Kingsley Moghalu is a political economist, lawyer, former United Nations official, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and professor of International Business and Public Policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
He is the presidential candidate of Young Progressive Party (YPP). Moghalu recently released a book, downloadable for free on pdf, in which he articulated his Build, Innovate and Grow (BIG) vision for Nigeria. Moghalu’s thoughts in this book are not essentially his manifesto but what he thinks Nigeria must do to fix its leadership question.
Moghalu pays an unusual attention to leadership in this book.
He believes that Nigerians must confront and overcome the critical challenge of leadership if their democracy is to yield good governance; if the entrepreneurial talent expressed in the narrative of an Emerging Africa is to yield true economic transformation, and if the dynamism and ingenuity of Nigerians are to translate into an explosion of innovation that can make the people competitive in a globalised world.
“We have seen impressive leadership by Nigerian entrepreneurs. These businessmen and women are altering our national narrative from one of poverty and foreign aid to one of creativity and wealth creation. Nigerian entrepreneurs are making progress against all odds. But they remain outliers in a sea of poverty, successful not because of good leadership and governance in our country but rather in spite of bad leadership and governance,” he says.
“Our country’s leadership problem is located mainly in our venal politics. But it is precisely this space that determines what kind of society, economy, education and health system that we have. The first order of business is that of our minds. We must reinvent the Nigerian mindset. Our minds determine whether or how we understand what leadership means or doesn’t. Our minds determine what kind of worldview we bring to the task and responsibility of leadership. And our minds determine whether we have, or can acquire, the character and competence of leadership,” he states.
Moghalu says that great leadership must be transformational. The YPP presidential candidate points out that he always approaches the subject of leadership with the end in mind.
”What, for example, would be said about my service after I have completed a specific leadership task or responsibility?” he asks.
“Indeed, to envision more radically, what will be said at my funeral? I have applied this understanding to every leadership role in which I have had the privilege to serve – from national reconciliation and nation-building work by the United Nations in New York, Cambodia, Croatia and Rwanda to institutional and management reform in the UN; from building global partnerships and raising billions of dollars for social investments in developing countries by The Global Fund in Geneva to structuring and facilitating investments in emerging markets; from leadership roles in monetary policymaking and banking sector reform in Nigeria in the wake of the global financial crisis to serving as a professor in one of America’s premier universities, my vision has always been to leave the situation, institution or assignment I was tasked to handle much transformed from where I met it,” he recounts.
He believes that leadership is about utilising appointive, elective or situational authority to envision, to inspire, and to take calculated risk. For him, a leader’s task is to take societies, family units, organisations or institutions from A to Z or whatever point in the 26 alphabets is relevant, necessary, and possible.
Moghalu believes that Nigeria’s leadership jinx flows out of three conundrums, which are ‘us versus them’, the ‘power versus responsibility’, and the ‘loyalty versus competence’ syndromes.
He explains that the ‘us’ v ‘them’ is the problem of ethnic religious or other atomistic identities that define the acquisition or exercise of political power in African countries.
“An extreme attachment to these primordial identities creates factions. This problem exists even in mature democracies and economically advanced countries such as the United States, Belgium and Spain, but because these countries have already achieved advanced economic progress, the problem is an imperfection or a characteristic in their democracies, and is better managed in the wider national interest. In Nigeria it manifests as ethnic or religious identity politics in which politicians feel they can only trust persons of their tribe or faith. This narrow worldview is a foundational problem that has prevented the development of exceptional leadership. The effect of these divisions on leadership selection and practice is that contests for political power in Nigeria are based not on ideology or clearly articulated leadership goals, but are in reality contests for ethnic or religious dominance.”
He states that political power obtained on this basis can hardly be exercised as transformational leadership, as it breeds a ‘governance’ culture of patronage based on divisive identities.
On ‘authority v service/power v responsibility’, he says in Nigeria, as in many other African cultures pre-colonial rule, the power of traditional kings was absolute.
This cultural reality has not adapted well to concepts of modern statehood, democracy, and the checks and balances offered by the separation of executive, judicial and legislative power, he laments, stating that political leadership is often perceived in Nigeria more as authority than service, as raw power rather than responsibility.
He explains that this cultural reality is beginning to change, however, in a gradual but irreversible direction as democratic practice matures toward substance rather than the mere formality of holding elections. This power/responsibility conundrum is also reflected in a prevalent culture of sycophancy in political leadership, he elucidates.
“This culture of prioritising a place in the good graces of a leader’s ego over actual work performance creates a strong incentive for leadership failure. (‘L’elat c’est moi’) (‘I am the State’), as the French King Louis XVI famously stated. Many Nigerian political leaders have this mindset.”
On ‘loyalty v competence’, Moghalu explains that the ‘us versus them’ instinct combined with that of ‘power versus responsibility’ creates an exaggerated need for Nigerian leaders to surround themselves with ‘loyal’ aides. Often, personal loyalty is reified above competence because career politicians want to feel secure in the loyalty of subordinates with whom the leader is personally acquainted, he says, pointing out that this tendency often excludes competence from a leader’s immediate orbit, precisely because transformation is not the leader’s real priority.
On the contrary, he continues, African leaders who have placed a strong accent on technocratic competence in countries like Rwanda and Nigeria during the presidency of Olusegun Obansanjo from 1999 to 2007, have been able to achieve transformational or at least significant progress, in particular in economic management, which is Africa’s real contemporary challenge.
What is the way out of the conundrum? Moghalu suggests a citizen-solutions approach.
“Fortunately, democracy offers a great oppo`rtunity for an improved process of leadership selection. This brings to my mind the role of the citizen. In a normal scheme of things, it is leaders that shape the destinies of nations, but in functioning democracies, citizens act as a check on leadership performance. In a country such as ours, then, where so-called leaders have performed so poorly, it is time for citizens to stand up for their own future.
“Our citizens must exercise their democratic rights more effectively and make choices informed by objective leadership selection criteria. That criteria need to include character, competence, and relevant experience, as well as the track record of persons seeking positions of leadership. To do so, voters must understand what really is in their best interest.
He suggests that a paradigm shift in leadership selection will require voter education by civil society organisations.
“It calls for increased demands for democratic accountability by citizens and civil society, the institution of a real social contract between states and citizens as demanded by the latter, and an all-important emphasis on leadership training for the up and coming generation of youth who we should want to be real leaders, not rulers, of tomorrow,” he adds.
He articulates that the next president of Nigeria must take the following leadership actions beginning on Day 1 of his/her four-year term of office: Communicate clear goals based on a unifying vision of Nigeria’s national destiny; Uphold high ethical and moral standards of governance; Lead by example based on the principles of transformative leadership; and ensure the execution of the appropriate training for the effective management that must support such transformative leadership across the length and breadth of Nigeria’s public service. The president must personally (not delegate ministers or other government officials) hold regular town hall meetings across the country to communicate a new vision of leadership and governance in Nigeria and get a 360-degree ‘leadership audit’ from the citizens of Nigeria. He must support and empower the ‘Office of the Citizen’ to hold the government and governance accountable to the citizens of Nigeria, Moghalu further says.
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