Every time is a good time to give. But some people tend to defer generosity till December. They give only in the selfsame season when Santa comes from the North Pole, with love and toys.
The Christmas that precedes a general election, as is the case this year, packs more action. All politicians unclench their fists. They turn into cheerful givers.
The picture shows Governor Godswill Akpabio’s Christmas gifts. They are branded to secure gratitude that should accrue to the giver. The heavy traffic of gifts during this period could create confusion over the giver’s identity if bags of rice and groundnut go anonymous.
Food is now as important as brick and mortar. That’s the reason why there is such a cliché as STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE. Governors carve their names in marble slab to immortalize themselves for having awarded the contract for construction of classroom blocks. Foodstuff doesn’t last as long, but they must reflect the glory of the benefactor.
But that UNCOMMON TRANSFORMATION @CHRISTMAS branding can mislead. At first glance, it gives the impression that the products are made-in-Nigeria. That Governor Akpabio gave incentives to Akwa Ibom farmers and he was showing off their bumper harvest. Nothing of sort happened.
Santa deals only in the exotic. Akpabio hauled that bag of rice in from Thailand. And that is the way it should be. Thailand is closer to the North Pole.
UNCOMMON TRANSFORMATION is the reigning catchphrase. It is evoked out of habit, almost instinctively – and slapped on anything in sight, for a label. But Akpabio achieved uncommon transformation in another sense. He took Asia out of that rice. He had it repackaged and rebranded after his likeness.
The bag bears witness that this success story was POWERED BY BUREAU OF TECHNICAL MATTERS. And getting those bags of rice from the North Pole to Uyo involved a lot of technicalities. Budgeting, importing, clearing, rebagging, distributing. These convoluted technical details naturally created a dozen contracts, estacodes and some new millionaires.
And talking about distribution, these bags of Akabio rice are not shared on the basis of any popular formular. Not everyone in Akwa Ibom will taste of his Santa stuff. Santa loves everyone quite alright. But he gives only to his favorites.
The BUREAU staffers look beyond the poor and the needy. They don’t run through the inner cities, hunting for the less privileged. Their commission is to serve a more strategic purpose.
They drive a kitchen campaign. They allocate the largesse to party chieftains and VIPS who in turn let the goods trickle down the cadre of supporters in their individual catchment areas. The food items are essentially a currency of reward. They are given as thank you gifts to faithfuls who have proved to be diehard loyalists. And when they cook the meals, the aroma could leap over walls and entice non-supporters to defect to the camp where manna falls.
Humans have a lifelong relationship with victuals. When we are offered something to eat, the deed goes down as a great favor. And a food gift has higher value in places where poverty is endemic. The gift of food is a big deal where folks survive on meals that have other shapes except square. They are more than appreciative. They pray. They ask God to bless this man with a heart of gold. They ask God to bless his endeavors and grant him victory over his enemies.
And something more serious happens- they begin to wish themselves into a romance with the provider. They begin to think of him in sentimental terms.
The politicians know this. They know that the way to the poor man’s heart is through his stomach. This is why they use food supply as trump card. They ride on the back of the people’s hunger. It is a leaf they tore out from Biafran war playbook: mount a food blockade and get them starving and you win.
Akpabio has all but completed two terms as governor. He is a Senatorial candidate. His state was awash with petrodollars and rose to the highest federal allocation earner. But did he make any serious attempt to boost the productivity of farmers in his state? No, it is better not to interrupt their struggle with the soil. It is better to go halfway around the world to buy from Thai farmers.
The Akpabios of this world love to have people in breadlines, waiting on their grace. They call the hand-outs they give EMPOWERMENT ITEMS. It is an awkward euphemism for alms but they are truly empowerment items. The goods give them power over the hungry receivers. They reckon that the hand of the giver will remain on top. So by all means, they must keep on the receiving end. The people must be made eternally dependent on their ‘’philanthropy’’.
I suppose it gives them joy to know they are so powerful to decide what food the people may eat and how many days to the elections they will place it on the table.
Sometimes they make a big show out of assembling every Lazarus to their gate. It is almost always a sea of human heads, chaotic and exuberant. And some of them lose their lives in the scramble for the crumbs. And there are instances where ‘’empowerment’’ rice were rumored to have gone past their sell-by date.
But Nigerians have an appetite for freebies. We will risk everything to get their share of free stuff. We don’t run away from a burst pipeline. We run towards it on the chance because there are a couple of litres that need scooping.
And when we risk roasting ourselves in an inferno for free fuel, what is the big deal about trading four years for free food? Free food that ensures we will never hunger again.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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