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IK Nwosu: Politics in Nigeria & the Importance of Stomach Infrastructure

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dreamstime_m_69334860% of Nigerians – that is over 100 million of our brothers and sisters – live below the poverty line. I’m talking about the percentage of Nigerian citizens that feed on below $1 dollar a day. With the current economic recession, it becomes below 50 cents a day!

If you can read this, my guess is that your need is not portable water or food or shelter. The least set of needs for some of you may be where to charge your phone, paying certain bills, and buying data. For the middle class and elite, your need may be to advance in your career or business, to save more, and so on and so forth.

Some people’s need in Nigeria is not any of the aforementioned – that will be ‘aiming too high’, it’s not even to get where to sleep, as far as there are flyovers and bridges, they are ‘good’. These people, their needs are pure water – I don’t mean water put in plastic sachets. I mean having pure water to drink. Some is to even have any water to drink! We’ve not talked about food and the rest.

There are four ways to measure poverty in economics: food poverty, dollar per day poverty, relative poverty, and absolute poverty.

Food poverty is the lack of access to nutritionally adequate diet (41% of Nigerians are in this category). Dollar per day poverty is living below one dollar a day (61.2% of Nigerians when Naira was below 160 to a dollar). Relative poverty is when the individual or family lacks the minimum income to maintain the average standard of living in the society they live in (69% of Nigerians fall in this place). Absolute poverty is when the individual or family are deprived of basic human needs such as food, water, shelter, security, etc (60.9% of Nigerians fall in this category).

Politicians/public servants in Nigeria wield enough power, not just because our weak constitution allows them to, but because they understand the above and use it to get people on their side.

Elections are never won by the impressions and reactions from Tweets, or the carefully worded Facebook posts. Neither are they won by the beauty of your Instagram ‘filtered’ photos, even if the photoshop skills of Adekunle Gold were also involved in the making of such photos. Let’s not even talk about Snapchat.

Elections are won in villages and places where the poorest of the poor reside, where people, whose needs are food and water, and that is where politicians go to. This is why only the political parties with enough money win elections at the Federal and State levels. They have enough money to reach people in the areas where people who need food and water reside, and trust me, we have many of them in Nigeria.

Except for Senatorial and House of Representatives offices, this is always the case – a big, popular and rich political party will win. The voters in Senatorial and House of Reps elections are confined to a particular geographical region and a not too popular (wo)man can win these seats, provided s/he is known and liked by the constituents. This is how politicians win elections – they are able to draw the popular and loved (wo)men in a region to themselves, win the votes, and reward them later.

So, our rants and bants on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram do not really matter, when a political party can get 1 million votes from each of the states with numerous rural areas by engaging in Stomach Infrastructure. Mind you, these states have an average of 1.5 million eligible voters, and about 1.3 million will be reported to have come out to vote.

This is how elections are won in Nigeria (I did not forget about rigging), and it’s not going to stop anytime soon unless we change, and this change must have to begin with us – otherwise we leave the power with the politicians.

I know, mentioning the word ‘change’ makes me feel like I’m trying to scam you, but I lack a better word; please bear with me.

Nigerians are known for not relying on the government to provide what they are meant to provide. For example, we buy generators and solar panels, to solve our personal power challenges, we pay for extra security in our homes or in the community to solve our security challenges, e.t.c. Please note, this is not saying we should leave the politicians to continue stealing from us while we take care of ourselves by ourselves, it is saying to solve the challenges of this nation, we have to demand accountability from our public offices holders, while helping those whose main need is food and water, as well as others.

By doing this, we are contributing to reducing the number of poor people in our country.

Apart from food and water, another way we can help is in the area of education. It is so painful to see that this administration, as the others that have gone before it, placed little emphasis on quality education. It is popularly accepted that instead of giving a man fish that will last him for a while, teach him how to fish, and you have helped him for life. That said, I must commend this administration for the N-power scheme, although it has not started in full gear, but it is a good step.

Your giving does not have to be loud, it just has to be done. Contribute to the feeding and education of those around you; that is one sure way to turn this country around. People are really hungry in Nigeria. Not the I am hungry I didn’t before I left the house type of hunger, but that I am hungry and I don’t have the resources to get food.

Politicians are using this to win votes big time! These people do not care who wins the election or not, they just want to eat! A friend of mine interviewed some people during the last governorship election in Edo state about who they want to win the election and why should the person win. The reply from virtual everyone (in the rural areas) is that “I don’t care; all of them are the same”. Now tell me why these people will not vote for anyone who gives them rice or yam?

Sadly, this is how Western forces get controlling powers in developing countries aka African Nations with Oil and corrupt leaders.

We must take this power from politicians, while demanding accountability from them. I am very passionate about education, and you should be too if you still believe in the development of Nigeria and Africa.

Sadly, we have a roadmap for agricultural development, a roadmap for petroleum development, a roadmap for security, but nothing for education (from this administration), yet.

We must develop a policy for quality education. Nigerian children must be taught National Values (We must develop and exemplify these) from their first day in school.

Growing up in Nigeria, we were told (maybe not literarily) that we are unfortunate, because we live in Nigeria, and that ‘America’ or ‘Oyinbo Country’ is where life is good. So we grew up hating not liking our country and everything in it. It is really sad.

It will take a lot to change that, but we must start NOW. We must teach our children and the children of today to love Nigeria and strive to make it great. Politicians should make us trust them again by making tough sacrifices for this nation, citizens should always help each other (particularly those that are less privileged than you are) feed their bodies and their minds (education).

Nigeria will be great if we do this.

Photo Credit: Mark Aplet |

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