Opinion: Dear hungry generation, your vote is your ‘rice’

by Aminu Yusuf Mallam

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The APC and the PDP both distributed their branded rice, each sack with an inscription on it. Because we are hungry, we accepted the rice. We need the rice. That’s why they gave us the rice. It is our right. And it did them right.

Dear Hungry Generation,

I was compelled to write this letter to you for some earnest, patriotic reasons. One, you are human beings. Two, you are Nigerians. And three, you are hungry (pardon my French). Initially, I never thought about the idea of writing you on this. Forgive me, it’s because I assumed that you all are not hungry. But now I knew how hungry you are, so I ventured to write. I am apologizing because they said ‘hungry man is an angry man’. And you are hungry. You must have been angry. So don’t rush into strangulating me. You may also be angry that I said you are hungry. Give me a space to explain myself, lest you deny me some rice when I need it. (Because I am a Nigerian; I need rice.)

When we are mentioning countries stricken by hunger we don’t count ours. Why? We don’t realise how hungry we are, and have been. It is like a hill; when you are on top of yours, you assume that all the rest– of the hills – are longer and wider than yours. Just like a fault; you can’t see yours as you see other’s.

Ideally, we are all hungry. Consider the Ekiti gubernatorial election- can you smell the metaphor? The APC and the PDP both distributed their branded rice, each sack with an inscription on it. Because we are hungry, we accepted the rice. We need the rice. That’s why they gave us the rice. It is our right. And it did them right… In short, the PDP won the election. From that result, we can deduce two things: one, the larger (rice) you give, the vaster the votes. Two, you shall always give the best quality of rice (and, of course, everything).

Apparently, the PDP gave the most, the best rice, that’s why they won. Or, you may wish to say, the election officials ate the better rice from the PDP; only if you think the election was rigged. And it may have (not) been rigged. The polling clerks, the presiding officers, etc. might have taken a good – or bad, as the case may be on the– rice, and it made them counted, accounted, and announced a wrong result. Don’t blame them, blame it on the rice. Lest you forget, the rice drama started in Ekiti. But good things are always bound to survive donkey’s years. With 2015 around the corner, our politicians should understand the power of rice on hungry citizenry. They should make friends with those in Thailand. However, Nigerian rice is also a good one. But, as my people say, you don’t enjoy what you have cooked or harvested as you will enjoy that which others cooked or harvested. It is a reality. So chances are there that if any – Mr. Politician– share Nigerian rice for his election campaign, while his opponent give foreign ilk, a loss will follow. And vice versa.

As I never expected, the APC did not protest against the result. Fayemi is indeed a matured politician, with people in his heart. Had Fayemi won, the PDP underdogs would be barking that it’s rigged and all that jazz. This is an everyday affair in Nigerian politics. Had it been the PDP that lost, they’d go to court. And your guess will be much alike mine; the PDP will win the case, something an opposition party cannot achieve – in Nigeria. Conspiratorially, election is another genre of literature in Nigeria. Much funnier than drama. In drama, we have the characters, theme, conflict, etc., but in Nigeria’s election, we have none, except, perhaps, the characters. The election is the conflict, the theme… everything is everything! So we may need to name this new genre and include it in our literary curricula.

My advice for the APC is that they shall check the rice they distributed very well, for future encounters with the hungry Nigerians. It may have some defects, ranging from the way it looks, develops (when cooked), and tastes. The PDP’s may have been better than theirs. It is imperative that they distribute some concoctions too. What do you think if they package some beans and add it to the rice sack- two sacks for that? Spaghetti? Macaroni? Hungry Nigerians would love to have sauce too.

Also, the amount they previously gave must be doubled or tripled the next time. The important thing is to make sure that they supply much than their political adversaries. They shall, as well,  retrace how it’s been distributed because even the distributors are hungry, and may diverge it to their homes and stores. Good, exaggerated, inscription is also important; it will attract potential voters. Since there will be a great political ‘tussle’, come 2015, they have to start importing more rice, before it’s too late. Since the rice-as-a-lobby factor works best for Nigerians, politicians should take note.

Moreover, Fayemi and his copycats have a lesson to learn: don’t always distribute cooked food for your campaign. He made jollof rice and share it with the people, alongside his wife. What informed him that all of those citizens want jollof rice? Some may like to have rice-and-beans, some would love to use the rice to make some cake. Everyone has their recipe. Fayemi should have thought of this. Even though he distributed the raw rice, the jollof-part spelt out an omen for his victory. Bad omen!

But time is still his. Power is an addictive substance in Nigeria’s politics. Once one becomes, for example, a ward councillor, he aspires further. And nothing can easily stop him; he has the machinery of ascension: the rigging as a tool. Withal, there is still a chance for Fayemi to jump on a senatorial seat, as his counterparts do when they leave the gubernatorial position. A note must be taken.

Rice marketers, there’s a huge opportunity for you now. Go to Ekiti and collect the rice, even smaller portion, to take a sample. I mean the PDP one; it’s the best. It will help you make more money, considering the impact it has on Nigerians. Examine its type, how it was harvested, how it was sorted… and make sure you get it for your potential customers. If you are marketing in the north, go still and get that rice. Nigerians are all hungry. We will need the rice. With this venture, the Agric sector will be boosted, jobs provided (as to those who help convey it), and hunger will go. For good. So help us God. Help me say ‘Amen’, loudly.

Now, let me talk about your right… sorry, I mean your rice. Your right is your rice, remember. Even if I use the two words interchangeably it will not be a grammatical fallacy. I know hunger can make you forget things (and rules) easily. Truth is, according to the recent fashion of Nigeria’s politics, rice is the same thing as right. You can give any for any; rice for right and vice versa.

If we can, we should edit the English thesaurus and insert rice as the synonym of right. I fear we cannot. Even the onyibo guys may not. Anyway, we know what it is, how it is, and we have to accept it and inject it into our psyche, because we are hungry. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Back to the matter. When they give you the rice, come next election and beyond, collect it. Don’t be shy, you are hungry. Or do you want to starve yourself? Please don’t do that. With the recent outcome, I believe, opportunistic politicians will be in the rice production business. Even farming. So when they employ you in their farms, work hard and produce the best of the rice. When they give you the fertilizer to spray on the growing crops, apply it in abundance. Take care of the farm, and your rice. Be loyal and industrious. Because, at the end, the rice is yours. It will come back to you during the campaign, because it is your rice, and your right of course. You reap what you sow. And you eat what you reap. It is left to you.

Nevertheless, do not think that I am in support of this rice apportionment. No. I only support those who are after their rights. And you accepted the rice as your right. I respect that. Even Fayemi, one of the rice distributors, respected the right of Ekiti people for voting him out, after the INEC declared Fayose the winner with a landslide victory. So who am I to discourage you? But among the things I learnt from the Ekiti election is that you can buy [hungry] people’s votes with a mere, an ‘insignificant’ sack of rice. The other things– that I learnt – I will keep to myself, for ‘defence purpose’. I cannot admonish anyone for taking what they needed most; food. Mine is to call your attention. Have a nice day. Enjoy your rice; it’s your right.

PS: Please, be honest when voting. There’s God in everything we are doing; He will see us. The rice we are sharing in Ekiti will answer.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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