It is that time of the year again when elections are around the corner in the most populous black nation on earth. Politicians that have been practically unreachable and have gone into hiding for the last four years despite being elected to serve the people, are now suddenly reachable, coming down from their high horses and their elevated class and luxury into the towns and streets of the poor masses that have been deprived of development. They come with their fancy agbadas to solicit votes from people that have been put at the mercy of dilapidated infrastructures, yearning for refurbishment and development in their localities, to seek re-election in the coming 2023 elections. Their hope is built on sharing some of the illegal wealth they have amassed during their political career with hungry Nigerians who have been denied “hard infrastructure.” This is what is called stomach infrastructure in Nigerian parlance. It is a process whereby gifts, money, and foodstuffs are used by politicians to win the electorate’s vote in an election.
This form of infrastructure is sudden and temporary. It is not planned or fixed in the national budget of the country, nor is it included as one of the projects to be embarked upon by an elected administration. It is temporal in the sense that before elections, politicians come to the hills and valleys, highways, and streets to canvass for votes bringing with them gifts, cash, and foodstuff. People scramble to get their own share of the gifts, whilst marveling at the sudden altruism of the said politician. They quickly forget the sufferings they have endured for the past four years, while some even rain blessings on the said politician, who, out of his magnanimity, has decided to put an (ephemeral) end to their suffering. But once elections are over, stomach infrastructure ceases to exist until the next election in four years, and the people, especially those who depend on this type of infrastructure, go back to their poverty.
The Nigerian political elite is very smart. Well, they think their strategy is smart, but I call it cruel and evil. Politicians know that poverty is a weapon that they can use to woo the masses toward their interests. Dennis Kucinich was right when he said poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Nigerian politicians understand this immensely. They deliberately plunge the country into penury and make people’s living conditions difficult, and people’s quality of life decreases in a slow but steady motion. In some cases, some people can not even afford the basic things of life anymore. This makes the masses desperate for stomach infrastructure, which is why it is very difficult to resist. You would agree with me that it would be difficult to convince a parent who has to witness their child go to bed hungry at night (that is even if there is a bed in the first place) to not accept stomach infrastructure from politicians. Hence, the dependency of some Nigerians on this structure.
“Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction.” – Dennis Kucinich
The coming 2023 elections are crucial for Nigeria and Nigerians. The continuation of the successful implementation of stomach infrastructure may well mean that the future of the country is still like a sinking ship with no respite in sight. The maintenance of stomach infrastructure in Nigeria signals only one thing: that Nigerians will not get the type of governance that they so much desire, a type of governance that can lead them to the promised land.
For us to have responsible leadership in Nigeria, it is imperative that stomach infrastructure crumbles and becomes a thing of the past. If you are reading this article and you are Nigerian or hope to participate in the elections next year, I enjoin you to sensitize people around you that they should not give in to the cunningness of the politicians. They should reject every form of bribe (or “gift”) to secure not just their future but those of their kids as well. To ordinary Nigerians, politicians see us as pawns in their little chess game that is being used to advance their own agendas to benefit their own pockets. However, this is not quite the truth, as we (the so-called pawns) are actually the people that decide the end result of the game. If we (the masses) were not that important in the electoral process, I do not think politicians would even care about giving us stomach infrastructure in the first place. Politicians understand that the electorate decides the outcome of elections through their votes, but they also know that the same masses are the people that can be used to snatch ballot boxes and cause mayhem during elections. At the same time, they know that people appointed to key positions in an electoral body like INEC are recruited from the masses, and they have crucial roles to play to ensure free and fair elections. Hence, they try to entice us with stomach infrastructure to let go of our virtue and play their dirty game with them.
Nigerians need to wake up to see how they are very important to the electoral process: they are the queens of the game and they decide when and how the checkmate happens. We need to reject every form of stomach infrastructure during the next election and do our research on the candidate you want to vote for. There are a few candidates that have emerged who I believe have the best intentions for the country. Do your own research and give your votes to these candidates. I would also advise you to steer clear of the two hegemonic parties that have put us in this quagmire because of their actions in the past years. If people say you will only waste your vote by voting for a party that is not well known (a common narrative among Nigerians), tell them that you are willing to waste your vote on that party because it is better to vote and lose with people that have good intentions than to win with those that have no plans for the country, hence, installing another four years of calamitous governance as we have seen in the past few years.
It is my hope that Nigeria gets it right in the coming 2023 elections and that the most credible candidate is elected so we can put a complete stop to stomach infrastructure; and that Nigerians can start having real infrastructure that they not only crave but is also pivotal to enhancing the development of the country.