…I don’t joke with jollof rice -Wizkid
The array of tasty cuisines on display at the maiden edition of festival of local foods and drinks held recently in Abuja was a clear pointer to the rich culinary of the country.
Even from afar, visitors and passers-by could easily perceive the aroma of enticing foods adorning different stands and those with good appetite no doubt had swell time.
The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation NTDC), on March 17, organised a cuisine festival tagged “Nigerian flavour” as a way of promoting the culture of consuming “Made-in-Nigeria” foods and drinks.
The environment was indeed a sight to behold as everywhere was lit with eye-catching decorations while professional chefs in their own right showcased their culinary skills.
Notable cuisines on display were amala, tuwo shinkafa, ewa aganyi, party jollof rice, adalu, moin-moin, pounded yam and egusi soup, oha soup, abacha and ugba and efo riro.
Others were starch and banga soup, ofada rice, nkwobi, akara and pap as well as kilishi and suya.
Visitors said some of the cuisines took less time and effort to prepare, while some others were more delightful to taste, more flavourful and satisfying.
Not even the gate fee pegged at N1,000 for those that bought online and N2,000 at the venue could deter Abuja fun seekers as they thronged Harrow Park, Wuse 2, where they bought assorted items and ate satisfactorily. Surprisingly, even those who never wanted to comply due to the gate fee eventually found themselves doing the needful.
The highly elated Director General of NTDC, Folurunsho Coker, who was overwhelmed by the turnout and by extension, the success of the event said the programme was intended to promote Nigerian cuisine, create jobs, open doors of opportunities for people to invest in the sector.
According to him, the “Ministry of Information and Culture has an annual calendar and part of that annual calendar is that the NTDC should do something with the domestic tourism agenda which was to promote the millions of cultural expression which is the food and beverages, the culinary delight of Nigeria.
“It is all about what we had in Nigeria that we are trying to make the best of it. Our food, fashion, weather and music are all great; and we have chosen a Saturday afternoon in the city of Abuja to celebrate our culinary.”
Coker described Nigeria as king of culinary in Sub-Sahara Africa but decried the manner some Nigerians jettisoned their culture.
“If we do not consume what we make, we will consume what other people make which means that we are transferring our income into the earnings of others especially outside the country. So, this domestic tourism agenda is in line with buy and support Nigeria. It is made in Nigeria by our people to keep our earnings local.
“The cheapest holiday you can ever have is the Nigerian holiday. There is no foreign exchange, roaming charges, and visa and there is no queuing in any embassy. So, we need to believe in what we have here and that is the only way we can grow the global brand that we currently consume,” the DG enthused.
On her part, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Culture, Mrs. Grace Isu-Gekpe, assured that the ministry will continue to showcase the rich heritage of Nigeria through food, beverages, music.
“When I came on board, I had a meeting with my chief executive and we agreed to have a national calendar and the plan was for January to July especially in Abuja so that people will know what we are doing.
“What you are seeing are things produced by us and it is an avenue to empower investors. So this thing is going to happen as frequent as we want it to happen.
“It is our plan that every month, we can have activities from the ministry. So it is a pilot programme.”
She disclosed that an inventory of all the participants was taken while those interested in export would be linked with funding agencies like Bank of Industry as well as the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC).
Music star, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly known as Wizkid, who thrilled guests at the occasion told Daily Sun that jollof rice is his favourite meal.
“I love jollof rice. I don’t play with my jollof rice. I eat fufu too but with specie of soup,” he quipped.
President, Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria (FTAN), Rabo Saleh, who commended the initiative however, said that it was not enough to organize cuisine without fixing deplorable roads, making electricity constant and security relatively encouraging.
The tourism practitioner said the industry thrives when basic infrastructure is on ground. “A lot can be achieved in the tourism business if the government can provide good roads, power to run our hotels and while the private sector drives the economy.”
To jazz up the event, eating competition was organised. Some foreigners told our correspondent that Nigerians should cultivate the culture of believing in what they have, while guarding it jealously.