“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
– Oscar Wilde
Barely one month after Nigerian chef, Hilda Bassey Effiong — popularly known as Hilda Baci, made a much publicized and celebrated attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest cooking marathon by an individual, another Nigerian and a self-styled “chef”, Damilola Adeparusi, went viral for taking up the gauntlet and launching her own cooking marathon. Interestingly, Damilola announced that she would attempt to cook for 120 hours in order to surpass Hilda’s record of 100 hours.
A 300-Level student of Mass Communication at the Federal University, Oye, Ekiti State, Chef Dami (as she’s popularly called) began her cooking marathon on Friday at a modest restaurant in Ilupeju. Initially, many Nigerians did not take her serious even after photos of her cooking accompanied the news of her attempt. While some people laughed it all off as a prank or a joke, others perceived Dami’s effort as a desperate, malicious and ill-timed attempt to not only grab headlines but also take a bit of shine off Hilda’s achievement. Even the setting of her cook-a-thon looked drab in comparison to the glassy space which allowed Hilda to enjoy massive support through celebrity appearances, musical performances and turnout of fans. This stark difference made Dami’s well-wishers to insinuate that their girl was being starved of love and support because she didn’t fit into a certain class of social status. They even hit back hard at critics of Dami, alleging that Hilda’s famed attempt was only boosted by her voluptuous figure and the sexy outfits which she flaunted on Instagram. Unlike Hilda, Dami is not voluptuous at all. Still, her dreams are very much valid because they are not defined by her physical appearance alone.
Seeing that the young woman was determined to hit her target notwithstanding the low support and high criticism, some Nigerians began to question the timing of her attempt. This is because Hilda’s record attempt is yet to be officially confirmed by adjudicating officials of Guinness World Records. Officially, the world record for the longest cooking marathon by an individual is officially held by Lata Tondon. The Indian chef took the world by storm after cooking for 87 hours and 13 minutes in 2019: a long stretch of five years before Hilda Bassey would finally set about attempting to break this record and surpass it.
Expectedly, opinions are splittered over the timing of Dami’s culinary quest. Those against her, are of the view that she ought to have waited for Guinness World Records to finish confirming Hilda’s 100-hour record before even embarking on hers. After all, Hilda waited for four years before she began making serious moves to challenge the record set by Lata Tondon. These particular set of people are of the view that Dami’s act basically amounted to sabotage. Meanwhile, those for her believe that it doesn’t matter whether she waited or not, and as she owes no form of loyalty to Hilda, Damilola has not committed any crime by daring to tread a similar path conquered by her fellow compatriot. To this people in particular, a win by either of both women is a victory for Nigeria still.
Unsurprisingly, Hilda Bassey’s words of encouragement to Dami amidst the arguments and counter-arguments on social media, seems to have put the nail in the coffin, even if it hasn’t completely convinced warring social media factions to bury the matter for good. In a statement released via her official Twitter handle, she commended Dami for the boldness to take on the cooking challenge and urged her to never lose steam and embrace the journey: “The beauty of dreams is that they are unique to each individual. Dami, your boldness to take on a cooking challenge shows that passion knows no limits. Embrace the journey, learn from every experience, and inspire others with your unwavering spirit.”
Hilda has won so many hearts with that class act. And I believe those who were expecting her to say something otherwise can borrow a leaf out of her book by sheathing their swords. Which is for their own sakes, as it appears another round of arguments over record-breaking cook-a-thons lies not too far ahead in the future. As at now, another Nigerian chef — Adewale Adebayo, has vowed to exceed Dami’s 120-hour target. It appears that as a nation with much rich history, we have definitely entered into the era of cooking challenges, culinary exploits and record-breaking goals.
My one kobo of advice to those who are still miffed over Dami’s Cook-a-Thon is that they should look beyond the matter of timing and accord the young lady the necessary support she needs. After all, it’s not easy embarking on any tasking project and Dami deserves respect for that alone. And as it has by now been established that Dami is not actually aiming for the Guinness World Record book, those afraid for Hilda’s achievement can now stop holding their breath. There are many lessons here. For one, there is no harm in imitating someone for the right reason, especially, if that person did something spectacular. To imitate someone is to pay the person a genuine compliment. No doubt, Hilda Bassey is happy that contrary to what the moral police have had to say about her social life, she is still very much worthy of emulation, respect and honour. Another lesson out of all this, is the importance of preparation and clear motive: this is exactly what set Hilda’s record-breaking attempt apart from Dami’s less glorious effort. To any Nigerian aspiring to greatness out there, always have it in the back of your mind that rather than just leaving things to chance and fortune, you would excel much more if you are coasting on waves of adequate priming, preparation and focused hard work.
The good news is that, Hilda Bassey’s record has finally been confirmed by officials of Guinness World Records. But in the course of the review, it was discovered that there was miscalculation and the100-hour was reduced to 93 hours and 11 minutes. But, that notwithstanding, the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking Marathon by an individual is no longer held by an Indian, but a Nigerian. Congratulations, Hilda. Posterity will judge you kindly for putting the country in the news for the right reason.
As more Nigerians are gearing up for the cooking challenge, we should be proud that our compatriots are getting preoccupied with ventures more productive and inspiring than vacuous reality TV shows like Big Brother Naija. There is so much that the average Nigerian has to offer beyond just mindless entertainment, and it would be great to see more achievements being made across fields of literature, science, technology, education, medicine and sports.
This is solely because, Nigeria’s greatest and most valuable natural resource has never actually been crude oil; rather, it has always been its people: beautiful, bold and bravely daring.
Zayd Ibn Isah is the Media Aide to the Chairman, Police Service Commission. He can be reached via email@example.com