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Lai didn’t mis-hear Quest, why crucify him over jollof?

By Nelson Dafe on 17/05/2017

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 •Nelson Dafe.
•Nelson Dafe.

When cable TV’s top anchor, British-born Richard Quest, visited black world’s most populous country, Nigeria recently, it was a huge chance of some image-laundering for a nation that has been pilloried over the years because of corruption, internet fraud, and overall culture of national mismanagement.

For many Nigerians bored and appalled by negative reports about their dear country on international media, Quest’s coming to Lagos – which is the largest city and financial hub of Nigeria, for an assessment of the Nigerian economy and prospects for investment - would most likely push the narrative to more positive aspects of Nigerian life for international audiences.

The eccentric and very thorough Quest Means Business and Business Traveler anchor has played his part in highlighting the favourable conditions for businesses in Nigeria, and has obviously been impressed with the friendliness that Nigerians have enveloped him with during his stay. He said of his experience in Nigeria: “There is no shortage about entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Since my trip here, I have met people who are enthusiastic, ambitious, and aggressive in a nice way.”

But just as Quest was set to leave Nigeria with the country’s image intact, an anticlimax was to ensue. Caught in the debate he was hearing about the Nigerian Jollof rice delicacy, which he said he had thoroughly enjoyed, Quest posed a somewhat rhetorical question when he asked the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, which was the more delicious rice between Nigerian jollof and the rival Ghanaian jollof. 
The exact question was: “Which country makes the best jollof?”

Surprise of all surprises! The Nigerian Minister of Culture didn’t choose Nigeria. He didn’t pick the Ghanaian jollof though, but named Senegal as his preferred choice.

It was for many a moment of huge surprise, if not outright embarrassment. Quest himself was caught by surprise and added, seconds later: “Senegal? I hear a shock across the country! I hear a sigh across the country. Minister, thank you very much.”

Ever since then Mohammed has been the butt of jokes, subject of criticisms and ridicule from Nigerians who feel he hadn’t backed his country in the culinary culture war.

Quest has sought to douse the criticism that Mohammed has come under like a good guest determined to see that his host suffers no embarrassment as a result of his visit. On Twitter, the Briton argued that Mohammed mis-heard the question and thought quest had asked where the jollof rice originates from. He also shot back at one of his Twitter followers not to turn the whole matter into a political issue.

It’s really difficult to buy Quest’s excuse that his question was mis-heard, if you watched the video. The question was clear enough for any serious student sitting for a Test of English exam. And when the journalist followed up Mohammed’s reply by saying how he could hear the shock across Nigeria following Mohammed’s response, the minister continued to giggle. At that point, he should have clarified his response if he’d not heard the question well. The overall context does not really support Quest’s attempt not save Mohammed.

By offering such an excuse for Mohammed, Quest inadvertently leaves him vulnerable to a bigger and more serious charge of low attention span. But let’s face it. The minister offered an honest reply by stating his personal preference of a delicacy. Should that justifiably make Nigerians go crazy, simply because it comes from someone in charge of the country’s culture ministry? Is that enough for us to stop liking our Jollof? 
It all seems trivial to make a political case out of an informal chat between two grown-ups about the food they like best. As far as I can tell, the Nigerian jollof rice is not exported significantly for commercial purposes. So, if Mohammed says he prefers Senegalese Jollof, how does that affect Nigeria, apart from irritating the egos of some caught up in an insignificant culture war, many of who hypocritically would opt for foreign made shoes and clothes over those made in Nigeria.

The whole debate on Mohammed’s perceived Jollof gaffe obscures more important debates that we should be having. Debates like how to honestly tackle the leadership and corruption problems Quest spoke about (both here and in his CNN programme on his Nigeria visit) and why an openly gay white broadcaster would be feted and appreciated so warmly for his undoubted talents in Nigeria, while those of open equivalent sexual orientation (no matter how talented they are) would be lucky to find themselves arrested and paraded as common criminals on TV, if they are not lynched to death in the Nigerian streets. 

•Nelson Dafe is the Benin-City Correspondent of News Express, Daily Sports and Economy Watch online daily newspapers.

Source News Express

Posted 17/05/2017 07:53:09 AM

 

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