Yesterday I was at the Social Sciences Lecture Theatre of the University of Ibadan to be a part of the To Build a Nation Tour” organized by the Kingsley Moghalu Initiative. The event was put together at the volunteers of Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Presidential aspirant of the Young Progressives Party in the 2019 presidential election. I had seen the poster a few days before but I had been somewhat ambivalent about attending. it was after,a very good friend, Nimisire Emitomo shared the event poster with me and encouraged me to come around that I finally decided that there was perhaps no harm in going to listen to what Kingsley Moghalu had to say about his vision and mission for Nigeria. As I had done in 2015 for Splash FM’s Oyo State Governorship debate, I decided I might as well take a pen and paper along, take a few notes and write my impressions of the event out in this blog post.
In the hours that followed, Professor Moghalu would end up coming late to the event due to “logistical issues beyond his control” and Nimi would storm out of the venue of the event, livid and disgusted and then explode angrily on twitter in a rant that would go viral, so much so that it even drew the attention of Professor Moghalu himself, and he had to go on twitter to apologize to her personally. As I also did in the 2015 piece mentioned earlier, I wanted to mention the fact that it is not a sign of good leadership qualities to make people wait in such sweltering heat for three hours, regardless of what ever excuse the Professor might think he has. However Nimi had mentioned the issue to me and we were pretty much in agreement about it before she went on twitter. At any rate I had tweeted something about the same issue a few hours before Nimi went online to set fire to tables. Therefore, I feel the issue of him coming late to the event is something of a dead horse that I will no longer flog. More so he has apologized to her personally and they have reached a truce. Perhaps what I will do is to find time to write a general piece about why Nigeria leaders/politicians like to come late for events.
A look at Kingsley Moghalu’s profile shows that he has the pedigree that is required to be Nigeria’s president. Academic degrees and professional certifications earned from prestigious institutions in Nigeria and abroad, years of meritorious work in various capacities, as a lecturer, as a financial adviser, at the United Nations and as a Deputy Governor in the Central Bank of Nigeria, he is a technocrat per excellence and a man worth listening to. Also at 55 years old, he is at the right age to be a good president, old enough to not be swayed by the callow impulsiveness of youth, yet with enough energy to be able to vibrantly and vigorously pursue his agenda. He is a good and eloquent speaker and would be able to express his ideas clearly. There is no doubt that he has plenty of passion to see Nigeria become a great nation, and he is a fervent believer in the Nigerian project. He is a likeable man and a good candidate for president.
However what I saw at the event yesterday, made me realize that while Kingsley Moghalu might be a man of ideas and vision, he has little understanding of the actual Nigerian reality. As the young female student who sat to my left pointed out, other than his first degree in Law, which he acquired at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, every other qualification he has, was acquired from outside Nigeria. Other than in his stint at the Central Bank between 2009 and 2014, he has never worked in Nigeria. Passion is nice, having ideas and vision is beautiful, but they are not substitutes for understanding the psyche of the people you want to lead. Here is something he said for example: “Somebody said to me ‘they’ will not allow you to get there. I asked that person, who are ‘they’?” Then he turned to those of us in the audience “you are the people who have the power.” I shook my head in pity, trying to decide if that statement was as a result of blissful naiveté or willful ignorance. The truth is this, Nigeria leaders, especially the younger generation to which Kingsley Moghalu belongs, tend to see Nigeria as a healthy bouncing baby. They looking forward to feeding her and seeing her grow bigger and healthier and stronger, and people congratulating them on what a beautiful job they are doing taking care of her. Unfortunately they are saddled with a deformed baby on life support. Trying to get her to survive from one day to the next is a physically draining and emotionally tasking experience. You will do lots of surgeries and operations, you will apply all you know about nurturing a healthy baby, and passersby will still have a look, not see any change, and say that you are not doing anything. There are times when for months you will have nothing to deliver but bad news. The Nigerian presidency is not a beauty pageant where everyone is as beautiful as you are, and you win by smiling nicely, and dropping cool soundbites for the cameras, it is an advanced math quiz where everyone else is under pressure, and you must learn to balance difficult sums and square up hard equations. It is little wonder that old generation Nigerian politicians (nay old generation politicians everywhere) come across as cynical and unfeeling. Interestingly I found this piece from Stephen M. Walt on “Why the World wants You to Think Like a Realist” , and read it overnight. It is why Kingsley Moghalu talks about how Nigeria should be healed without outlining specific plans on to do so. His vision is to be a father to six clean well fed, wonderful children, who are well behaved, who obey simple instructions from their father and play nicely with one another. What he is going to get if he wins is six thugs, who will do nothing but trash the house, fight viciously among themselves for superiority and try to raise their father’s blood pressure by a few more points every single day. So yes Kingsley Moghalu is a technocrat, he has a vision. The question is can he wheel and deal? Can he appease,cajole, or threaten? Does he have the stamina to cope when all six children are screaming for his attention at the same time? There is nothing in his antecedents suggests that he can.
That brings me to the next point. Kingsley Moghalu spent more than an hour talking about his vision. He did not mention a single specific issue and his solution to it. No single comment on a current issue in the country, no fact sheets, no manifesto document, no policy thrust, nothing. I even got on his website to see what solutions he offers, I got a mostly vaguely defined vision and nothing else. For a respected academic and a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Kingsley Moghalu presented an uncharacteristically sloppy and unserious image. Given what we have seen so far though, I can’t help but wonder if the sloppiness is not uncharacteristic after all.
In 2015, I was at the Civic Centre, Agodi, Ibadan, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was at the time still a vice presidential hopeful, came for a town hall meeting. As we entered the hall that day. Ushers were ready for us with a sheaf of papers meticulously outlining the detailed APC manifesto, complete with facts and statistics about the economy. The tables were already arranged according to groups and professions, which meant that Professor Osinbajo was able to engage with all of us and made us all feel welcome. Prof. Moghalu on the other hand, kept droning ad nauseam about why young people should get involved in elections/politics, rather than his own actual plans and policies, thereby coming across more as a life coach/ motivational speak/(insert your fancy term here) rather than someone who wants to be president. As an example he talked about “education” and “training and retraining of teachers” Which prompted me to ask the lady beside me: “How in hell is he going to do that? Will he be his own minister for education?” It did nothing to dispel that notion that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.
Now I don’t know who to blame this on, whether it is the organizers or the aspirant himself, but how can you say you have come to interact with a room of almost five hundred people and you didn’t even give space for even one question? Nimi might have lost it when he came late and did not apologize, but I lost it when he walked out of that hall without even bothering to engage with the people he kept waiting for three hours, then talked down to for more than hour. People were looking forward to asking him questions about specific issues. That kind of behavior is so disgraceful it is outrageous. The fact that neither him nor his handlers allowed for such a glaring oversight shows how incompetent they all are. And it says everything need to know about Kingsley Moghalu’s character. He is just an archetypal Nigerian Professor who preaches/talks down at students and doesn’t care a jot about engaging them, apologies to Nimi notwithstanding. That is the person who wants to be president of Nigeria.
So Dear Kingsley Moghalu handlers and volunteers, we have less than ten months to the 2019 elections. The bitter truth is that Professor Kingsley Moghalu is not serious yet. He is a good product, but he is being badly sold. Unless he changes the way he has been going about his campaign, it is impossible to win in 2019 or in any election year for that matter. Yes I am only an underpaid blogger (You can even call me a plant by an opponent to undermine him if you want). But I have my one vote and that one vote will not will not go to the Kingsley Moghalu that I am seeing right now. C’est fini.