By Zayd Ibn Isah
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.” – Jesse Owens
Nigerian chef, Hilda Bassey Effiong, popularly known as Hilda Baci set tongues wagging on social media after she cooked non-stop for four days in a daring attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest cooking marathon by an individual.
Apparently, Hilda was inspired by Indian Chef, Lata Tondon, who set a new record after cooking for 87 hours and 45 minutes in 2019. Hilda did not only equal the record, she went on to add an extra 13 hours, 45 minutes, making it a little over hundred hours! She made more than 55 recipes and an assortment of unique meals designed to showcase the best of Nigerian cuisine in the epic cook-a-thon. Surely, it takes someone of extraordinary skills beyond the culinary alone to achieve such a feat: An Idan of the Kitchen.
Former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell once said, “A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” Hilda’s road to the Guinness World Records for the longest cooking marathon by an individual was quite narrow and arduous. But she went into the game, fully prepared and determined to conquer a course of difficult odds and obstacles. In the run-up to the cook-a-thon, she went through several training sessions in order to ensure optimal physical fitness. Not only that, but she also contracted a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist who would ensure that she stuck to a controlled regimen of diet and exercise.
When asked why she denied herself so much freedom and enjoyment to embark on this journey, the 26-year old chef said she had embarked on the journey to inspire young girls in need of daring examples to dream big. In her words, “The goal of the Cook–a–Thon is to inspire every young girl about the possibility of achieving their dreams. This is why I am setting an example with this attempt. The victory of the Cook-a-Thon is a win for young women across the continent in breaking barriers, and the capacity to impact.”
Beyond the feat’s sheer incredibility, another amazing aspect of the Cook-a-Thon was the huge support Hilda got from her fellow Nigerians all around the world. The Amore Gardens in Lekki where the Cook-a-Thon took place was filled to the brim as Nigerians from all works of life stood under the sun, defied heavy rainfall and kept vigil through the nights leading up to the end of the momentous event. Apart from something like football, few things have ever been able to draw Nigerians together in such a manner as witnessed recently. Indeed, it is safe to say that history was collectively made. Such was the pull of this phenomenon that even prominent politicians and celebrities came around to register their support for Hilda, even as encouraging words on social media flowed to the young lady’s efforts. That Hilda got such an upswell of support from Nigerians cutting across different tribes and religions is yet another proof that when we come together as one, we can realize that the things which unite us are worth fighting for.
Although Hilda’s historical attempt at breaking the record for the longest cooking marathon by an individual is yet to be official as at the time of this piece’s writing, the body of the Guinness World Records has acknowledged her laudable efforts. This acknowledgement was made in response to enquiries from many concerned Nigerians. This prompted an official statement from the body’s social media handle which reads: “We’re aware of this amazing record attempt, but we need to review all the evidence first before officially confirming a record.” Predictably, this statement did not go down well with Nigerians on Twitter as they vowed to resist any attempt to either disqualify or outrightly deny Hilda her well-deserved recognition .
In just the space of one feverish week, Hilda Bassey has become a metaphorical paragon of the strength and relentless spirit of young Nigerians. In spite of the enormous challenges confronting them everyday, youths in Nigeria persistently weather storms in order to achieve their goals. The overwhelming support that Hilda got from our leaders is commendable, but mere congratulatory messages are not enough. There are a lot of Hildas across the length and breadth of this country, and what they need urgently is the enabling environment to showcase their talents and place Nigeria at the forefront of global recognition. What better way is there to positively counter unflattering and demeaning stereotypes allowed to unfairly define Nigerians over the years?
It was even said that before embarking on this famous journey, Hilda had already visited a lot of brands with her proposals but was turned down, until a few companies agreed to support her project. The rest, as it is often said, is history. Na them dey rush am with endorsements now. Failure is truly the world’s worst orphan, for in the wake of Hilda’s triumph, many are desperately seeking to rub off on her success. Even our friendly rivals in Ghana have come out to lay claim to Hilda! This was similar to hilarious attempts on social media with which they sought to force Ghanaian identities on stars like Victor Osimhen and Tiwa Savage.
There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from Hilda’s epic Cook-a-Thon, but perhaps the most important one is that one can achieve whatever they set out to achieve with little or no support from anybody. You just have to believe in yourself. While we await the Guinness World Records to officially validate Hilda’s excellence, young Nigerians should be encouraged to borrow a leaf from Hilda and go after their dreams with fervid doggedness, while desisting from acts that would soil this nation’s image.
And it is high time that brands and individuals refocus on outstanding exhibitions of the qualities that make us special as a people, rather than pander to tired portrayals. As someone pointed out on social media, Hilda drew the sort of massive attention to herself and her country that bloated shows like Big Brother Naija failed to garner as of recently. The last iteration of the reality TV show, which attempted to bridge Nigeria & South Africa, flopped so miserably that not many people are aware it finally ended weeks ago!
If Hilda Bassey’s momentous achievement is finally confirmed by Guinness World Records, she will join the long list of Nigerians that have made the country proud. And posterity will no doubt, judge these exceptional Nigerians kindly for avoiding the inglorious paths of other Nigerians whose shameful acts continuously deny this country the crown of glory it truly deserves.
Zayd Ibn Isah is the Media Aide to the Chairman, Police Service Commission. He can be reached via: [email protected]