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The record breakers

In different fields of human endeavour, people would love to break records. We are not talking about grandpa’s ancient vinyl that has been replaced by…

In different fields of human endeavour, people would love to break records. We are not talking about grandpa’s ancient vinyl that has been replaced by cloud tunes. Years ago, breaking a record could have earned the record-breaker their meal, a hiding or even ex-communication from home. A few years ago, yours sincerely purchased an old gramophone. It aroused the interest of the Millennials in the house for a few minutes before they began to pity our generation.

It is the quest for redemption that spurred Muhammadu Buhari into the murky waters of politics and hit the campaign trail after tearfully promising never to try it again. Buhari dreamt of inscribing his name in gold and debunking the impression that aside from the respect that the fear of guns instilled in the rest of the citizenry, soldiers are as dumb as the bloody civilians they like to intimidate.

Humanity retires with little respect than dare only to go down in defeat and opprobrium. Timidity, decency and shame are what stand in the way of quests to break records.

This is where 26-year-old Hilda Bassey (Baci) beats us to the balls. As an amateur cook, Hilda announced to the world her intention to wrest the cooking crown from its Indian palace and bring it to Nigeria. She knew she would have to cook longer than the reigning 82 hours standing on her feet. The rest of us would collapse if we stood an hour in the same position. Not Hilda. She broke the record of standing and cooking for over 100 hours to wrest the crown from the unrightful holder thereby propelling Nigeria’s image as a global cooking giant. 

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In her feat, majority of Nigerians stood by her burying their racial, regional and religious biases that nearly break the nation at election cycles. The only time Nigerians rally that way is during global football contests when their national team is winning. As Hilda won, the nation jubilated. Let’s hope that the next time someone asks for water to wash their hands before demolishing a bowl of akpu at any posh restaurant in the world, they are not stared down as if they dropped from Tarzan’s jungle – thanks Hilda.

Before Hilda’s feat, Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen broke a 33-year jinx for a Serie A Napoli side in far-away Europe. Osimhen is a classic case of never-say-never turning his luck around from playing without scores to becoming the highest goal-scoring African and a trophy for the most goals scored by an African in any single football season.

As the world digitally savoured Hilda’s culinary feat and basks in Osimhen’s stardom, another star, Grammy award nominee, Seun Anikulapo Kuti, the scion of the late afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, overshadowed all by slapping himself into the notorious detention of the Nigeria Police Force. 

Following what remains a fuzzy altercation on a Lagos bridge, Seun landed a hot slap on a uniformed policeman. Later a boastful video emerged in which he admits to slapping cops. The police did not find that funny. While it is common to see clips of the police assaulting helpless and hapless civilians, the privilege of returning the favour is reserved exclusively for members of the Nigerian armed forces, and sometimes, powerful politicians. 

Unlike Hilda’s feat, Seun’s headline-hitting whack earned him handcuffs and detention affirming his place in the Kuti family as a hothead. Fela, his father, had his many battles with the police, but never known for assault or battery. He song-lashed them instead.

In the political arena, Nigerians remember how their outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, promised them heaven in 2015 and left trails of hell as he leaves them in less than a week. Much like Hilda, Buhari rose to fame swearing by Kratus the god of politics that he would replace the adjective ‘war-torn’ with a more enviable one as ‘peace haven’.  He failed although not without breaking records. Buhari spent six months searching mostly among the dead for ministerial nominees and board appointees.

On ending the insurgency, Buhari could claim Lady Luck’s trophy for the death of Abubakar Shekau, the terror leader of Boko Haram who reportedly killed himself rather than lose out in an internal power tussle with his quondam lieutenants. That is the only practical explanation of Buhari’s claim of technical defeat. Buhari leaves the saddle with a substantial chunk of the Chibok girls still in captivity. True, Boko Haram no longer controls 20 local governments in northeastern Nigeria, but they are very active in more parts of Nigeria’s northern region.

Indeed, rather than earn a spot in the Guinness Book of Records, Buhari earned an unenviable record of presiding over the untimely death of 63,000 of his citizens in the insurgency war. Military casualty remains unknown, but this record number of civilians in a country not officially at war is a record, a bad one for a battle-tested retired general. It is a world record of casualties for any nation not officially at war. Sadly, rather than admit his failure, Buhari thumped his own chest, saying he has delivered on security.

That is not the only record that Buhari broke while in office. He also broke the record of fighting corruption with one eye closed to the misdeeds of his loyalists in government, as the number of recent revelations of sleaze in high places would reveal. Buhari broke the record of presiding over a battered economy and an unprecedented devaluation of the national currency. He broke the record of embarking on failed projects with monumental impact on the people. One of them was the re-colouration of the national currency and the outlawing of some denominations until the courts returned their legal tender.

Thanks to the attempt by Governor Babagana Zulum to prematurely disband internally displaced persons, IDPs,  camps, Nigerians will never know the official headcount of its citizens displaced by the insurgency. Under previous governments, kidnapping only happened at oil rigs but under Buhari, it became a national plague that enveloped every state and all parts of the country. 

Under Buhari, the hospitals he once described as mere consulting clinics lost their capacity to cater for the dead. Buhari shamelessly treated the most mundane ailments in his long stays in London becoming the first Nigerian head of state to spend unprecedented time in overseas hospitals.

Indeed, public health care became so bad that even in a pandemic season, the few doctors and paramedics Nigeria had were being flown out to greener pastures. 

For a man who enjoyed free education, Buhari hit another record as the leader under whose regime Nigerian universities became overgrown with weeds instead of books. Universities closed for over three of his eight years in office without any remedy of the underlying issues. 

These are the record-breaking achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari. Unlike Hilda who announced that she would break a record and did, unlike Osimhen who turned a goalless streak into a record-breaking one, Buhari appeared to have returned to government to demystify his own record. Without scruples, he declared that he has done his best. Nigerians need to tell him, that his best is a monumental record of failure.


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