Kingsley Moghalu (F ’92), senior fellow in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy's Council on Emerging Market Enterprises, announced his campaign for the 2019 presidential election in Nigeria on Feb. 28.
After 16 years of working for the United Nations and five years as the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Moghalu was a professor of the practice at The Fletcher School from 2015 to 2017.
Moghalu said that as a student, he had never considered going into politics. However, he credited his time as a professor at The Fletcher School as influential in his decision to run for the presidency. He said the class he taught at The Fletcher School, "Emerging Africa in the World Economy," was made up of 30 students from diverse countries and career backgrounds.
“That period in which I was teaching at Fletcher was a very important period of reflection, based on the experience I’d had holding a very senior role in the government,” Moghalu said. “It also gave me a very healthy distance from the situation to be able to appraise it and to decide how do I want to continue to contribute.”
The three main issues Moghalu wants to tackle are the disunity of the Nigerian people, high levels of poverty and Nigeria's decline as a world power.
“We need to heal Nigeria and build a nation out of a country,” Moghalu said.
Moghalu said that in a country with a population of almost 190 million people, 150 million Nigerians are living on less than two dollars a day. Moghalu said that he personally has lived a comfortable life and now he wants to take action.
“I realized that the only way this can change is that you have the right kind of political leadership,” Moghalu said. “The rate of poverty exists because our political leadership class is not as competent as it should be, unfortunately.”
In terms of obstacles he faces, Moghalu said that voter apathy is the biggest. He said many young Nigerians are well-educated but are now disillusioned by the democratic process. Moghalu said his campaign has about ten months to restore hope in non-voting Nigerians and convince them to register to vote.
Roqeebah Olaoniye works for StateCraft Inc., “Africa's leading governance communication firm, with a mission to galvanise a generation to make informed choices,” according to its website. She said StateCraft Inc. is helping Moghalu run his campaign.
Olaoniye said a handful of candidates have already announced their campaigns, with more still to come. Candidates already in the race include motivational speaker Fela Durotoye, current president Muhammadu Buhari and former governors of Nigerian states.
She added that obstacles that may historically have been viewed as insurmountable may actually benefit Moghalu, considering that many Nigerians are now more inclined to vote for a newer, younger leader.
“Everything that you say that should be a challenge for him can also work in his favor, considering the state of mind of the electorate,” Olaoniye said.
Remi Ogunkayo, who also works for StateCraft Inc. on Moghalu’s campaign, said that Moghalu, whose campaign is not affiliated with a major political party, will have announced his party platform well before the Oct. 7 deadline.
“For most people, it is inconceivable for someone who is not in a major party even to win,” he said. “So, the best bet would be to get the smaller parties to coalesce around somebody so as to match the organizational strength of major parties.”
Moghalu said that the qualities and intentions of candidates are more important than just the parties that they join.
“It is good candidates that will create credible political parties. Visionless parties cannot produce the best candidates,” Moghalu said in his campaign announcement.
Olaoniye said that now, a “third force” of people who do not belong to the political class of established politicians is starting to emerge, and this is where Moghalu falls.
Current Nigerian politics are following a wave of populism that has been spreading across the globe, Olaoniye said. She added that candidates need to speak to real problems, rather than pander to the people and throw around words in the name of nationalism.
“What needs to be done is to speak to economic challenges or real problems, in terms of foreign policies, economic policies, women’s rights,” Olaoniye said. “Those are real problems that we all have.”
One of Moghalu’s major points of focus is gender equality in Nigerian politics. He said that although women comprise half the population, they represent only 6 percent of Parliament and 15 percent of all ministerial nominees.
“The one important thing is the mindset change that needs to take place in the political system and in society generally," Moghalu said. "That’s a process of education we will begin once I am elected into office."
In terms of spreading Moghalu’s message, Ogunkayo said that social media has recently begun to play an integral role in politics. Millions of Nigerians are connected through social media and can spread messages to those who are not.
“Twenty years ago, it would have been impossible to run an anti-establishment campaign because, to compete, you would have had to rely on TV and radio to communicate,” Ogunkayo said in an email to Daily. “Social media circumvents the dominance of traditional media in a lot of ways to communicate with voters and helps to frame the conversations happening.”
Fletcher Academic Dean, Professor of International Economics and Director of the Program on International Development Steven Block said that during Moghalu’s time as a professor, the two of them had many substantive interactions. Block described Moghalu as upbeat, engaging and very humble given his extensive experience in politics.
Block said that until just before he left, Moghalu had not talked about running for president, but Block guessed the idea had been brewing for a while.
“I think he rightly feels that Nigerians who are fortunate enough to have the kind of education he’s had have some obligations to try to steer the country in the right direction,” Block said.
Block added that whoever is in office will have enormous challenges to tackle, such as Boko Haram rebellions and issues with the oil sector.
“Nigeria is the most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Block said. “It’s a very challenging country to try to govern. It will be a pretty tough job for whoever gets it.”
As for Moghalu, he said that he is confident that he will be successful and looks forward to helping his country.
“I just feel honored to have been able to offer myself to my people — my countrymen and women in Nigeria — and ask them to give me an opportunity to serve them in this capacity,” Moghalu said.