The road to becoming the President of a country or attaining a position in politics is long, expensive and exhausting. Becoming a candidate is only the beginning of the election process. Crooked political actors have in recent years found alternatives to the real politicking. Rather than put the work into drawing convincing campaign points, these lazy politicians just deploy either thugs or stomach infrastructure, or both.
In Nigeria, the politics of poverty and the poverty of politics seem to have coalesced to produce the phenomenon of stomach infrastructure in the polity as politicians share money, material resources and other benefits for immediate satisfaction of the masses, and expect votes in return.
Stomach infrastructure was introduced into the country’s political lexicon by a one-time enfant terrible of southwest politics who was then the governor of Ekiti state, Peter Ayodele Fayose, aka Oshokomole. He had defeated the incumbent Kayode Fayemi in 2014. During his reign which was his second coming, he famously said his priority was not about concentrating on building only bridges and schools and other forms of social infrastructure, adding that people of Ekiti needed stomach infrastructure which is money to buy food and eat. Over the years, stomach infrastructure has been used to describe corrupt politics, politics of the pocket, politics for the sake of selfish benefits and not for the purpose of serving the general good.
Stomach infrastructure is a reality projected by the Nigerian politicians on the vulnerable electorate who, due to 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.
Stomach infrastructure shifts attention away from the infrastructural deficit, which is the shortage of schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water and the lack of other dividends of good governance which is undermining real development in Nigeria. This is the reason elections are won in villages and places where the poorest of the poor whose needs are food and water, where people are too gullible that they sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. 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. Stomach infrastructure is an equivalent of giving people fish for their immediate satisfaction rather than teaching the people how to fish for a long-term benefit. It is seen as a way of inducing potential voters to support a particular candidate in an election.
The way and manner the Nigerian political system is structured around money makes it difficult for well-bred patriots to emerge on the scene. As it is now, only jobless clowns with some nuisance value and moneybags with criminal records can be catapulted into positions of authority at the party and at governance levels.
The recent show of shame between former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Senator Dino Melaye is a textbook case of two individuals who have no credibility, no pedigree of standing for any just political cause, aside flip-flopping and jumping from one political camp to the other where the next available meal will come from.
The social media dogfight began when Fani-Kayode, a staunch supporter of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, reacted to Dino Melaye’s interview where he narrated how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu was elected. Dino, the spokesman of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, while commenting on calls for Ayu’s resignation, allegedly said, “All the PDP Governors spent money at our party’s National Convention to get Senator Iyorcha Ayu elected as National Chairman.”
FFK, a lawyer, however, described Dino’s assertion as open confession of how deeply corrupt PDP is, stressing that Ayu’s election was a product of corruption and so was Atiku who was said to have bribed delegates with thousands of dollars to vote him in the party’s primary election.
Dino, who was angered by Fani-Kayode’s observation, lambasted the former minister, describing him as a drug addict. He said, “My attention has just been called to a statement issued by Femi Fani Kayode, which as usual, was an incoherent gibberish produced from his temporary relief from insanity.”
The former Minister took to his social media handles to rain insults on Dino. Accusing Dino of being a coward, FFK said, “he was nothing more than a tout then and nothing has changed. Fat, ugly, balding, obese man, even at a relatively young age.”
Dino responded by accusing Fani-Kayode of collecting N2 billion from Rivers State and using it on illegal drugs. He also released a video on his Twitter handle where three men came to him, begging him to invite FFK for a dinner and he said No, he is not going to bankroll anybody or give anyone stomach infrastructure.
Fani-Kayode hit back. He posted a photo of a wretched Dino drinking ‘garri’ and he wrote: “This is Dino Melaye drinking garri when he was still struggling! You can take a man out of the jungle but you can’t take the jungle out of a man! And Dino defended that, saying he love garri a lot and that he was from a poor background.
Then Fani-Kayode posted a video on twitter where he claimed Dino fainted after he was arrested by the police. “Dino after a long night of smoking gbana and weed, sucking rectum and being screwed! He was so terrified of the police and of being detained that he fainted and started bleating like a gutted pig,” he said.
While a lot of young Nigerians enjoyed the amusement and the drama that came from the back and forth between the duo, many others condemned it, saying it is childish for two adults and national figures to descend into the gutters over political differences instead of campaigning for their respective candidates on issues. Many observers argued that the kind of mudslinging the duo brought on board was not the kind of decent campaign Nigerians were expecting.
If not in search of stomach infrastructure, what will FFK be doing in APC, defending Tinubu, after years of calling the party evil and satanic? If not for politics without principles, what will Dino be doing attacking Tinubu and the same APC he was a foundation member of? If not for everything that is wrong with our political culture, what will FFK and Dino be doing in our faces fouling the air with indecent stuff at a time Nigerians are supposed to be grilling the presidential candidates and their respective surrogates on the issues of security, economy, power, Education etc?
Oluwagbanga is a student of Mass Communication at Bowen University, Iwo, Osun state.