Between Stomach Infrastructure and Poverty Development Programme – Japheth J. Omojuwa

Stomach infrastructure has come to stay for now, we cannot do much about it until around the year 2023 when I hope our poverty rate would have reduced to less than 20 per cent of the population. Having said that, stomach infrastructure is not going to just disappear from the horizon of our politics except we work out ways to achieve that. First, let us look at the reality of the SI and the morality around what I consider an unfortunate reality in the continued oppression of our people.

For the purpose of this piece, consider the SI for those at the foot of the poverty ladder as rice even though it could come as beans, sugar, salt, kerosene, bread etc. You can spend 10 years learning how to be a governor at the Harvard Kennedy School, spend another five years at Cambridge and an extra five years deploying your ideas on the ground. When it comes to running for public office in Nigeria today, if you do not make out plans to share food with the electorate as part of your campaign programme, you are likely to lose.

Governor Ayo Fayose would want to lay claim to the phenomenon of stomach infrastructure in Nigerian politics but that would be delusional. I have known about this SI phenomenon since I was a child. The governor is better off laying claim to the rigging tape that emerged just weeks ago. He is not responsible for the SI; he is only yet another beneficiary of the pervasive poverty that has enslaved most of our people. He is not alone on that front, everyone who has governed this country has benefitted from it. It is the culture of sharing the national cake and those who receive the “benefits” of the SI do so with the understanding that they are at least getting something, albeit little, out of the national cake. There are levels of the SI. Some assume it is limited to the poor but that is not true. The SI cuts across the different strata of society. Getting an oil bloc to support a presidential candidate is a kind of SI but that is SI at another level entirely. Some journalists get their SI in a different form; other folk get theirs by being allocated land (Abuja especially), cars or even houses. The size of the SI that accrues to you depends mostly on how rich and influential you are. A former president will probably get three ministerial lots and a couple of oil blocs as the SI. All na Stomach Infrastructure.

But the SI in focus here is one that focuses on the poor, as that is the one that is given in exchange for the dignity of those who receive it. Most of our politicians have lost every sense of shame and irony so they do not even understand that SI exists simply because they have refused to create a conducive environment for the masses to cross the poverty line. If we didn’t have a system that carefully orchestrates a poverty development programme, the PDP in short, no pun intended – as state policy – we would not be discussing the SI in 2015. It is an indictment on the morality and sense of purpose of a governor who has been in power for four years who finds himself/herself returning to share rice to the same neighbourhood s/he shared rice about four years before. It simply means your work as governor had little or no bearing on their lives. As for the receiver, it would be okay to collect rice from all the candidates who deliver the same to you, but you would have deserved another four years of poverty if you collect rice from a governor who shared rice to you before they became governor, got voted in and still left you where you were four years before while they have enriched themselves and their gang while leaving you the same way. If you are so in need as to collect their rice, you should at least be smart enough not to vote for the same. If they failed you before, they will fail you now they don’t even need your vote to become governor after another successful campaign.

One is essentially saying you should never vote for an incumbent who tries to entice you with the same gifts you were enticed with four years before. It is like mocking you for having scammed you successfully. Being poor at the bank shouldn’t necessarily translate to being poor in your mind.Poverty should never deprive one of the sense of dignity. Most people who are rich today used to be poor but only that they were not poor in their mind. Poverty in the physical state is a bad thing but it is nowhere close to the poverty of the mind. You can be forgiven for being physically poor because that is curable as long as your mind is not poor. To have yourself fooled again by someone who has governed you for four years without changing your life is to confirm your poverty is of the mind. If not cured, that sort of poverty is likely to leave you poor for your entire life, exchanging your destiny for rice with the same scammers every four years. It only takes them to do it five times to see you’ve wasted 20 years of your life directly and at least another 20 years indirectly by virtue of the residual cost of bad governance.

Fellow compatriots, don’t get it twisted, our votes now mostly count. Those who tell you your votes do not count are the same people who want you to exchange a small bag of rice for your child’s education and your household’s fortunes over at least the next four years. The SI is a trade-off; if after collecting it you do not vote with your own interest and that of your children in mind, the poverty development programme will continue to be your lot. They will come baring gifts but those are not really gifts, those are a trade-off. It becomes a trade-off when you vote based on who gave you the biggest bag of rice rather than vote based on who’s got the best and most practicable ideas. Stomach infrastructure is a reality we have come to accept because with some 112 million poor people in our country, food becomes a life-or-death need of the society and whoever brings food at this time brings life. But you see, that food can only last you a few days at most. I will not tell you to reject their rice and beans, collect them; collect from all the political parties and politicians that bring to you. As long as you are collecting stomach infrastructure to live and not living to depend on it, then you must vote the sort of candidate that’d ensure you don’t live to depend on stomach infrastructure when the next elections come around. I won’t even tell you Nigeria deserves better, you deserve better.

These elections are first about you before they are about Nigeria and for every politician you vote for on the basis of what foodstuff or even kerosene they share with you, you would have lost the right to complain about bad governance. It is literally in your hands now. Do the right thing, or else, this poverty development programme will only continue to be your lot.

Japheth J. Omojuwa is the Editor of