By YAYA ADEMOLA
ALTHOUGH, it has always been living with us especially since return to civil rule in 1999, the term, “stomach infrastructure”, came into our political lexicon in 2014 when Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state used it to undermine his political opponents. Stomach infrastructure refers to the use of food items and money to arm-twist voters during electioneering campaign. It connotes that filling up belly takes preference over infrastructural development. If Ekiti State that is adjudged to be one of the most literate and politically sophisticated states in Nigeria could be a victim of politics of belly against manifestoes-driven choice of candidate for sustainable development, we are in for trouble.
We are in a global village where the speed of ICT determines prosperity and dominance with 5G deployment being the new war frontier. In this village, we have been left far behind to the extent that primordial needs like food, clothing and shelter have become challenges to vast majority of the people. In actual fact, we have become a population of liability to mankind. Under this circumstance, one would have thought that the way out is complete overhaul of the knowledge production system to become problem conscious, solution oriented, such that it can deliver critically needed skills and engage almost the entire youth in nation building. In this way, in a decade, food, shelter, clothing will be steadily resolved by integrating mechanised agriculture with engineering skills. On the basis of agro-allied processing, we can then move to industrial age which still leaves us millions mileage to catch up with people who have conquered the moon and have travelled in and out of the solar system.
What do we have instead? Archaic curriculum handed to us by the colonial masters, scarcity of basic school teachers, woeful school environment, university shutdown with ASUU on incessant strike as a result of government irresponsibility, lack of artisans as many of them have converted to Okada riders or yahoo boys, all industries gone and their facilities turned to worship centres. How many do I list?
In this milieu and season of political campaigns, what is ordinarily expected of any responsible politician, especially those who lay claim to progressivism, is a campaign focussed on these challenges with articulated responses. What is obtainable, instead, is money and food supports – repackaged stomach infrastructure – for the voters; packaging money for Obas and opinion moulders under the guise of consultation and visitation; use of thugs to attack and disperse meetings of perceived enemies. Interestingly, the thugs have fully realised their nuisance values to the politicians. They live large with resources allotted them and solicit chieftaincy titles from the traditional rulers with the influence and backing of their coryphaeus.
It is high time Nigerians, especially the youth and the poor people, held these callous politicians accountable by making their clear request and statement of what they expect of them in terms of commitment to functional education, good roads, employment opportunities, end to fuel subsidy fraud and local refinement of crude oil, etc. Collection of rice and money, however finely repackaged, in exchange for votes is a recipe for permanent wallow in abject poverty and penury while politicians and their thugs continue to enjoy our collective wealth. The bitter truth is that “in a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve”- Joseph de Maistre. Power belongs to the people especially the youth and the poor people who are the largest in our society. Once that power is transferred to the politician via voting on an election day, he/she becomes powerful with the mandate transfer and plays with our lives and future having bought power with exchange of rice and stipend.
I don’t know whether heaven and hellfire exist as nobody has gone and come back to confirm but the undisputable fact is that we are alive and will someday die. With the stupendous wealth and resources God endows us as a country, we should have better working and decent living condition. How do we explain living in penury in the midst of plenty? The youth and the poor should inculcate discipline by refusing food items and money from these cold-hearted politicians who feed on their ignorance and indiscipline. If the people could muster the political will right from this forthcoming political dispensation, better life awaits them. A slave is half free once he/she is conscious of his/her slavery and ready to fight for freedom. It is time you stopped selling your birth right and future because of common porridge. It is self inflicted bondage.