My attention has been drawn to a news headline in the Daily Sun newspaper’s edition of January 28, 2020, titled” Igbo Presidency: Don’t Repeat Moghalu’s Mistakes, Ngige Tells Ndigbo”. The headline and the underlining news story were based on an interview that Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment gave the newspaper.
In the said interview Dr. Ngige was reported as saying that I failed in my quest to become President of Nigeria in 2019 because the Young Progressive Party (YPP), on which platform I was a presidential candidate, was“a relatively unknown party”. Ngige, a former governor of Anambra State, called on Igbos to pitch their tent with the two main political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to actualize their presidential aspiration.
According to the news report “Ngige, who described Moghalu as an illustrious Igbo son and eminently qualified for the post of president, said … Moghalu, rather than aspire for the president, would have launched his aspiration by first contesting for the governorship or National Assembly…that’s how the game goes… Dr. Moghalu, my very good friend who was deputy governor of the Central Bank. He said he was going to YPP. I called him and said ‘young man. You have not carried a politics bag. You have not served anybody in politics’.Why would you jump into the presidential race; not even for House of Representatives?’ If he had declared for the governorship, we would have, maybe appealed to him to go for House of Representatives. So, one has to carry a politics bag and learn from his master. You have to learn the art of politics”.
Sadly, the tone of these statements by my brother and friend Dr. Chris Ngige reflects his utter contempt and arrogance as a Nigerian politician towards the poor masses and citizens of Nigeria. Our democracy is just a “game” for him. Being a visionless career politician “carrying politics bag” before graduating to being a political “overlord” is, for some, the whole point of politics. Little wonder that our country is the poverty capital of the world, and the brain drain of our medical doctors to foreign countries is of little or no concern to our Minister of Labour and Employment.
- I am a change agent, not a visionless, recycled politician that claims mandates on the basis of rigged elections and the blood of Nigerians killed in electoral violence.
- My candidacy for the Office of the President of Nigeria in 2019 was not an ethnic candidacy. I was a Nigerian candidate for the Nigerian presidency, not an “Igbo President”. That candidacy was based on a clear vision for our country, competence, and a clear policy agenda: to build a real and stable nation based on equality and justice by managing Nigeria’s diversity effectively. To lead economic transformation that will make poverty history in our country, as has been the case in East Asia. To restore Nigeria to its rightful place in the world through competent management of its foreign affairs and international relations. To secure, with no excuses, the lives, and property of Nigerians in all parts of our country.
- It is no secret, of course, that the Igbo have not been well served by many of their “career” political elites on the national scene. All too often, a majority of these personalities have lacked vision and courage. Some have focused only on the “crumbs” they can get in and from Abuja. They are content to play second fiddle to their political “masters”.
- My candidacy in the presidential election of 2019 took courage. Despite pressures from the two major parties, I ran the race till the end, honorably, and declined opportunities to “sell out” on the national and global vision that drove my candidacy. That vision laid out in my books “Build, Innovate and Grow” and “Emerging Africa”, inspired millions of Nigerians on the possibilities for a different kind of leadership. In politics, there are “electoral victories” (however obtained, in the Nigerian context), but there are also longer-term “strategic victories” that short-term thinking cannot understand.
- We need not just an “Igbo President”. Nigeria needs a visionary and competent leader. As Dr. Ngige admitted, I was as a candidate “eminently qualified for the post of president.” After a 17-year career and leadership roles in the United Nations system rising from entry-level officer to the highest career bracket of the global organization, then serving meritoriously as a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in charge of Financial System Stability and leading the implementation of banking sector reforms that stabilized and improved a financial sector with 24 commercial banks, 57 subsidiaries in more than 30 countries, and trillions of naira in assets, and serving as Professor of Practice in Public Policy in one of the premier universities in the United States, it would be difficult for Dr. Ngige to come to any other conclusion. Conventional wisdom about political career paths to the presidency is not necessarily“wisdom” for everyone in every case. If it were so, Nigeria today would be a far better country.
- What matters – or should matter — most in leadership selection for the Nigerian presidency is that a potential president should have demonstrated experience and a track record of leadership competence in the areas MOST RELEVANT to the responsibilities of a Nigerian President. These are mainly inclusive management of our diversity, the national economy, and international affairs. Leadership roles in international organizations where diversity is in their institutional DNA, in the management of Nigeria’s national economy, and in the fine art of international diplomacy are, among others, examples of such experience and track record.
- Who, for example, can stand shoulder to shoulder with world leaders of powerful nations and be able to speak up for and negotiate Nigeria’s best interests bilaterally or multilaterally? Lifetime careers in “traditional” Nigerian politics may not automatically provide the right answers for our countrymen and women in the world of the 21st
- I resigned from membership of the YPP in October 2019 and convened a non-partisan citizens movement, To Build a Nation (TBAN) to advocate for electoral and political reforms. We have launched a campaign for fundamental electoral reform, including petitioning the NASS leadership. This is what all Nigerians, including Ndigbo, need, so that we can all have a level playing field and our votes can really count, instead of rigged “elections”.
- In conclusion, I invite my brother Chris Ngige and Nigerians at large to join our TBAN movement. Being non-partisan, we welcome members from all parts of the political spectrum or none at all. Nigeria deserves better.
January 29, 2020