September 28, 2022

BY EZINWANNE ONWUKA
After nearly sixty-two years of independence, amidst enormous wealth, poverty is still endemic in Nigeria. The country has even been designated as the poverty capital of the world.
As a result of the endemic poverty, Nigerians have been reduced to the behest of politicians that tie them to the gridlock of ‘stomach infrastructure.’
‘Stomach infrastructure’ quietly crept into our political lexicon following the 2014 election in Ekiti state when PDP’s candidate Ayodele Fayosi mobilised voters with food items and defeated the then-incumbent APC’s governor Kayode Fayemi.
‘Stomach infrastructure’ is a reality projected by the Nigerian politicians on the vulnerable electorate who, for poverty, are encouraged to mortgage their fundamental right of freedom to choose who governs them in exchange for immediate gratification.
Recently, what we call politics in Nigeria has turned towards the base satisfaction of people’s needs. Money and food items have become the inducement to disrupt the electorate’s voting preferences. And with rampant poverty in Nigeria, it does not take serious reflection to see how people can be swayed to vote against their conscience with mere thousands of naira and a bag of rice.
Careful observation will reveal that politicians have started handing over to Nigerians the dividends of democracy in cash by exploiting poverty to mobilise voters with food items such as bags of rice and money. The bags of rice are usually packaged strategically with the image of political candidates and the parties they represent.
Advocates of stomach infrastructure believe that the government cannot be investing heavily on physical infrastructure when the stomach is empty. Hence, money politics and vote buying have taken the centre stage in Nigerian political activities.
Nigerian politicians who are unwilling to share money openly or secretly to buy support are regarded as non-starters and rookies in politics.
This is because parties and candidates have shown by their conduct, during political campaigns, that good party manifestoes and integrity of candidates jostling for public offices are no longer sufficient to guarantee electoral success. On the other hand, the electorates too have obviously demonstrated cynical electoral behaviour by the readiness to vote for a politician who influences them with food than one who only brings a message of hope.
The problem with this situation is that democracy, which is adjudged to be the best form of government all over the world, is being constantly assaulted in Nigeria. Consequently, the electoral process is often compromised resulting in elections not being free and fair.
Stomach infrastructure shifts attention away from the infrastructural deficit, like schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water and other dividends of democracy, that is undermining real development in Nigeria, towards a more immediate and existential infrastructure.
This is the reason elections are won in villages and places where the poorest of the poor – where people whose needs are food and water, where people are too gullible to sell their birthrights for a mesh of porridge-like the biblical Esau at the expense of physical infrastructure – reside. That is where politicians go to, and this is why only the political parties with enough money win elections at the federal and state levels.
So, our rants and bants on social media do not really matter, especially when a political party can get about a million votes from each of the states with numerous rural areas simply by meeting their immediate and existential needs – food and money.
It is quite doubtful that this ugly trend can be totally eradicated in Nigeria. However, as the 2023 general election draws closer, may Nigerians not mortgage another four years of their right to hold the government up to good governance, only to turn around to complain about bad roads, epileptic power supply, acute unemployment, insecurity, among others.
Ezinwanne can be reached via [email protected]
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