Nigerians by now must be getting used to the latest addition to their glossary of political terms-“Stomach Infrastructure”. If Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People which was written in the 1960s and is still relevant today, it only proves that it will take a longer time to win the war against piracy in Nigeria with the repackaging of the “fat-dripping, gummy, eat-and-let-eat” scheme under a new name. The most recent version, under its proper name, was made popular or reignited by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate (now Governor) Ayodele Fayose during the Ekiti Gubernatorial campaign in June, 2014.
We must concede that the “Stomach Infrastructure” scheme is the unofficial political programme adopted by different Nigerian politicians with varying degrees; it is today the official economic/developmental agenda of the Ayo Fayose’s administration in Ekiti State.
Only few people have heard Fayose publicly articulate his economic policy strategy for development, apart from when he goes public to spring up controversies. We didn’t come close to hearing him discuss his programme for job creation, industrialisation, agricultural development and the likes. Save for his vivid description of “Stomach Infrastructure”, his government aims to provide against Kayode Fayemi’s investments in Infrastructural facilities aimed at attracting investments into the state during the gubernatorial campaigns.
True to his words, (Fayose is known to keep his words, I admire him for that), he kept the scheme “Stomach Infrastructure” alive after he won the election. The first or one of the first, official appointments Fayose made as Governor after he was sworn-in on 26 October, 2014 was a Special Assistant on “Stomach Infrastructure”, Mr. Sunday Anifowose, with a cabinet rank. Can you now see why I said it is the official state policy in Ekiti?
Supporters of the scheme argued that it is progressive and development-oriented. They have equally done their utmost to compare it with the Welfare system in Western nations, even though they starkly contrast both in content and intent. Their argument is premised on the Yoruba saying, “Ti ebi ba kuro ninu ise, ise buse” meaning “If we remove hunger from poverty, poverty vanishes”. They perhaps forgot that the poverty-induced proverb (if proverb it is indeed) does not address matters of food security, job security, and the full realisation of human potentials. The fact that you have eaten this morning does not mean you are ever sure of the next meal. One therefore need not look further to see the folly in this argument!
The main thrust of the “Stomach Infrastructure” is that life starts from, and ends in, the stomach. The stomach must always be pacified, otherwise it will complain. This is why you must build an infrastructure in the stomach and for the stomach alone. The scheme does not presume any limit to satisfying the stomach even when you suffer from constipation. You are only living to eat under the regime of “Stomach Infrastructure”.
Recently, Ekiti State workers, under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), held a strange rally. The rally was not to press for the payments of their months-long unpaid salaries, which Fayose’s administration has never paid since he was sworn-in in over 5 months ago. It was also not to press for better working conditions and conditions of service. It still was not to press for the implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage in Ekiti. The rally was “in solidarity with the people’s governor” against his impeachment for abuse of office. If this is not “Stomach Infrastructure” for the labour leaders, I know not what to call this!
Can we blame the poor workers? They are but Civil Servants who must work for every government in power, at least from the last time we checked. In a state that is largely agrarian, if you don’t keep the job you have, getting another one is like trying to milk a rock, except of course you are to return to your village farm because there are only few industries! For the labour leaders who mobilised the workers out for that strange rally to support a drowning man who had caused them a better-imagined hardship through unpaid salaries, I can only think of the Yoruba saying, “Owun ti a ma a je, ki je ka gbon” meaning, “What we intend to eat will not make us think or wise”.
While thinking about the words “Stomach Infrastructure” as I was preparing to write this peace, I reached out for my dictionary once more to check meanings of the two words individually. I found out the “Stomach” (which has no sustenance, save for constipation) coming up with “Infrastructure” (which has sustainability) makes “Stomach Infrastructure” a perfect oxymoron!