On May 15, 2023, at Amore Gardens, Lekki, Lagos, Hilda Baci, whose real name is Hilda Bassey Effiong, effectively broke the Guinness World Records for the longest cooking by an individual. As her ardent throng of supporters cheered her on, in the fanfare that the attempt became, she continuously cooked for 100 hours and 40 minutes.
Although she initially planned to cook for 96 hours, enough to surpass the previous record set by Lata London in September 2019 when she cooked her name into fame by completing her cooking marathon for 87 hours, 45 minutes, Baci was motivated to extend her attempt and surpass it by over 13 hours. What was immediately obvious was the irrepressible Nigerian spirit of dogged determination to beat the odds, to excel regardless, to thrive despite everything stacked up against survival and to emerge from it all, smelling of roses.
Questions are being asked whether it is indeed possible for a person to stand and cook for a period of 4 days nonstop, taking only two hours to rest within a 24-hour period. I have also pondered this and asked myself if it is truly possible. That is, however, a topic for discussion on another day.
I would love to ask the producers a few questions. There has to be some skills and techniques involved to survive the ordeal of being on one’s feet for that period of time. But to capture the analogy of Baci’s successful attempt as a commentary on the Nigerian spirit, that the Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti picturesquely captured in his lyrics “Suffering and Smiling”, it will be instructive to grasp the Herculean effort it demanded and the toll it took on her.
She attributed her success to five years of preparation, running a restaurant, and participating in a jollof face-off competition, which she won. These, she claimed, supplied her the wherewithal to withstand preparing 200 meals, which she served to approximately over 4,000 people.
The meals included various rice dishes, pasta, porridge, mashed potatoes, soups, cold dishes, and side servings to go with them all. The carnival nature of the attempt and the free food attracted even more people as she gained significant attention on social media, with nearly three million Google searches while it went on.
To remain within the requirements of the attempt, Baci made sure to cook all the meals by herself without any external help. To showcase Nigerian food to the world, she focused on mostly local dishes. And to demonstrate her gratitude for the incredible level of support she received from those who turned up to keep her going, day and night, and the brands that made it all happen for her, she expressed her unreserved appreciation at her first public appearance, while insisting that she followed all the rules and did not cut corners in creating the experience she envisioned for herself when she made up her mind to attempt the record.
Although pushing to a 100 hours was not in her plans for the attempt, she revealed that she was convinced by her friend and brother to make it a round number. Still nothing spelt Nigerian more in everything she accomplished than the further revelation that the challenges she faced after only six hours made her consider giving up on that very first day. What kept her going, she said, was the strength she drew from her family, friends, fans, and followers who supported her throughout the journey.
As with the majority of Nigerians who put up with the vagaries of life and are undaunted in the face of the most debilitating obstacles, Baci acknowledged the role of God and people’s strength in keeping her going, especially during her most difficult moments in those gruelling 100 hours.
Baci’s mother, Mrs. Lynda Ndukwe, the CEO of Calabar Pot, is another manifestation of the Nigerian drive towards set goals. As the old block from which Hilda is a chip, she expressed immense pride in her daughter’s accomplishment, stating that it was a testament to the values and upbringing she instilled in Hilda and her six siblings. It bore witness to the significance of familial support and the fruition of inculcated values within the Nigerian matrix.
The country is seeing further examples of how unwavering determination can break records, establish reckoning, immortalise names and set new records. Baci’s story, as many other stories across the country which scarcely make it to headline news and never become viral online sensations, inspire us to celebrate the passion, resilience and hard work that characterise the Nigerian spirit.
Despite the challenges faced by Nigeria, this May 2023 serves as an opportunity for the nation to showcase its strengths. Whether residing in affluent areas like Lagos, Rivers or Abuja, or playing pivotal roles in trading arenas, such as the Kasuwar Kwari Clothes Market in Kano or the Zaki Biam Yam Market in Benue, Nigerians can aspire to live more beautiful and prosperous lives by achieving further success.
Nigerians possess unique qualities, nurtured by lofty aspirations, undying quests for knowledge, and unparalleled diligence. They embody the spirit of audacity and perseverance, refusing to give up even in the face of failures and hardships. Against all odds, Nigerians defy limitations and emerge as successful global brands in tandem with the oft-used aphorism “Naija no dey carry last.”
Recently, Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, helped the Serie A side end their 33-year Scudetto drought. His goal contributions and leveller in a 1-1 draw against Udinese sent Naples into wild jubilations. It marked his 22nd goal, surpassing the record set by Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o as the African with the most goals in a single Serie A season. Days later, Osimhen further solidified his greatness by surpassing Liberian icon George Weah’s record of 46 goals in 114 Serie A games, scoring an incredible 47 goals.
Not long after that, Tiwa Savage, the Afrobeats Queen, made history on May 6, when she performed at the coronation concert of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Windsor Castle, London. This momentous occasion marked the first time a Nigerian artist performed at a royal coronation, elevating Savage’s global stature and showcasing the immense talent within Nigeria’s music industry.
Now Baci has added to that lore by breaking barriers in the culinary world with this Guinness World Records attempt, further highlighting the ingenuity and determination of Nigerians in various fields. These are testaments of the unwavering spirit of Nigerians.
Despite moments of despair, insults and obstacles, Nigerians are known to persevere and emerge victorious. Wherever they go, people recognise this never-say-die mentality that drives the Nigerian to excellence. Even if we sometimes forget due to the status quo at home, events such as these, serve as valuable reminders that individuals of all backgrounds, and brackets have it in them to never give up on their dreams.
Nigeria boasts icons in various fields, including politics, religion, academia, sports, entertainment and business, whether recognised in the Guinness World Records or by esteemed publications like Timeb Magazine, or in the small spaces they call their own, who have exemplified dignity, passion and determination, propelling Nigeria to international acclaim and typifying this spirit.
As Nigerians at home or in the Diaspora, we cheer for our compatriots, contributing to Nigeria’s reputation as a nation that dares greatly. And, we know that this spirit resides in us.
Another salient point in Baci’s attempt was the overwhelming support she received that did not care for tribe, ethnicity, religion or any of the countless stratification employed to cause divisions. It tells of another side of the Nigerian story, that as a people, we are more united than politics will make us believe. Wherever there is an occasion calling for unity, the standard Nigerian response is breathtakingly heart-warming. Every time! We must learn from this and build on it in every other aspect of our continued existence as one country. Nigeria will go very far when we look past our differences and hold on to everything that makes us the loving, kind, supportive Nigerians we know we can be.
Events like these, for Baci, Savage, Osimhen, remind us that our blood, spirit and indomitable mindsets can propel us to success anywhere in the world. Regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, or background, their stories and our own personal stories, serve as a powerful reminder that success is attainable for all.
With over 250 ethnic groups, diverse religions, political differences and cultural beliefs, Nigeria’s strength lies in its audacity. Nigerians remain undeterred by obstacles and immune to limitations. Whether in politics, religion, academia, sports, entertainment, or business, Nigerians continue to inspire and blaze trails, breaking records and making Nigeria the envy of the world. The rest of the Nigerian population, whether at home or in the Diaspora, champion these achievements and contributes to the nation’s progress.
Baci’s potential inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records for her cooking marathon is another moment of valuable lessons for Nigeria during its transition period and for its leaders. Nigeria must embrace exemplary leadership at all levels and undergo a national mentality shift from consumption to production.
Baci’s dedication, sacrifice and determination serve as an inspiration for young Nigerians and demonstrate the rewards that come from hard work. As Nigeria faces critical challenges, it is essential for leaders to emulate Baci’s commitment and adopt a new leadership ethos focused on progress and development.