In the build-up to Ayo Fayose’s campaign to return to the Government House in Ekiti in 2014, he realised that the quickest way to the electorate’s hearts was through their tummies. But it was not Fayose that introduced rice and beans, Maggi and salt with vegetable oil in tow into the Nigerian political culture. The practice is as old as the democratic system in the country. But the rambunctious governor perfected the strategy and it paid off in the end.
The Ekiti folks did not believe in big grammar and the physical development that Fayose’s predecessor, Kayode Fayemi was putting in place. In appreciation of their reciprocity at the polls, the rambunctious governor created an agency to pursue his stomach infrastructure agenda. The innovation took many Nigerians by surprise because it was the first of its kind in the country. He must have reasoned that once you conquer hunger which the tummy infrastructure is built to attack, your problem is half-solved.
You may own mansions or even private jets, fleet of choice cars, trunks of clothes or billions of cash in local and foreign currencies but you can’t afford to toy with an empty tummy. You will be courting a disaster that can rush you to an early grave. Victuals are the fuel that keeps you alive and running in order to enjoy your riches.
It was, therefore, a (pleasant) surprise that the Governor of Borno state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, has decided to introduce stomach infrastructure in his domain in January, next year, when it has nothing to do with election.
The stomach infrastructure will be provided through distribution of rice and other food stables freely to millions of its indigent citizens across the 27 local government areas of the state on quarterly basis. This is in addition to the allocation of N5.4 billion for economic activities that aim at human empowerment in the rural areas.
Tummy infrastructure, like the foundation of a building, is the most critical of the needs for human survival. It is on it that you build shelter, provide medicare, clothes and other necessities of life. Quarter a man, clothe him, give him medication, provide him maximum security but deny him tummy infrastructure and let us see if all these supplies will keep him alive.
Shettima noted that in normal times, majority of his people did not find it easy to meet their economic needs that include feeding their families. He also hit the bull’s eye when he stated the obvious that the essence of government is to cater for the welfare of citizens in addition to far reaching economic measures being deployed by his administration to stimulate the local economy through the ongoing efforts to establish 10 industries, the massive investment in agriculture, education and other socio-economic sectors of the state.
That well-thought policy underscores the time-honoured Chinese maxim: “Give a man fish (like the tummy infrastructure) and you feed him for a moment but teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.”
Provision of tummy infrastructure is like feeding a man for a day but empowering them through economic activities is feeding them for life.
The allocation of N5.4 billion to the state’s Ministry of Poverty Alleviation to provide assorted poverty alleviation materials, financial grants, small scale enterprises as well as financial assistance to communities in the rural areas affected by Boko Haram insurgency also amounts to feeding the hapless citizens of Borno state for life. However, methinks it will be a Herculean task for the government to provide the tummy infrastructure pari passu with rebuilding the war-torn communities across the state… and with negligible support from outside. But Shettima is well known to possess the finial to achieve the impossible!
Anytime I discuss tummy infrastructure, I can’t but remember my boyhood experience when I exchanged my leopard skin cap for a talisman made from a padlock (clothed in part of the leopard skin) that a juju man claimed would open doors for me. Upon possessing the talisman, I never thought of owning houses, cars, etc. It was tummy infrastructure that first came to my mind.
So, I applied the talisman the way the juju man told me. I headed for a bukataria in the local community where I was vacationing. On sighting the joint, I spoke to the padlock in Yoruba: “Mo fe lo jeun ni buka yen. Ki enikeni ko ma bere owo lowo mi”, meaning “I am going to eat in that bukataria and let no Jupiter ask me for payment”. I then jammed the padlock.
I sauntered into the joint and one of the service girls came to take my orders. I asked for two balls of pounded yam complete with bush meat immersed in egusi soup and a bottle of freshly tapped palm wine to flush down the meal. I also requested for a wrap of bush meat as takeaway. On sighting my orders, the older patrons in the joint must have reasoned among themselves thus: “Dajudaju, omo baba olowo ni omode yi”. Translated, it means: Surely, this boy must be the son of a rich man.
To shorten a long story, a drama played out as I was walking out of the joint. A hand grabbed my clavicle from behind and demanded: “Omode yi, oo ti san owo fun mi ke”, meaning “You this small boy, you have not paid me”.
My heart gathered speed as I fiddled with the talisman in my pocket to be sure I jammed it properly. I did! The talisman had failed me! And I had no dime on me. I was on the verge of being marched to the nearby police station when I sighted the juju man inching towards the joint. I could not believe my luck! He turned out to be the spouse of the owner of the bukataria. I told the motley crowd the encounter I had with the man 72 hours earlier. He had conned me of the cap after warning me that appearing in the bush with it could expose me to danger of being mistaken for a leopard by a hunter.
I instantly won the sympathy of the onlookers who admired my wisdom in the belief that I had come to test the talisman in his wife’s bukataria.
At the end of the drama, I regained my freedom. I rained insults on the juju man amid belching from the palm wine I had consumed. He swore to turn me to a leopard. I panicked and backpedaled with the gait of a drunkard. Then the service girl demanded: “Eran gbe yen nko?” meaning “what about the bush meat?”
That annoying request was on her thin lips until I thinned out of their sight.