Before Ayo Fayose became governor, few Nigerians had heard of the term “stomach infrastructure.” But our politicians chewed the phrase like gum. They knew it and bandied it about sometimes as an act of infinite jest, sometimes to boost their negotiations, to show their relevance, or desperation for contracts or “dividends of democracy.” At the worst, they deployed it to blackmail office holders, like ministers, governors, commissioners, local government chairmen, even presidents.
But the governor of infinite jest, Ayo Fayose, “chickened” it into common speech. It lost its cultic power and esoteric significance among politicians. He did it when he campaigned for governor of Ekiti State. As governor, he said he wanted to evince the common touch. He stopped by the road side to buy roasted plantain, or boli, or roasted corn. He cast himself as a master of vernacular conversations. He spoke the people’s lingo. He was a parody of Chinua Achebe’s Chief Nanga in A Man of The People. Ironically, Nanga is a parody of a man of the people. That makes Fayose a parody of a parody. A dark comedian, like a character out of Mark Twain’s novel.
He demonstrated it at a year’s end and distributed fowls and rice to the people. Never mind that he did not test the birds with any health specialist. The people hurtled to the gifts, in spite of the scrawny necks, dull and balding plumes and thinning thighs. Never mind it was a foul gift. The people were hungry and poor. They had a helluva yuletide. It is like the cynicism of giving a kwashiorkor fowl as gift to kwashiorkor people, although the Ekiti people were not that poor. But the spirit of the giver was.
At that time, it seemed Fayose had come to represent the model to govern. Forget roads, schools, hospitals. They belonged to dreamers. Give the people food, splash the cash to them on the streets. That amounted to the common touch.
So, we did not need philosophers. No need for London here. We were satisfied with poor teachers. Don’t mess with them. Don’t ask for standards, don’t test them. Let our kid go to school to learn to be a fool. Let the drugs disappear from schools. Healing will descend from prayer schools. Don’t fish out the Methuselahs in civil service who would not retire because, from the prayer schools, their age can never reach the retirement bar. To tamper with that is to touch the forbidden thing.
No time to dream, but to eat. Send down rice bags and chicken wings. Fayose became the beach head a new “nanny state.” The nanny does not make money. Does not provide, has no imagination for productivity, no sense of managerial adventure. The nanny waits for the provider and provides what she gets to the children. The child falls in love with nanny because, when the father or mother, are not around, it is the nanny that plays the role. So it is possible to love the nanny and hate the daddy.
So, Fayose played nanny. When the child grows up, he or she will know the nanny’s status. Last week, Ekiti people knew. The veil fell. They no longer called for stomach infrastructure. They had developed cramps. They had stomach upset. The nanny could no longer provide for the children. Rebellion shook the house. So stomach upset made a show in the open as crowds of discontents filled the streets, bearing signs, calling for the probe of their nanny. This is the end of a love story. They are calling for the man to resign.
It is a pity that democracy can sometimes make a mistake to correct itself. The people of Ekiti State just realised they entered “one chance.” How do they value Fayose now: “as the dead carcasses of unburied men that do corrupt my air,” apology to Shakespeare in Coriolanus, a play of protest.
The majority has been known to be wrong. Ekitis will not be the last. The United States knows that they created ISIS and today’s recession by voting George W. Bush, who took America pell-mell into Iraq. We are witnessing BREXIT remorse already in England. Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill called the majority foolish.
What happened last week is what to expect when a Fayose seduces a people, and democracy caves in to delinquency. He cannot pay salary. He takes his comic show to the streets by playing a protester. Now he says Zenith Bank gave him the N4.7 billion. EFCC should probe that allegation. We know bank chiefs have been complicit in some high-level crimes. Is the governor of infinite jest ratting or clowning again? Let’s listen. Good thing that Magu says his agency will soon barrel into the bank vaults. I also think that the EFCC should have sought court permission to freeze his account. The argument that investigation and proceedings are different is still subjective. Let the court give its verdict so it does not appear as witch hunt.
Fayose is a reason some call for the removal of immunity from governors. But we know that Nigeria is not yet ripe for that. Remove immunity and we shall have a chaos of impunity in court cases distracting governors. The law wants legislatures to check them. But the governors have checked the lawmakers with stomach infrastructure.
The governor of infinite jest has tarred Buhari as a false charioteer of change. Now he is the physician-comedian who must first heal himself. But it is no laughing matter.