Comparative Guts

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Stomach infrastructure

In Nigeria, “Stomach infrastructure” is a term that came to prominence following the campaign for the governorship of the province of Ekiti State in 2014, when Ayodele Fayose won a controversial election after promising to provide ‘stomach infrastructure’ by using funds intended for other purposes to end hunger. It is claimed—though not confirmed—that Fayose distributed 80,000 chickens and 100,000 bags of rice as part of his election bid. The campaign, and Fayose’s victory, triggered a debate over whether the primary purpose of government should be to pursue long-term strategies in order to improve public services and grow the economy (i.e. national infrastructure) or to satisfy short-term needs by distributing food handouts (i.e. stomach infrastructure). It fast became a popular term of ironic critique characterisation of bad policy and governmental action. This has been a major topic of public debate and political analysis and connects directly to older theories of power and governance in Africa (such as those of Bayart and Argenti). The point is to show how the stomach, gut, belly, intestines, continue to be key sign vehicles for political and social life.