Kingsley Moghalu is a lawyer and political economist. He is the High-Level Independent Expert of the United Nations Development Program on Africa’s Post-Covid Development Finance. He was a Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at the prestigious Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He joined the United Nations, appointed by former Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, working in Switzerland, Cambodia, Croatia, and Tanzania. He bagged a Ph.D. in International Relations in 2005 from the London School of Economics and has attended programmes at the Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Business School, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Institute. In 2009, Moghalu was appointed the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by the President of Nigeria. He is a recipient of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) honour. In 2019, Kingsley Moghalu contested the Presidency of Nigeria on a strong policy platform. He is the founder of the Isaac Moghalu Foundation, a non-profit that facilitates access to education for underprivileged children in rural communities in Nigeria.
As a black person and an African, you have to be twice as competent as white colleagues to be successful. I had a successful career in the UN, but I worked extremely hard and God blessed my effort.” –
University. Science or Arts?
University of Nigeria Nsukka (Enugu Campus) for my first degree – Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.). I initially wanted to study social sciences like Sociology or Political Science, or Mass Communications. But my father insisted I study law. It was a “professional course” and our parents in the 1970s and 1980s loved to have their children study law, medicine, engineering, accountancy, etc. I neither intended nor was I interested in practicing law, but I set my sights on a career in international diplomacy and was fascinated by the subject of international law. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, where I took my master’s degree (after working for a few years with my first degree) in International Relations, is one of the prestigious global “professional schools of international affairs” and it gave me advanced, interdisciplinary knowledge in international law, economics, politics, and diplomacy. I joined the international civil service of the United Nations straight from The Fletcher School in 1992. And then, I studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) where I obtained my Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in International Relations after working for the UN for more than a decade with my master’s degree. As a child, I always fancied myself as “Dr. Moghalu” or “Professor Moghalu” someday.
Biggest lesson you left University with?
The difference between ambition and daydreaming. I was distracted and carried away by social life on campus, and so did not do as well in my first degree as my previous excellent academic records suggested I should have, simply because I failed to work hard in my studies. I took that lesson to heart and became much more focused after graduation. I use this lesson to motivate my children.
Any teacher you cannot forget and why?
In my first degree at UNN, I had some unforgettable professors. Cyprian Okonkwo (Criminal Law) and Edwin Nwogugu (International Law) were very engaging lecturers. Gaius Ezejiofor (Land Law), I found his subject somewhat boring. I made sure I sat at the back of his class where I would be reading a copy of TIME Magazine most of the time! In my master’s program at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, I had renowned professors like the late Alfred Rubin (International Law), Dean Jeswald Salacuse (International Negotiation), Alan Henrikson (Diplomatic History), George Mitchell (International Political Economy), and Hurst Hannum (International Organizations).
Who is the bigger influence on you: mum or dad?
Both my parents had different kinds of impact because they had different roles. In terms of my worldview, my dreams, and aspirations, my late father had a profound influence on my life. My mother gave me a sense of discipline in the home.
When did you leave home for good? And what’s the best lesson you took with you?
I left home for good when I got my first job in 1988 after my National Youth Service Corps assignment as a Legal Officer at Shell Petroleum. I went into the world with the lesson that a good name is better than riches.
Your first job and the main thing you learned while at it?
General Counsel of Newswatch Communications Ltd., publishers of Newswatch, the leading news magazine in Nigeria at the time. I joined Newswatch in 1988 and left in 1991 for graduate school at Tufts University. I learned the powerful influence of the media in shaping the national conversation.
Who is your best boss ever and why?
I was blessed with several great bosses along the way in my career. Ray Ekpu at Newswatch. The late Kofi Annan, Dmitry Titov, and Elisabeth Lindenmayer at the UN Headquarters in New York where I was a Political Affairs Officer and Desk Officer for Angola, Rwanda, and Somalia in the early to mid-1990s. Agwu Okali, then Registrar of the UN International Tribunal for Rwanda where I was Legal Adviser and the Spokesman in the late 1990s. Sir Richard Feachem at The Global Fund in Geneva, where I was the Head of Global Partnerships and Resource Mobilization. Lamido Sanusi at the Central Bank of Nigeria where I was Deputy Governor for Financial Stability and later on for Operations. And then, Admiral (Dr.) James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO who, as Dean of The Fletcher School, hired me as a professor there in early 2015 after my tenure at the CBN.
Two or three things you have learned in your career that they don’t teach in MBA courses?
The first thing I learned that was not taught in school was that sovereign equality in international organizations and world politics is a myth. Global power dynamics that are based on the domestic economic strength of member countries will always influence outcomes in these organizations and in their external work. The second thing was that, as a black person and an African, you have to be twice as competent as white colleagues to be successful. I had a successful career in the UN, but I worked extremely hard and God blessed my effort.
Two things you prize the most when hiring?
I attach importance to a candidate’s qualifications for the job, and how much he or she possesses the competencies relevant to the job, beyond the paper qualification. This will show in an interview process.
Do you think the new coronavirus pandemic has permanently changed attitudes to working from home?
The pandemic has created a shift in favour of remote meetings that I suspect will be permanent and will cut business travel by as much as 50 percent. Many more people will continue working mainly from home after the crisis, but office buildings and office spaces in those buildings will still be necessary after Covid. People still need to collaborate in physical spaces. This is an important form of socialization although we often may not realize it.
What’s your favourite kind of music?
I like gospel music. I like R&B. Anything with a good melody interests me so long as its lyrics are not violent or vulgar. I like Kirk Franklin, Prospa Ochimana (Ekwueme), P-Square, BOPDaddy, and Jerusalema.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I read mostly non-fiction, autobiographies, and history. I read hundreds of novels as a child, but rarely fiction nowadays.
What book are you reading currently?
I am reading A Promised Land, Barack Obama’s just-released autobiography about his road to the American presidency and his years in office.
As we approach 2023, what kind of new political leader does Nigeria need – a very charismatic and intelligent Presidential candidate or someone who is able to build a political platform for solutions-oriented politics that is as big as the APC and PDP?
I think we need a combination of the two really. Solution-oriented politics requires vision and technocratic competence, both of which are largely absent in our country. So we have and worship large structures like the APC and PDP that have won presidential elections but have not governed in the interest of you and I. If we are to be honest, after the era of the Obasanjo presidency, we have not made the kind of progress we ought to be making since 1999. We really need to educate our fellow citizens to vote in their own interest. To me, that means identifying competent candidates and voting for them. Our people need to know that voting for a “winning” machine is useless if the party wins and cannot govern, cannot secure our lives, cannot create jobs for our youth. Na wetin you gain?
Do Nigerians have to make a choice between asking for a President from their region and uniting to fight for more accountable governance?
The most important thing is for us to fight for more accountable governance, whether a president is from our region, tribe, or religion or not. I believe the insecurity in the northern part of our country may be driving this lesson home at long last.
What’s the most valuable lesson of your 2019 campaign?
I learned that, although Nigerians were not yet ready for a paradigm shift in 2019, our candidacy made a strong impact that changed the narrative. The narrative does not fully change overnight. Today, just two years after the campaigns for the 2019 election, that change of the narrative is continuing and increasing, thanks largely to our youth and their peaceful #EndSARS protests.
Your favourite place to holiday in Nigeria. And abroad?
In Nigeria, I like spending downtime in my hometown in Nnewi, in Enugu, in Calabar, or on Lagos Island. I always feel very much at home in Kano. Abroad, Bali in Indonesia and Venice in Italy are great holiday destinations.
Best use of money there is?
To make the lives of the poor and underprivileged better. But not just with handouts that are quickly consumed. I prefer structural support like the hundreds of people I have put on scholarships and schools whose infrastructure we have improved through the Isaac Moghalu Foundation I founded 15 years ago in memory of my father, or those I have assisted to find jobs. I am not a wealthy person. If I was, I would certainly give virtually all of my wealth away like some American billionaires are aiming to do. I deeply admire institutional philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller, and others whose wealth continues to serve humanity long after they are gone.
Someone you like to holiday with?
Maryanne Moghalu, my wife.
Where do you see Nigeria in ten years?
Making real progress if the country is fundamentally redesigned and restructured, and if competent leaders are elected in 2023. If not, Nigeria’s situation truly is not pretty and will only get worse. Hope is not a strategy, I am afraid.