Tomato News sat down with Former Governor of Lagos State and Presidential Aspirant, Jagaban, for an interview about his campaign for the 2023 elections.
We began with the most obvious question. Why does he want to be Nigeria’s next president? Jagaban answered without missing a beat, “I simply wish to finish the work the current president is doing in the life of Nigerians.”
Uncertain whether that was a threat or a reassuring statement, we asked for clarification.
“I wish to continue the policies that the current president has put in place to help improve Nigerians’ quality of life.”
And when we asked Jagaban to give us an example of a policy enacted by the present administration that helped Nigerians or made them happy, he stared into space for a moment and scratched his head.
“Well, as a result of the current president’s education policies, universities all over the country gave their students almost a year-long vacation.”
We told him that it wasn’t a vacation but a strike, and Jagaban rightly chastised us for not knowing the two words are synonyms. Still, we pressed him on the issue and pointed out some students will no doubt be angry at having to spend an extra year or maybe even more in school.
“And they should be grateful for that. Spending five or six years in university for a four-year course is not a perk that everyone enjoys. Just because a course says four years doesn’t mean you’ll be able to learn everything you need within those four years. In other countries, universities rush students out even when they’re not fully ready to graduate. Here we make you spend more time in the university to allow you fully prepare yourself for life after graduation. Not to mention keeping students in school for an extra year or two helps to keep the job market from getting oversaturated and HRs in companies won’t have additional CVs to look at. ”
“Also, as you will notice online now, practically everybody is selling something. Due to the current president’s policies, everybody has discovered his or her entrepreneurial spirit.”
Once again, we told him that people are hustling hard because unemployment has skyrocketed, and Jagaban patiently explained that the rising unemployment is by design to encourage Nigerian youths to be more resourceful, creative and independent.
“Countries with governments that facilitate a low unemployment rate are actively damaging the resourcefulness and creativity of their youth. Thankfully, as long as we continue with the current president’s policies, we won’t have that problem.”
Next, we asked Jagaban if he believes he has what it takes to become Nigeria’s next president.
“Of course, I have what it takes. The APC has everything it takes to win an election in Nigeria. We have thugs to steal ballot boxes, money to buy votes and bribe election officials, and puppets in the highest court of the land to make the inevitable court challenges sway our way.”
We told him we meant for him to tell us about the achievements of the APC that he plans to campaign on in the coming elections.
“Oh that,” Jagaban replied, surprised we brought up the topic of achievements. “Okay, but why is it me you’re asking for achievements. Since when did they start electing Presidents based on achievements in Nigeria? Why is it on my head you people want to start?”
“That said,” Jagaban continued, “I’m proud to say the APC has set many records in the few years we have been in power. Record unemployment, record inflation, record debts, record insecurity. We’ve set more records in shorter time than any previous Nigerian administration.”
We made the folly of complaining that none of those records are positive and thank God in his kindness, Jagaban set us straight.
“No, no, the problem is you don’t understand our plan. If we had come in and solved all of Nigeria’s problems straightaway, you people wouldn’t have appreciated it. Instead, we came in and made all of Nigeria’s problems worse first, so that when I become president in 2023 and solve them all, Nigerians will truly appreciate us.”
Indeed, and we conceded the point to Jagaban’s eminent brilliance, but we had to ask about how that plan lines up with the APC promise to bring change in 2015.
“Yes,” Jagaban responded, “we promised to bring change and look around you, have things not changed?”
We pointed out that by all indications, things have changed for the worse, and Jagaban countered by pointing out the APC didn’t specify the direction of the change they promised to bring.
“Nigerians simply assumed we meant to bring positive change. Now they want to blame us for their wrong assumption. We only promised to spice things up and that’s what we have done. When you look at newspaper headlines in Nigeria these days, don’t you feel a certain rush? The various reports of terrorist attacks, kidnappings, brutal murders, a failing economy and a crashing currency might be scary, but it’s that fear that makes you feel alive, isn’t it? It’s like being in an action movie. I don’t think anyone would want to live in a country where they don’t have to worry about making it home safe when they leave their homes in the morning. Safety is boring. Calm is tedious. In Nigeria we like to keep things interesting.”
As we struggled to comprehend the weight of his ideas, Jagaban broke it down for us.
“You want Nigeria to be like one of those first world countries with skyrocketing depression rates? Nigerians will say things are easier abroad, and at the same time lament that they get depressed when they emigrate. Don’t you see? Too much sanity can drive you insane. Imagine not having to jump into a moving danfo in the morning just to make it to work on time, or not having to deal with power shortages every now and then. The horror. It’s maddening when things actually make sense. We politicians make everything hard and incredibly frustrating for you in Nigeria because we care deeply about your mental health. We’re trying to keep Nigerians focused on survival so they don’t have time to be depressed. Counselling is expensive, but screaming curses at a danfo driver in the thick of Lagos traffic is free and just as therapeutic. Nigerians should be thanking us.”
We shifted the gears of the conversation to his age and asked him how he intends to convince the significant portion of the population that believes he’s too old to be president to vote for him.
“Well, that one is easy now,” Jagaban said. “If the current president could forge WAEC certificate (allegedly of course), what is in birth certificate that I can’t forge? They should just tell me what age is comfortable for them and I will be that age.”
We moved the conversation on to the statement Jagaban made not long ago about conscripting 50 million Nigerian youths into the army as a tactic to defeat Boko Haram.
“But I’ve already apologised for saying that now,” stressed Jagaban, visibly worried. “I don’t understand why everybody was so angry about that. Anyway, I’ve come up with an even better idea to defeat Boko Haram. Given the way Boko Haram terrorists always seem to kick our army’s butt, I’ve decided to send some of our soldiers to go and train under Boko Haram, and then they can come back and tell us where we need to improve our military training so that our soldiers too can become as effective as Boko Haram fighters.”
We had to salute Jagaban’s genius. Sometimes, you simply have to fight fire with fire. Satisfied with his clearly well-thought-out plan for defeating Boko Haram, we moved on to rumours that he has a had a falling out with the current president and if he plans on switching or creating a new party for his 2023 run.
Jagaban responded that it wouldn’t be a big deal if he ran in 2023 under a different party.
“I wouldn’t be the first Nigerian politician to change parties. I don’t know why Nigerians complain when politicians change from the APC to the PDP or vice versa. Since when did political parties become secret cults that once you join, you can’t leave again? If people can convert from one religion to the other and divorce spouses they vowed to stay with forever, what is in political party that I cannot leave?”
We told him that some would argue the reason it’s easy for Nigerian politicians to easily switch parties is because the political parties in Nigeria aren’t based on any values or ideology and are simply empty vehicles for capturing power.
“And what’s wrong with that?” Jagaban asked. “This is like complaining that football teams are simply vehicles for winning trophies. I know you’re probably comparing our political parties here to political parties abroad which usually align with certain values along the ideological spectrum. But here’s the thing, a politics of ideology often leads to divisive politics, which is a far cry from what we have in Nigeria, where our people refuse to be divided by such petty differences like ethnic group, religious affiliation and social class. If we give into the politics of ideology and start talking about unnecessary controversial things like human rights, it will spell the end of the solid unity Nigeria has enjoyed since its independence.”
We couldn’t conclude the interview without broaching the topic of police brutality, profiling and extortion at the hands of police officers.
Jagaban expressed genuine shock at the mention of extortion. “I have never heard anything about police officers extorting people. It must be a misunderstanding because I’ve only seen videos of Nigerians generously giving money to police officers willingly at gunpoint. I must say such things warm my heart because these police officers have to get paid, and obviously you don’t expect the government to be the one to do that.”
He added that, “As far as profiling and brutality is concerned, the police are only doing that to instil discipline in the youth. The police care about morals and are trying to make sure Nigerian youths don’t become rotten. I assure you, young people who are harassed by police officers will grow up to be grateful to the officers that harassed and assaulted them.”
He finished by letting us know that the government had more important things to do with money like gifting millions to musicians who make us proud by winning grammies.
We concluded the interview and thanked Jagaban for so graciously sitting down and having a chat with us. He promised to call for us for another interview very soon.