I HEAR shock across the country; I hear a sigh across the country!”, declared Richard Quest, the CNN domiciled on air personality and business analyst who continues to make waves long after his visit to Nigeria ended last week. This was after the worst diplomatic faux pas of the decade took place and our own Information Minister scored an own goal against us.
It is not entirely clear what Quest’s rather boisterous visit to Nigeria was about. While an international source had put it down to a cyber security forum held by a transnational in Lagos, he has been up to anything but.
Nor does it matter anymore as Quest has stirred the hornet ‘s nest on a matter of far greater importance: Jollof rice.
Once considered an issue bordering on the ridiculous, it is suddenly a matter of pressing national importance to conclude the Jollof wars once and for all – and who better to moderate the finale than a fellow who ambles round the world, trying to figure out how food- and various other things- affect the economy.
Between us, we all know Jollof is low on the list of our list of national palate kissers – way beneath Amala and Gbegiri, Banga and Starch; Garri and Edikaikong and so forth. Yet there was genuine reason for Nigerian s to be outraged when the Information minister Lai Mohammed, in a misguided moment of objectivity, tried to give the shiny Jollof war trophy to Senegal.
First of all, Jollof is the food for our favourite national pastime- partying. To say no Nigerian party is complete without Jollof is to overstate an understatement .
Most of it would not get eaten and would be abandoned in the dish along with the chicken bones, yet the hostess dares not not serve it. The silent understanding of this is one of the idiosyncrasies all Nigerians have in common.
Secondly, it is in Nigeria that the word ‘Jollof’ has got connotations other than the common noun .
Here Jollof is a metaphor for enjoyment, and can be used interchangeably as both a verb or an abstract noun. When you tell a Nigerian you are ‘jollofing’, he and only he knows exactly what you are talking about.
Last but not least the Nigerian woman is coy and modest about just about every matter but what goes on in her cooking pot.
Thus you will be forgiven eventually if you criticized her hair, her car, even her man. But you will never be forgiven for criticizing the street credibility of her Jollof rice.
So, Messrs Lai Mohammed and Richard Quest both need to watch out, lest they end up casualties in a war they know little about.
And by the way, this is not over, by the look of things!