I FIRST met Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party, YPP, about a year ago. I bumped into him in a hotel restaurant in Lagos. He was with a mutual friend who introduced us; and when he told me that he intended to run for the highest office in the land, I did not react encouragingly.
I laughed and expressed the view that he would wind up totally wasting a whole heap of time, money and energy on an exercise I was sure would wind up being a rash and futile political adventure. And my reasons for failing to take his aspirations seriously were simple:
Firstly, Moghalu came from the “wrong” part of the country (the two mega-parties, PDP and APC, that dominate the Nigerian political arena had decreed that our head of state must, for the next four years at least, be a Northerner; and Moghalu is from the South-East).
Secondly, zoning issues aside, Nigerian elections are notoriously mercantile and expensive; and Moghalu, unlike his main rivals, did not have access to government slush funds or private-sector billions.
He wasn’t mega-rich in his own right. He didn’t have a major moneybags godfather lurking behind him, indulgently dishing out cash; and he wasn’t a mollycoddled member of the ruling elite. So how on earth did he think he could make any kind of impact?
In a nutshell, I didn’t hide my belief that Moghalu was naïve at best and delusional at worst; and I am now very ashamed of my patronizing and pessimistic response at that initial interaction…because Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu – a lawyer, economist, professor and author who has written worthy books, worked for the blue-chip United Nations and done a five-year stint as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria – has turned out to be a great candidate.
His radio interviews and TV appearances have been impressive because he is eloquent, charismatic and super-smart. He has come across so courageously, likeably and knowledgeably that many people I know have decided to vote for him next month…even though (in some cases) they are supposedly committed to the APC or PDP…and even though they don’t think that he will beat his powerful opponents, President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The folks who are going to vote for Moghalu are educated urbanites; and the votes they will cast will be protest votes because they are tired of same-old, same-old names and desperate for change.
Furthermore, there is a branch of the human race that tends to sympathize with underdogs and will cheer them on in the hope that the biblical David versus Goliath struggle will be replicated…whereby the plucky Little Guy triumphs over a gigantic adversary.
I do not like President Donald Trump of the United States, but I can’t deny that he did unexpectedly well to snatch victory from opponents who enjoyed more Establishment support than he did.
I have never warmed to President Emmanuel Macron of France, but he’s another phenomenon whose meteoric rise to the top could not have been predicted…not least because he wasn’t anything more than a bit player on the French political stage until the eleventh hour.
If such spectacular political surprises can happen in other countries, can they also happen in Naija? I really don’t know! I guess it’s possible to have a movement here – as in a gradual or sudden build-up of “enough is enough” sentiment and a groundswell of public opinion in favour of a candidate who isn’t mainstream.
But there is no such thing as a level playing field in the Nigeria of today. The electoral process is riddled with corruption and cronyism.
Meanwhile, most of us play it safe by supporting famous and seasoned politicos who are firmly attached to the main parties. And I now think that it is heroic rather than foolish to throw your hat into the ring, even when the resources you have at your disposal are minimal and even when your chances of winning are slender.
I have concluded that it is very important to congratulate Moghalu – and the other non-mainstream candidates – Donald Duke, Oby Ezekwesili, Omoleye Sowore et al – for being brave and dynamic enough to challenge the status quo and stand up to be counted.
The presidential election will take place on February 16 and the next four weeks will be very interesting indeed.