a putative clean individual that is propped up by a group of corrupt individuals cannot deliver a clean government.
The president must be empathetic. He or she must not be someone who will divide the citizens or take advantage of us, using our religion or ethnicity. We want him or her to see us, not merely as voters but as people whose legitimate aspirations should be the object of his government.
So, how can we have this individual as the next president of the Federal Republic? There are two fundamental requirements for this to happen. One, the individuals who possess these qualifying attributes have to bring themselves forward for election. Two, we have to support and vote for the best among such candidates to fully assert our resolve for meritocracy.
But our disinclination towards supporting and voting for our ideal candidates in previous presidential elections prevented such candidates from coming forward. While we have always had individuals who fit our requirements, we as the electorate – in particular those of us who made this sensible determination of the ideal leadership qualities and are influencers in our various capacities – have also been cynical of our very own preferences, insisting our idealism is unrealisable.
We say a young, competent and clean individual cannot emerge as president in Nigeria because politics is a dirty, old game for people who cannot compete fairly. We also insist that politics is a game of money. But while money is required in running for office, money does not ultimately decide who wins the election. Ultimately, elections are won and lost by the number of votes a candidate secures.
What the unscrupulous electoral aspirants and candidates do is go at any lengths to secure the highest number of votes. This may entail direct inducement of voters with looted public funds or mobilisation of thugs for ballot box snatching and stuffing. Even where there is collusion with the electoral officials to alter the vote tallies, this is mostly possible in tipping over a winner in a dead heat. The fertile ground for these malpractices is the withdrawal of a lot of us, the good people of the country, from supporting, volunteering and voting for our ideal candidates.
Fortunately, the indication is that we have become wiser. We have seen how elections affect us – our career, business, wellbeing, community and country – when we withdraw from engaging the electoral process and fail to vote during elections. With our resolve to correct this situation, the 2019 presidential election will likely standout from the previous elections by the quality of the aspirants.
Kingsley Moghalu, OON, has now made himself available for election as Nigerians’ darling presidential aspirant. Prof. Moghalu is relatively young. At 54, he is not too young to be inexperienced; neither would he be considered too old and tired. Since he returned to the country last November and set up his new “think and do tank” – not merely a think tank – IGET (Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation), he has been all over the country, delivering lectures, mentoring the youth and consulting with various stakeholders, including in Kano, Abuja, Nsukka, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Lagos and Port Harcourt. Quite young at heart, Kingsley Moghalu has been engaging directly with younger Nigerians on Facebook.
Without equivocation, Moghalu is especially fitting, among some other Nigerians who have come out to declare their intention to run for the office of President. He is a consummate technocrat. After spending 17 years in the United Nations, rising to the topmost career position of Director at a young age of 43, he left the UN to found and lead an international consultancy in Geneva, Switzerland. From his role of providing advisory services to some of the global companies, he was tapped by the administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua to become a deputy governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2009.
At the CBN, Moghalu, under the governorship of Lamido Sanusi (as he then was, but now the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II), led the far-reaching reforms to stop the spread of systemic risk in the banking sector in 2009. He played leading roles in formulating the resolution vehicles for the banking crisis, ensuring no Nigerian lost his or her money in the banks.
Since he served out his one term of five years gracefully in 2014, Moghalu was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, the London-based global think tank that advises governments and central banks on fiscal and monetary policy. He later became a Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
Kingsley Moghalu’s inspiring professional career leverages his first-rate education: he obtained his PhD from the London School of Economics. That Nigeria needs a policy thinker who can come up with cutting-edge solutions to Nigeria’s myriad challenges is not in doubt. And this is where Moghalu asserts his credentials as a transformational leader. He is the author of Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s ‘Last frontier’ Can Prosper and Matter. Emerging Africa provides both conceptual and practical frameworks for Nigeria’s transformation, within the larger discussion of how Africa can make accelerated developmental progress. His new book, Build, Innovate and Grow: My Vision for Our Country, shows he hasn’t simply fancied himself as president; he has prepared to lead Nigeria to socio-economic transformation.
The election of Kingsley Moghalu as President of Nigeria would hold a powerful symbolism for we Nigerians, if we make it happen. A lot of us had resigned to the belief that it is impossible to trounce the self-serving political establishment at the ballot. Moghalu, as President, would be the ultimate disruption of that political establishment. He has had no affiliation to the PDP or APC. He is of a proud Igbo heritage, with transformational national outlook. His victory would be uniquely capable of stirring our individual and collective “can-do” spirit, erasing doubts that Nigeria can ever be politically egalitarian.
Moghalu is a good person. He stood up for the professional integrity of the CBN while he was deputy governor. Since he left, his public views about the institution have been on how to enhance its professional rectitude. Second to his professional orientation is good dispositions to his colleagues and those who look up to him for guidance, support and mentoring.
Kingsley Moghalu surpasses our cogent three requirements. He has charm and an admirable family. He has oratorical prowess. This means he would be a president that is capable of engaging Nigerians directly. He would also be able to meaningfully engage the international community and global investors. Therefore, he would be a president that will truly make Nigerians proud. As a journalist, I am particularly excited that it would be joy to interview him.
Jide Akintunde is Managing Editor, Financial Nigeria publications. He is also Director, Nigeria Development and Finance Forum.