If history is classified as truly the prerogative of the victor, then one concept likely to be revisited in the times ahead will be the vexatious “stomach infrastructure”. Ordinarily, the imagery evoked would perhaps not be more than the entrails of oesophagus, kidneys, intestines down to the rectum in human skeleton commonly displayed in the biology lab.
But not until after Ayo Fayose’s dramatic reincarnation in Ekiti in 2014. To rout then incumbent Kayode Fayemi (JKF) so resoundingly, the magic formula was easily narrowed down to the “empowerment” of prospective voters with edibles like rice, chicken enhanced with a few bank notes. An improvement on the tankers of water Fayose had dispensed arduously to thirsty neighbourhoods for months preceding the 2003 polls where he similarly secured an upset victory over incumbent Niyi Adebayo.
Given its demonstrable efficacy over two election seasons, that illicit tactic, for want of a more elegant camouflage, soon became known simply as “stomach infrastructure”, patented as Fayose’s own unique contribution to Nigeria’s political evolution. Officially, a government department would even be designated in Ado-Ekiti for such transaction.
But the supreme irony is that, today, not many would remember that the etymology of “stomach infrastructure” is actually traceable to the very denunciation of what it came to symbolize and the enunciator, its first notable casualty.
To begin with, the sophisticate in JKF could not understand why his clansmen in his own native Isan would prefer his modest convoy still blare the siren, even in the dead of night, when returning from the state capital. Perhaps, just to remind those in neighboring communities that their illustrious son was now the “gomina” (as the locals pronounce governor).
Again, while pontificating much earlier on the challenge of public service as Ekiti governor, JKF would express great difficulty in managing the expectations of party leaders.
When the chips were down at party caucus, no one, he revealed with a tinge of frustration, ever disputed the government’s claims that public funds were being deployed with a view to meeting the deficits in social infrastructure. Rather, often audible at such party fellowship was a grumble that similar effort was not being made “to develop our own stomach infrastructure” as stakeholders. Put starkly, the party barons were sneering in the manner of buccaneers, “Is it road or hospital that will fill our own bellies?”
For stomachs now distended from years of addiction to gobbling both the proverbial yam and seedlings, prohibitive is the cost of sustainance indeed.
So, really, “stomach infrastructure” was meant to be despicable as against the populism now associated with it; a preference for self-interest against the common good.
It is perhaps a measure of the debasement of politics that it became glorified under Fayose.
Having said that, let it also be stated that no comfort was provided nor hope offered with the widespread reports that JKF’s camp too resorted to massive deployment of the same “stomach infrastructure” to overrun Fayose (aka Oshoko) and Kolapo Olusola-Eleka last Saturday.
Going by reports, it was a big bazaar in which the highest bidder eventually prevailed. For once, Fayose was beaten at his own game. Civil servants received a curious N3,000 bank credit alert on the election eve for starters.
Those able to show proof of “performance” on the D-Day got further N4,000 from PDP. With the aid of technology, that was not too difficult to ascertain. Snapshot of thumbprinted ballot taken with the camera device of the cellphone handset was all required to cash the money from the paymaster lurking around the corner.
The process was known as “see and buy”.
But not to worry, APC had the answer. Perhaps to exert the fabled “federal might”, the JKF canvassers outspent the main opposition by shelling out N10,000. In an economy where civil servants and pensioners had not received wages and pension for months, the bait was simply too irresistible.
So, in a way, the most appetizing “stomach infrastructure” carried the day in Ekiti on July 14.
All said, for Fayemi, this must be a tempting moment indeed. In the topsy-turvy of politics, staging a comeback is not always an easy feat, much less an opportunity to make up for yesterday’s failing. With hitherto blustering Fayose now left to clear the debris of the routing of last weekend, it will – let us face it – require uncommon self-restraint on JKF’s part to resist being triumphalist, even vengeful.
Sweet must be the victory in which providence puts you in a position to exact from an old foe a pound of flesh, an eye for an eye. If Fayose trounced him in all the 16 councils in 2014 including the sitting governor’s own ward, APC pulled not only 12 councils but capped Oshoko’s humiliation by also flooring him in his own council this time. More, the memory many will probably clutch for a long time is the grotesque glimpse of a weeping Fayose in a makeshift neck brace lamenting police assault on the election eve. (To say nothing about the countless videos by mischief-makers currently trending in the social media making a caricature of those rare gubernatorial tears.)
Of course, now easily forgotten is the no less pathetic picture of a Fayemi looking dazed in his first public appearance with Fayose after the shock defeat of 2014.
For JKF, besides Oshoko, there must be a temptation to also stomp over Iroko in neighboring Ondo State. The bitterness against Olusegun Mimiko is undoubtedly fed by the feeling of betrayal in 2014. As Ondo governor then, the latter furnished the launching pad for PDP to annex Ekiti and humble Fayemi.
Intoxicated by the company of new political friends, Iroko had forgotten so suddenly the brotherhood they both shared during their epic battle in the court between 2007 and 2010 to recover their stolen mandates.
Then, 2016 presented a chance to pay Mimiko back in his own crooked coin. Iroko was made to watch, with his own eyes, his bid to foist his surrogate as successor in Akure White House thwarted by APC forces coordinated by Fayemi as federal minister. The operation was most savagely clinical. Perhaps, that should be expected of a man whose doctorate was on War Strategies.
So, as Mimiko retreated to his native Ondo town later in February 2017 with tail gathered between his legs, Fayemi’s throaty, gap-toothed laughter surely echoed through the surrounding Ore forest.
Now, as the Ekiti Governor-elect contemplates his second coming, vengeance would be seductive. But from experience, witchhunt often ends up a costly distraction, sapping the energies that could have been put to more productive use.
If nothing at all, the results of last Saturday’s exercise surely call for worry. Whereas voters’ turnout may suggest increased participation relative to 2014, the margin however portrays a population sharply polarized. In 2014, total votes cast was 360,455 compared to last Saturday’s 403,451.
But whereas PDP had secured an emphatic 56 percent then leaving APC a distant 33 percent behind, APC won PDP by a narrow edge of less than five percent last Saturday. In case he chooses not to try the old dirty tactic of inducement to expand his support base, the incoming governor should brace for hostility from the state assembly dominated by PDP.
The burden thus imposed on the victor is the urgency to initiate moves that would rebuild trust and mobilize more of the unbelievers behind a common purpose with a view to making his second coming more impactful.
Good enough, JKF already enjoys the vantage of experience, having served out apprenticeship in his first incarnation. For instance, Ekiti certainly does not need an airport at the moment; not with the Akure airport in neighbouring Ondo grossly underutilized. Its resources are better channeled into providing amenities that impact directly on the lives of the common people.
Indeed, Ekiti of the future should seek to build on its area of comparative advantage. One such sector is the knowledge economy. Long before it became renowned as home to a chain of reputable higher institutions, Ekiti had earned the reputation as the community with perhaps the highest academic doctorates per capita in the country. lts compact topography makes it one of the most navigable provinces in Nigeria. It only requires clear thinking to cultivate these resources with a view to making it the preferred destination for education tourism, thereby amplifying its self-classification as the “fountain of knowledge”.
What will JKF make of the uncommon gift history has now presented – a second chance?
As Benue bites the bullet…
After weeks of speculations and denial, the truth finally unfurled Monday as Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State dumped APC for opposition PDP, citing “red card” issued him by the ruling party. Given the seemingly unending bloodbath inflicted on the coastal state by the genocidal herders, Ortom’s move is hardly surprising.
The “red card” he alluded to could then be interpreted as being left in a position he could no longer defend before Benue people.
But coming barely 24 hours after APC won Ekiti, losing Benue in the North-central only meant cancelling out whatever territorial gain the ruling party had just recorded in the South-west state, thereby re-balancing the political equation ahead of the 2019 polls.
We are thus reminded of the three means by which power exchanged hands at the state level in Nigeria’s contemporary politics: ballot, court order or decamping.
With the general polls still eight months away, it will undoubtedly be premature yet to foreclose more of such. Since its historic victory of 2015, APC has annexed Kogi, Ondo and Ekiti. But in what signals the now familiar musical chairs ahead of every general election, Benue has slipped away.
Speculations are rife that two more states will follow. Such reading would seem reinforced last week with the sudden raising of rhetoric by Governor Aminu Tambuwa of Sokoto State.
While reacting to the recent mass killings in his domain last week, Tambuwa blamed squarely “the failure of leadership”.
There is no prize for guessing for whom that innuendo was meant. Those around in 2014 ahead of “n-PDP” decamping to APC would recall it was the same insider blow Tambuwa had deployed ruthlessly then as sitting Speaker of PDP-dominated House of Reps against the commander-in-chief at the Villa.
Aside Sokoto, another state highly speculated to be on verge of slipping from the ruling party is Kwara State where diehard senate president, Bukola Saraki, holds sway.
So, if Sokoto and Kwara also fall alongside Benue after APC had pocketed Kogi, Ondo and Ekiti, what we then have is cynically described in the game of tennis as a deuce.