Chasing shadows

This country is incredible. The more I look the more I realise why satire is the only way to get through the day if you are a Nigerian or have a hint of Nigeria blood – this is regardless of where you live.

Beyond hopeless.

I laughed myself tire today reading the story of a gaari packet credited to India. On the 500g pack it says “Asia’s Finest Food.” The pack has TRS, a UK registered company known for ethnic foods written on it.

This realisation that ‘other people’ are producing our popular local staple food sends Agric Minister chasing shadows. The shame here is not acknowledging that firstly, Nigeria, given our decay infrastructure is incapable of producing all that people need for survival. Secondly, is the fact that Nigeria has a long history of Indians living in the country. So will it be a crime for Indians in Nigeria to collaborate with a bigger company such as TRS to package gaari in a way to target specific consumers for example those who are willing to try gaari but are just not comfortable with the way we expose it in our local markets?

Laughable is that if the phrase on the pack says “Fancy Ijebu Gaari,”nobody would have cared at all, and the company could charge whatever they wanted without any uproar.

I fully support “Buy Nigeria to grow naira’ mantra but should we continue to waste limited resources on meaningless chase? Going after anything that sounds foreign is just silly.

To see how our elected officials prioritise their work, this gaari causing officials headaches is ₦450 for 500g. In Ibadan, one of our biggest cities a 1kg gaari is ₦350 – this is for a nice one in local market, one can even get as cheap as ₦260 (if quality is of little concern).

One can easily see here who the target consumers of this packed gaari are – Nigeria clearly has enough people who prefer their foods to be presented certain way. I seriously would have thought this is an example to be emulated rather than thinking they are our “another enemy.”

So why stop at gaari? One step further will be to go after palm oil coming from neighbouring countries, after all, palm oil production used to be our thing, Nigeria used to lead in the production of palm oil.

Since I am a good Nigeria girl – I will give the Chief a couple more tasks to worry about.

I learnt a while ago that one of our very famous brands do not buy their palm oil from Nigeria – they use quite a lot from making soap, biscuits to noodles. They source it from Malaysia/Indonesia directly. Why can’t they invest in Nigeria palm oil business one may ask? Because Nigeria officials make it unbearable to source products locally (bribery every step of the way) that it makes economic sense for them to import.

Now that is a real task that will take Agric Minister the whole of his tenure.

Another one: I once bought a can of Banga Soup with “Nigeria taste” on it. I grew up eating banga soup, we call it Ọbẹ̀ ègboyìn in my area – delicious and eliminate the need for tomato/bell peppers. So when I saw it at a shop, I was excited and bought a couple from different brands for comparison.

Out of curiosity I checked where this “Nigeria taste” product was made from thinking perhaps it is will be more specific, but no, it is a product of Ghana. Good for whoever is behind the product, I don’t doubt it to be a product of Nigeria.

I had a similar experience with our red beans ‘honey beans’ which has a distinctive taste. The packet says “Nigeria Honey Beans” when I checked at the back it says the product of “Republic of Benin.” Again, I wish those guys all the very best of luck.

Instead of the Chief running after a well presented gaari that we all know is meant for a small segment of people, why not encourage entrepreneur to emulate and learn from these guys?

Almost every other month another Nigeria food product is added to the EU ban list of foods on imports suspension for not meeting international standards. This used to be a big deal but not anymore as one can even get gaari and ethnic beans from Sainsbury’s now.

Should the chief not be more concerned about the EU imports ban as opposed to the rich people gaari pack?

Why would anyone not want to associate their products with a country/company with a sustained records trusted by international standards?


*banga soup and ewa oloyin are from a London shop.

9 thoughts on “Chasing shadows

  1. I’ve noticed anything that seems to be “in the hands of Nigerians” is of standard that foreigners would find unacceptable. From the running of trains without on board power for air conditioning, to food items that are presented in a unhygienic manner and everything in between – the quality and presentation is low – and the prices are not always low. People talk about affordability, but we are living in an era where food hygiene/health is taken seriously and the ‘slap dash’ and shoddy manner food items are sold in the local markets is not acceptable elsewhere. Affordability should not be used as an excuse for no standards whatsoever, it can be done affordably. If someone can package gari in India and send it all the way to Nigeria, surely it can be done locally for less.
    Nigerians are always standing in one another’s way when it comes to making progress. Those petty officials that are getting in the way should be exposed by undercover reporters and brought before the Law to be made an example of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, jco. The public is very docile, people only complain when it is too late and even then another person is round the corner to throw in useless sentiments so we ‘endure’ on.

      Don’t mind the yẹyẹ minister. People have been packing factory made gaari for decades in Nigeria, I saw a 5kg pack at a friend’s when in college, she told me it was from a factory somewhere in Ogun – it was a plain transparent plastic bag sealed at the top targeting alakowes (middle class) not sure if the factory is still there.
      And even as we speak, along Lagos to Ife road, there are lots of stop over stalls with packed 5kg gaari, with end tied up, also targeting those who are happy to avoid market display and pay extra nairas.

      Thank for the clip. I will not be surprise if the general manager for that train never been to the station any yet he or she will write elaborate proposal for maintenance that will never be delivered.

      My sister was on a train from Osogbo (I think) to somewhere up north a couple of years ago, next to her carriage were horse (s) and the smell faces and urine for hours was the only thing she could remember.

      Talking about the law, if Nigerians see a few successful prosecution from the endless court cases we have going one, people will be inspired, until then…


  2. Dear Folakemi,

    Real shadow-chasing, indeed, and God knows how low Nigeria is going to sink before those at the top act.

    You are very correct about gari price. The first thing my husband said when he read the label was: “500 grams is less than one measure which sells for much less than N450.00!”

    Where do we go from here? Who will save Nigeria from self-destruction?

    Thanks very much. Regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      One of the ways that I think we will ever move forward is for the public to never be wary, that we make it our business (given we all bear the brunt) to keep calling these guys out.

      Nigeria will rise or break, we can’t survive on this ‘e go better’ mode for ever. We trust way too easily and only check when it is too late.

      I sure hope we rise and start on a better path.


  3. Fola, I agree with you 100%. Some how we have bought into the idea that if everything is globalized there will be more employment and economies will improve. Protectionism has been given a bad rap. Only a foolish government would not protect its local industries and products. Trade Deals have a facade of being the saviour of economies. In all truth they have very little to do with trade but with promotion of the agenda of the multinational industries that want to roam the world for the cheapest product and labour, exploit the workers and destabilize their economies and their governments. Don’t let them make you dependant on some other countries products or goods at the expense of your own.

    Liked by 1 person

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