A debate rages in Nigeria about “Stomach infrastructure” | This is Africa

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A debate rages in Nigeria about “Stomach infrastructure”

What are the limits of what politicians can give to the people to entice them to vote in their favour? Money is considered unacceptable by almost everyone but what about foodstuffs? Many Nigerians say it is okay for a politician to give food donations to voters in return for votes. In fact, a term has been coined to describe that exact arrangement: “Stomach infrastructure”. Some Nigerians though say the practice corrupts the concept of a fair vote and makes politicians less receptive to the people when they are in power. Not everyone is convinced.

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Nigerians have a way with words. Stomach infrastructure, a term that is gaining increasing currency in the country is proof of this. It was originally coined more than a year ago today to describe an arrangement in which a politician donates foodstuffs to potential voters and gets their endorsement at the ballot in return. At the time, then-incumbent APC’s governor Kayode Fayemi accused the eventually winner of the Ekiti State governorship election PDP’s Ayodele Peter Fayose of swaying the vote using stomach infrastructure.

Since winning, Governor Fayose has fully embraced the practice. His “Stomach infrastructure train” was seen as recently as June 6th when it made a stop in Are-Ekiti.

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It was originally coined more than a year ago today to describe an arrangement in which a politician donates foodstuffs to potential voters and gets their endorsement at the ballot in return

Critics abound

It is safe to say the stomach infrastructure practice has its critics. One of them Sen. David Umaru of Niger East recently called the practice the “bane of Nigeria’s development” according to Vanguard. Channeling the old Chinese proverb about “teaching a man to fish”, Umaru’s main critique of the practice is that its is impractical and unsustainable in the long run.

“Stomach infrastructure is what has brought us to where we are today because even rich and developed countries are not in a position to provide for everybody. There is no way you can have money to distribute to everyone; it is either we develop our communities or give money to people. If I give you rice today, tomorrow you go to the toilet and it is gone; you too will forget I gave you rice; rather than do that, why don’t we prepare people to find food for themselves‎.”

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Many Nigerians on social media echo Umaru’s critique and think the stomach infrastructure policy advocated and championed by Governor Fayose has failed in Ekiti state.

https://twitter.com/otito_justice/status/739389333099171840

https://twitter.com/Sire_Carlton/status/739341330581729280

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https://twitter.com/callmegboy/status/738362432758878208

Umaru’s main critic of the practice is that its is impractical and unsustainable in the long run

“You cannot be investing heavily on infrastructure when the stomach is empty”

Supporters of the stomach infrastructure policy say it addresses the immediate concern of the people: empty stomachs. This is how one writer succinctly explained their side of things : “Advocates of stomach infrastructure believe that government cannot be investing heavily on infrastructure when the stomach is empty. To them, both development and stomach upgrade could be done side by side.”

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Besides, supporters of Governor Fayose’s controversial policy also contend, at least he is donating food to the people instead of squirreling every single penny away in some foreign bank account as some politicians are wont to do.

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