Reporting by Adeleke Adefioye
Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, the convener of To Build A Nation (TBAN), has said the Nigerian middle class needs to act according to its enlightened self-interest by supporting efforts aimed at changing the prevailing Nigerian political culture, which has continued to work against the interest of the middle class itself.
Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a presidential candidate during the 2019 general election, made the call while giving the keynote address at the first town hall meeting of TBAN on Sunday, July 5th, 2020. “Every country that has made progress has had the active participation of its middle class in the political process,” said Moghalu. “We all have the responsibility to contribute to the economic transformation and prosperity of Nigeria for the benefit of all Nigerian people.”
The virtual town hall meeting, which held on Zoom, had over 550 registered participants from Nigeria, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Moghalu told the gathering that it was time for Nigerian citizens to organise and not continue to agonise over the socio-economic and political challenges of the country. “Nigeria needs key political reform to address and overcome its socio-economic challenges,” adding that “the country needs electoral reform and constitutional restructuring to make progress.”
Moghalu said he convened TBAN as a non-partisan citizen’s movement after a period of deep reflection on his experiences running for the presidency in 2019. “For now, I have taken a strategic decision to mobilize Nigerian citizens on a non-partisan political basis. We have to focus less on cycles of election that tend to produce mostly self-centered political jobbers who are not necessarily elected by the people to represent their collective interest,” said Moghalu. Apart from pressing for the necessary reforms, he said TBAN will be embarking on civic education of Nigerian citizens.
In his welcome address, Jide Akintunde, interim Executive Director of TBAN, said the value proposition of TBAN is to be a catalyst for the political and socio-economic transformation of Nigeria. This, according to him, requires the middle class to first understand that it is the most endangered demographic in Nigeria. “Whereas the rank of wealthy Nigerians – mostly politicians and people close to them – and that of the extremely poor fellow citizens are expanding, the middle class is shrinking.”
Akintunde said the Nigerian middle class is shrinking because working executives are losing their jobs, while others are emigrating due to shrinking economic opportunities and harsh social and environmental conditions in the country. Citing a recent World Bank report, he said additional seven million Nigerians would slip into poverty in 2020, mostly because of inadequate government response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The interim TBAN ED said many Nigerian executives are already responding to the clarion call for them to join the efforts to create an enlightened Nigerian electorate and a pool of financial contributions to provide a new paradigm for campaign financing, so as to further encourage competent Nigerians to run for electoral offices.
In his remarks, Pascal Odibo, who heads the strategy committee of TBAN, assured participants that some citizens with expertise that have been proven in the corporate marketplace have come together to deliver the strategy to enable TBAN to achieve its vision.
He said that, according to the Greek mythology, there are three classes of people: the idiots, tribesmen and citizens. He said the “idiot”, according to Greek philosophy, are self-conceited people who think only about their welfare and those of their immediate relations. The “tribesmen” are preoccupied with divisions, while the “citizens” care about nation-building. Therefore, he said TBAN aims to bring as many Nigerians into the citizens category.
Members of TBAN’s Board of Trustees who spoke at the event include Umma Getso, Charles Orbih and Farouk Shehu. Mrs. Getso, who was the presidential running mate of Moghalu in the 2019 general election, said it was time for Nigerian citizens – across ethnic and religious divides to come together to address the growing social challenges of the country, which she said include lack of access to healthcare and quality education as well as lack of adequate protection for women and children in the society.
Mr. Orbih, who is the leader of TBAN in the United States, spoke of the endearing and stirring qualities of Moghalu as a lover of God, a devoted family man, and a patriotic citizen. He said these qualities and his professional track-record generated his interest and that of many Nigerians in the U.S. in Moghalu’s candidacy in 2019. Orbih said TBAN USA is well organized and that its members meet regularly and serve in the committee of the central organization.
On his part, Mallam Shehu, a former Director at the CBN, expressed his satisfaction with the aspiration and commitment of TBAN towards laying a foundation that will bring about the change Nigerians have always clamored for. He dismissed the notion that Nigerians are too divided to work together politically, as well as the view that the north is benefiting from the current political situation. “People need to draw a line between the ruling class and the general populace,” he said, adding that “a northern presidency has not necessarily translated to a better or improved standard of living for the northern people.” He also spoke in support of electoral reform and restructuring of the country.
Doris Udensi (who moderated the discussion in which participants across the world asked questions), Ochi Ogbuaku Jnr – both based in Canada – and Felix Ejomah were among Nigerian professionals who provided technical support for the successful hosting of the event.