The People Voted Their Stomach – Blues For An Arrested Renaissance, By Niyi Osundare

A-RICE, oh compatriots

Your stomach’s call obey

Say, A-RICE, oh compatriots
Your stomach’s call obey
Hold out your bowls for the golden grains
Pawn your pride without delay
Grab your bribe and dance in the street
To the Riceman’s drum and venal command
Yes, grab your bribe and dance in the streets
To the Riceman’s drum and venal command
Bend your back for his heavy ride
Your golden rice is your sole demand
The Riceman is here, your lord and saviour
Pawn your vote for his golden gift
Say, the Riceman is here, your lord and saviour
Pawn your vote for his golden gift
Eat your rice and belch like a bull
And give your guts the forgetful lift

The passage down the gullet
Is the fastest road to heaven
Yes, the passage down the gullet
Is the fastest road to heaven
To those held hostage by their shameless guts
There is no nirvana like the seething toilet
The people voted their stomach
And the dunghill usurped their future
Alas, the people voted their stomach
The dunghill embraced their future
The wounds from this blind affair
Defy the magic of the cleverest suture

II

The people voted their stomach
And the dunghill usurped their future
Alas, the people voted their stomach
The dunghill embraced their future
The wounds from this blind affair
Defy the magic of the cleverest suture
Cunning Riceman with bags
Full of tricks and daggers
Say, cunning Riceman with bags
Full of tricks and daggers
His first coming left us all
In ashes and fluttering rags
Brazen murders, strange disappearances:
His hands drip with unexpiated crimes
Yes, brazen murders, strange disappearances
His hands drip with unexpiated crimes
But he has an arsenal of cash and rice
Both so vital in these degenerate times

Rabble-rousing, clowning, scheming
Frightful intimations of Idi Amin’s pedigree
Yes, rabble-rousing, clowning, scheming
Frightful intimations of Idi Amin’s pedigree
Yesterday’s fruits still stir the leaves
On History’s bewildering tree

Here, once again,
The wild histrionics of a deadly actor
Say, here, once, again,
The wild histrionics of a deadly actor
Mindless applause from a captive audience
Chloroformed puppets of a wily victor

III

They sold their birth right
For a kongo* of rice
Alas, they sold their birth right
For a kongo of rice
This mindless commerce
Will come at a heavy price
Erstwhile Knowledge Fountain
Overgrown with Ignorance’s malignant weeds
Alas, erstwhile Knowledge Fountain
Overgrown with Ignorance’s malignant weeds
The Book, once robust, resurgent,
Has been voted out of our daily needs
They sold us a lemon; we emptied
Our bank of virtues to pay the price
Alas, they sold us a lemon; we emptied
Our bank of virtues to pay the price
The will powerful guns could not subdue
Now lies suborned by a spoonful of rice
Poverty so desperate, so demeaning,
It consumed our pride, our primal worth
Yes, Poverty, so desperate, so demeaning,
It consumed our pride, our primal worth
The pride we once extolled is vanishing fast
From the face of our stunned, corrupted earth
The people voted their stomach
And the dunghill usurped their future
Alas, the people voted their stomach
The dunghill embraced their future
The wounds from this blind affair
Defy the magic of the cleverest suture

IV

Too good for us, far too advanced
The reigning King is too high above our rot
Say, too good for us, far too advanced
The reigning King is too high above our rot
Too much bound to Excellence and Honour
And a public garment without a blot
He expends state funds on the road to the Future
He never paves the way to our bottomless stomach
Yes, he expends state funds on the road to the Future
He never paves the way to our bottomless stomach
Whoever doesn’t know in the eating world
That the gut is a grand, demanding monarch
We asked for rice, he gave us Reason
We asked for booty, he gave us the Book
Say, we asked for rice, he gave Reason
We asked for booty, he gave us a book
So we trooped all out to cast our lot
For the side of the dark and loaded crook
The Damaged Good has riced its way
To the top of the brand
Alas, the Damaged Good has riced its way
Right to the top of the brand
Our feet stand askew
On our dark and traitored land
Come again soon, oh brief Renaissance
This interlude forebodes a trembling twilight
I say, come again, brief Renaissance
This interlude forebodes a trembling twilight
Sow rainbow stars in our darkening sky
Divine another Dawn, new and bright

Niyi Osundare

*Kongo: a small tin, plastic, or calabash container used for measuring peas and grains in market sales.


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  • teddy

    Can anyone question this truth? I pray we don’t rice our way to the dunghill next year as a nation as the Ekiti people just did?

    • Garba Shehu

      Teddy,
      Please google: Fayose, Rice
      You will see a link which shows people in queue, each with a bag of rice in hand named Fayose.
      I can agree that after collecting a bag of rice, why were they in queue for? Answer: to vote.
      That’s why you don’t hear the word rigging from APC. People actually voted immediately for Fayose after collecting a bag of rice. I am sure it made the turnout to be great too.

  • Dr.Dan

    Beautiful piece.

  • The Etic and Emic concepts denote contradictory views of different people about the same issue. In other words these concepts represent insiders and outsiders views on an issue. We the outsiders, in our etic view of the election in Ekiti, are reacting in disbelief and anger that the people of Ekiti voted for Fayose because he enticed them with a silly thing like RICE. According to us the people are not “Politically sophisticated.” This view is strongly expressed in this essay or poem or whatever it is by Niyi Osundare. I reacted the same way too when the news first came out that Fayose has won the election. But as students of politics and public administration, after the bitter reaction, perhaps it is time to sit down and reflect and draw lessons from the Ekiti experience. In doing this, we need to humbly respect the emic views of majority of Ekiti people about their own situation and why they voted the way they did.

    While we are thinking the people voted for “rice”, the people might actually think they voted for their “interest.” What is rice to us may be the people’s interest. After all politics is about INTEREST. The lesson I think is that government at all level should seek to do the “interest” of the people. Which means there has to be constant constructive engagements with the people. Government needs to tell people what they are doing and why they are doing it and the cost. Government also has to listen to the people. They should be closer to the grassroots. In many states, the only time the people see their governors is when they are traveling in long convoy of tainted-glass vehicles and their security escorts smash people’s cars for not getting off the road quick enough. This cannot continue. Maybe the people of Ekiti state are sending strong message to future governors of the state.

    It is not enough to award contracts to build roads or museum or decorate streets thinking the people will naturally applaud government actions. People see politicians and government officials getting mightily richer while they are getting mightily poorer, and so they tend not appreciate government for whatever they do. This is the same reason I’m not particularly happy about the Jonathan administration despite its transformation agenda. The transformation agenda is making them richer and the people poorer. Government spends huge amounts of money on silly things like a zoo while millions of Nigerian children still fetch water from streams. We don’t appreciate government because we do not trust them. We do not trust them because we think they are wasteful, thieves and are disconnected from us. The people of Ekiti State may not know or appreciate the deeper political implications of what they have done. Consciously, they may be thinking they collected rice because they are hungry and we may think they did so because they are not politically well-informed. But I think the people of Ekiti state have consciously or unconsciously sent a message that people are getting tired of government simply doing things for them. They want to be consulted, They want to be involved in issues concerning their lives. After all this is what democracy is supposed to be – government of the people, by the people and for/with the people. Let’s learn a lesson from Ekiti State.

    • Abisola Oshodi-Glover

      Nice piece! In addition, government plans must involve three tiers – short term, midium term and long term time frames. The short term must translate into some form of democratic-dividend to the people of the State! Moreover, how many of the local indigenes of Ekiti were actually directly awarded contracts for these infrastructures being put in place for their benefit? How many of their indigenous people (not Ekiti people, ‘exported’ from other States & countries, in other words, those ‘in diaspora’) were appointed as Commissioners and Project Administrators? Once we start having ‘free and fair’ elections, these things will start playing out! That is the reason anyone going into politics must start from the ‘grassroot’. You must have identified with your locale for a reasonable period, preferrably, number of years, living amongst them and understanding things that truly matter to them! Above all, whatever you are doing must translate to a better standard of life for their immediate family and the community at large. You cannot just ‘happen’ on the scene and proceed with some ‘elitist’ notions/ideas that further ‘alienate’ or isolate the indigenes of the State from their State, whether the are ‘educated’ or otherwise! The outcome of this election, to me, shows that the Ekiti people know their right, unlike some other States! So, rather than being patronized with the expression of ‘stomach infrastructure’, they should be applauded for enabling true democracy start manifesting! No elected individual should take the electorates for granted, anymore! When in government, there is the need to organize ‘true’ surgeries, where all and sundry (not just cronies) would be heard, and their opinions taken into consideration! It is No longer business as usual, in the political terrain, provided we can kick and keep out ‘RIGGING’ and ‘CHEATING’, and have every politician playing by the rules! Abisola Oshodi-Glover

  • Sunmibare

    I don’t understand the Ekiti outrage. The point really is that PDP out manourvered ACN, rice or no rice. ACN induces voters as does PDP. It’s somewhat hypocritical to apply an ideal test where the reality is far from ideal. ACN needs to deal with its over bloated conception that it’s an incarnation of the Action Group. It’s leaders lack the character to command the kind of following AG galvanised in the SW that gave it the almost cult like status. For the AC