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Election in times of Hunger

The purported ‘largeness’ of the Nigerian economy does not in any way translate into more food on the dining table of Nigerians. Despite the rich and poor remains ridiculously large and insurmountable, the rich are simply too rich while the poor are hanging on for dear lives hoping for a better tomorrow. Nigeria has the highest number of hungry and undernourished persons among the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The poor in Nigeria make up more than 70 percent of the population, and live on less than one dollar per day. They cannot afford to feed their families with one meal a day. A large percentage of Nigerians live like refugees in their own country with no place to call home and little hope for the future. They scamper over each other like a herd of wildebeests being chased by hungry lionesses when an important dignitary, say the wife of a governor comes to pay a visit and distribute foodstuff.

The big trouble however is that these set of Nigerians, are the ones that constitute the bulk of the electorates and who will eventually elect the leaders of the country. They are hungry and therefore can be swayed by pettiness. Their minds can be changed by the sudden goodwill and humaneness of smart, evil politicians. Give a man who has not had a meal for days a small bag of rice and watch him fall at your feet like a pack of old, wrinkled cards. He would vote for you; he would snatch a ballot box for you and would even pick up a gun if you tell him to do so. He does not care that chances abound that you could become a monster in the future, he only cares about now and you have satisfied that. There is a new concept in the dictionary of contemporary Nigerian politics called ‘Stomach infrastructure’. It goes to say that that ‘though infrastructures make a city look good, stomach infrastructure makes the people look good and happy’. Perhaps we will see more of that now that the general elections are due in February.

The concept only works because these politicians deal with people who can easily be moved by petty goodwill and hypocritical behaviours. These people would rather have a tiny bag of rice now than have huge bags of all kinds of food in the future. Politicians prey on such situation which they have to win elections. The people can now be likened to paupers who line the streets during traffic jams or at gas stations stretching frail arms towards flashy cars and making sad faces, begging for alms. That is what the ‘everyday Nigerian’ has become, this is what they have been made to become. Can we then, in this case, say that the people deserve the government they have? I doubt that very much.

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