Stomach Infrastructure- The Idealist vs Realist Schools of Thought
A lot had been said, written and published on the broadcast, print and social media prior to and after the June 21 gubernatorial election that ushered in Ayodele Fayose as Ekiti State Governor. Governor Fayose was said to have won the election against the then incumbent Governor, Kayode Fayemi because of “Stomach Infrastructure”, Writes, Maxwell Adeleye and Abolayo Moshope.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, shortly after his inauguration as Governor on thursday October 16, appointed Mr Sunday Anifowose as his personal assistance on special duties and stomach infrastructure. Of course, a new concept and portfolio in the corridor of politics in Nigeria.
Read what the Governor had to say about the concept of “Stomach Infrastructure”.
“Any Administration that cannot put food on the table of the people is irrelevant, my administration will banish poverty and hunger from Ekiti State. The concept of my Stomach Infrastructure, which has given me fame and acceptability with the people of Ekiti State, remains an integral part of my administration. Physical infrastructure and urban renewal will continue to play its own role in the development of any nation. It is only the living who are hale and hearty that can enjoy such infrastructure. Stomach infrastructure is not about food alone. It is also about the welfare of the people. Welfare of the people is also about health, provision of drugs, eradication of diseases, clothing and housing. All these are the basic essentials of life without which physical infrastructure will be meaningless.”~Governor Fayose.
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What is stomach infrastructure as against physical infrastructure?
We can only understand stomach infrastructure by making a graphic comparison between the two concepts, because they are all goals of democracy. The contrary is that one cannot be emphasized over the other. One cannot be given more attention than the other.
Physical infrastructure is the vision that Governor Fayemi rigorously pursued in Ekiti. It is an elitist dream of building projects such as Classroom blocks, ICT Centers, Housing estates, Roads, Bridges, Dams, Hospitals with equipments, civic Centers, Pavilion, Banks, Hotels, Construction of Tourist Centers, industries. E.t.c
However, stomach infrastructure looks down to the people’s immediate needs. Such as Empowerment programme for unemployed youths and widows, Employment, Assistance for the aged, Bursary and Scholarship awards for Students, Health foundation to assist the poor, provision of drugs, Promotion of workers, Agric facilities for the rural poor farmers, Skill acquisition Centers for poor unskilled men and women, Loan grants, Food relief for the poorest of the poor, Borehole in rural communities to solve water scarcity problem, eradication of diseases. Etc.
While physical infrastructure is long-term oriented, stomach infrastructure is short-term. While physical infrastructure is the big theory from exclusive business schools, stomach infrastructure is a product of street sense and native intelligence. It is a product of an experience with the predicament of the common masses and their heartfelt yearning.
Stomach infrastructure does not need power-point presentation in a posh conference room of a big time hotel. It does not need seminars and consultants. It only needs a leader to come down from his high horse to interact and feel the immediate challenges of the masses and deploy strategies to ameliorate these needs. It is about giving governance a human face.
The judgment of the people of Ekiti is that Fayemi concentrated mainly on physical infrastructure and ignored stomach infrastructure. While he was confident that he has performed and delivered on his promise of providing democratic dividend, the people disagreed because they cannot enjoy the mighty infrastructure while their stomachs were squirming with hunger pangs.
A hungry man is an angry man, of course a very unhappy fellow. So, the first greatest needs of man is food and security. Even the first objective of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is eradication of hunger and poverty.
This fact was lost on the highly respected Governor Fayemi for the four years he spent in Ekiti building the mighty fortresses and Physical infrastructures. Not bearing in mind that they both intertwined, works paryy-pasue, and working simultaneously.
The moral is that you have to be alive, healthy and happy to enjoy the big physical infrastructure, and that is why the need for food and shelter come first before comfort and social recognition.
In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of need, A dead man cannot live in a mighty fortress. He can only rest in a six-foot grave. This is the reason the new maxim is causing ripples all over, because it touches on the heart of the common man. A leader could not have satisfied his people if he builds mighty schools and hospitals and yet, the people cannot afford to send their children there and cannot afford the high medical bills of such glorious hospitals. There must be a point of convergence between physical infrastructure and the lowly capacities of the masses. And this is where the concept of stomach infrastructure becomes very relevant.
Indeed, the Ekiti scenario is an eye-opener to leadership in Nigeria. A leader should prioritize on the needs of the citizenry. Every leader that continues to pursue idealistic visions at the expense of the very immediate needs of the common should learn from Governor Fayemi. Since politics remains a local affair and the people who actually sacrifice their blood and energy to ensure victory for the political aspirants remain the local masses, honestly, these ordinary people will continue to give the verdict at the polls. You must identify with the people from the beginning not when election is fast-approaching.
The lesson is that there must be a balance between idealism and pragmatism. A great leader must be high in ideas and lowly at heart. As Shakespeare noted in Julius Ceaser, the ‘abuse of greatest is when it dis-joins remorse from power.” He must be the polish cosmopolitan man of the polite society, and the rugged man of the local village bar. He must be able to live out the chivalrous life of protocols, ceremonies and courtesy and at the same time, display the humility of dining with beggars and people of the lowly trough of life. He is the leader of all men and, therefore, must appreciate the varieties of our common humanity.
In the case of Ekiti, Governor Fayemi only satisfied the members of his own class, the elite, the intelligentsia, his fellow Phd holders and spoke the language of the intellect while ignoring the humorous jibes at the local bars of Ekiti forest. But on election day (June 21), a bewildered man looked back and he could see the members of his class. The elites, Professors, Phd holders the intelligentsia and co could not leave the comfort of their hotel suites to queue on the sun. Only the commoners came to judgment and they judged according to whims of their hearts and minds. They voted to restore their souls.
Stomach Infrastructure is about human survival, first and foremost. It is about following the natural sequence of things in governance. It is about understanding the bottom-top, gradual approaches in developmental strides. It is about carrying everybody along, everyone in his own pace.
Those that are ignorant of what transpired to the exit of Ex-Governor Fayemi, should kindly man their businesses and stop lambasting and subjecting Ekiti state to both National and international ridicule.
Maxwell Adeyemi Adeyemi and Abolayo Afiz Moshope, Publisher and Editor, Change Nigeria, writes from Lagos.
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