(By Ayodeji A. Adeyemi)

 “Nigeria should not be suffering from malnutrition. She has every natural and human resources needed to ensure its steady, speedy growth as a nation. Unfortunately, we have never been lucky enough to have that kind of leadership that can tap into this wealth and ensure affluence. Miserably, governance has been about the leading and not the led. The government has grown to be a sledge hammer used to suppress its citizens and a giant hose used to slurpingly suck away juice out of the land at the expense of the nation into private, bottomless pockets.

 “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life,” says a Chinese proverb.

I WILL speak and I will be heard. I will be harsh as truth, uncompromising as justice. Following the swearing-in ceremony of one of the bigwigs of stomach infrastructure in South-West Nigeria recently, I am yet to recover from the consciousness that Nigeria might be drowning in an abyss which could be cataclysmic.

  You will probably ask me why this realisation is grieving me concern, won’t you? Of course, I am concerned. Why will I not be concerned when the Nigerian society seems to reel with brainwashed and hypnotized populace? Call us living zombies if you must. Of course, I should be concerned when the education we receive within and without the four walls of the classroom has done nothing but to quash us and make us the docile, zombie-like citizen! You will pardon me for being concerned when the Nigerian youth is still on the streets fretting through churches, mosques and shrines for miracle-working clerics who will proffer a solution or explanation the government is not providing and might never give.

  Before I continue, let me again state lucidly: Our stomach is not our brain!!!

Whew! That out, I can continue. It is no longer a spine-tingling scene to see a man with hunched muscles and sweat-glittering head working toils under the fury of the hot blazing sun. After all, nothing is ever achieved without dints of hard work. You see the woman in the market sitting glued to her wares. She is looking so forlorn while waiting for customers to bicker with in the hope of making sales. However, due to the never-say-never spirit which seemed to be woven in the DNA of the average Nigerian citizen, you find her coming the next day to perform the same ritual; a cycle that persists till when she either dies or makes wealth. The same cycle applies to those that work the supposed white-collar job. However, they have files and/or computer screens to stare at as against others.

  This is the circumstance in which the average Nigerian finds him or herself with nothing but hope. Hope for help from the government; hope for a divine stroke of luck; hope for a twist of fate; hope for success; hope for almost everything, even life and/or death! We hope in everything!

   It is under this delusion that governors and wanna-be governors have come with a saving agendum; fill their stomachs to fullness. By saying governors, I do not mean executive heads of government in the state tier of government, but I refer to all personages charged with the business of governance; presidents, governors, senators, permanent secretaries and the whole lot. They have fashioned out tricky ways to feed the hungry Nigerian who is bedeviled with poverty and hunger. After all, what better way to approach a man than through his stomach? Like the Yoruba adage, “Oosa bi ona ofun kosi, ojoojumo lo n gb’ebo” literally translated; “There is no god like the throat, it every day receives sacrifice.”

  I am not against the provision of food and its stomachic equivalents to the hungry masses of the country. I am not against their grandiose Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). No. Neither am I against the philanthropic gesture of these expert extortionists to help us take a rain check on death or starvation. What I vehemently detest is feeding our stomachs while surreptitiously enervating and incapacitating our brains!

   Preceding the June gubernatorial election in Ekiti State earlier this year, political parties took to the streets distributing foodstuffs to average citizens of the state who for one reason or the other thronged to accept them. Same was also done in Osun State heralding the August gubernatorial election. I was appalled to see young and old people clamouring for bags of rice, vegetable oils and cash. In this age! You would have thought that the tragic scene from the blockbuster film, Titanic, was being re-enacted when its horrified passengers clambered for life as the ship took a deep stroll towards the riverbed of the ocean like taking a stroll in the park.

  Nonetheless, less blame I lay at the feet of us smiling citizens amidst suffering who feel let down by the government and thus disposed to getting their share of the national cake however way they could. After all, these junks were bought with money siphoned from the national treasure that belongs to every Nigerians. No one spends his hard-earned money that way for whatever purpose. If he does, it is a business, an investment. He is going to recoup it, tapping it from the treasury, and get it back into his vaults. Therefore, those jostling saw this gesture as taking back what belongs to them – howbeit on their knees without pride and self-dignity.   However, what is pride and self-dignity compared to hunger, you would ask me? After all, hunger knows not these ideals.

  Fair enough, right? If only they knew that these political loafers were robbing Peter to pay Paul. If only they knew that these demented gorillas work by the abridged version of the axiom earlier quoted from the beginning of this piece: “Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him forever and…you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.” If only they knew they were trading away their unified voice and future. If only they knew…

    Chief MKO Abiola said during his 1993 presidential campaign, “In five years’ time, no Nigerian child will go to bed hungry – by the grace of God.” Looking back, that was a laudable promise to make at such a time when the government had not grown this big, pompous and tentacled. Unfortunately, development and the government in this age has grown so colossal and imperious right before our goggled eyes that less developed countries such as ours are overwhelmed by the sheer logic and needs for developmental progress.

   Which brings me to ask, what euphoric development do you hope to achieve by stuffing and stifling the stomachs of average Nigerians with nearly new foods leaving us restrained and reined upstairs incapable of local and/or global developmental thoughts? To what aim do you feed us? You know it! Stomach infrastructure is just a subtle way by which the ruling elite suppress the intellectual capacity of the average Nigerians thereby making us gullible and leaving them i.e. the elite, rein-free. Should this cancerous infrastructure be given more prominence than mental-cum-social and technological development, Nigeria’s development is sure to continue on its already stunted growth. Imagine a 54-year old who still crawls on his knees unable to walk; how much more running.

   Nigeria should not be suffering from malnutrition. She has every natural and human resources needed to ensure its steady, speedy growth as a nation. Unfortunately, we have never been lucky enough to have that kind of leadership that can tap into this wealth and ensure affluence. Miserably, governance has been about the leading and not the led. The government has grown to be a sledge hammer used to suppress its citizens and a giant hose used to slurpingly suck away juice out of the land at the expense of the nation into private, bottomless pockets.

   This is a clarion call to all policy makers and party leaders that our stomach is never a conduit for our brains. True when fed, we have the chance to give thinking towards development a chance. However, what do we think about during that brief interval? How soon before we go hungry again? When you feed us, how soon before it becomes excrement that we do away with? We need infrastructures that will enhance our thinking capability such as schools and health facilities. Like the economy and the power sector. The education we receive these days is not enough to haul us out of the mud of less-development to which we are sinking fast. We need enabling environments where we can access and process the hidden potentials of our intellectual horizon. We crave for the basic opportunities that enhance development. If you can’t guarantee our right to safety of life and property, let’s, at least, see you adequately punish those that take away such right brutishly and please make an example of those who suck us dry while they grow potbellies, will you!

  Our educational system is everyday blaring its horn for help; urgent dire help. Health workers just went on an indefinite nationwide strike calling for improved health facilities amidst other requests. Our power sector is crippled. The economy is growing at a snail speed that lampoons our position as the giant of Africa. The only sector of the country that could be said to be witnessing a considerable level of growth is the entertainment sector which is fast sprouting into a money-making ritual and business. Even sport, particularly football is becoming traumatic! Enough of policies and actions that look philanthropic! Governance is a duty, and not a favour or charity. Stop acting like you are doing us a favour by providing dividends of governance. Governments are established by the people from the people and not the other way round.

  Stomach infrastructure is not a long-term benefit to a country as ours. It is not even a short one when compared to the superficial and ephemeral nature of life and sustenance. You only get to whet an appetite! You only succeeded in jeopardising the future; our future. To the governor that recently created a portfolio for stomach infrastructure; you just shot yourself in the leg! 35 per cent for you!

   Our stomach is not our brain! Pay more attention to our brain! Feed our stomach if you must, but capacitate also our brains so that we can feed our stomach by ourselves! The Holy Bible said: “Food for the stomach, stomach for the stomach, both will one day perish.”

  Remember, “Omo t’aa ko l’o ma gbe ile t’a ba ko ta” literally translated; “The child that you do not teach will one day sell the house that you build.” Man after all shall not live by bread alone…! the Holy Word says. It is a government that develops our brains that is our friend in the end, not one that feeds our stomachs for one day. So, Mr. Governor, Sir, Mr. President, Sir, what we need is you teach us how to fish!

I will speak and I will be heard.

• Adeyemi wrote from Oshogbo.

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