Home FEATURES OPINION: NOW THAT CORONAVIRUS HAS MANAGED TO MAKE NONSENSE OF THIS YEAR’S BUDGET…

OPINION: NOW THAT CORONAVIRUS HAS MANAGED TO MAKE NONSENSE OF THIS YEAR’S BUDGET…

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Now that the nature in form of the dreaded new disease called Coronavirus has managed to make nonsense of this year’s budget, plunging the oil price to less than half its benchmark projection and suddenly putting our economic experts on their toes for alternative incomes, this is yet another clarion call for our governments to look inward to our culture as a way out of the economic quagmire. 

No! It is not about singing and dancing, incantation with or without drumming but taking the simple route of developing and entrenching our national foods and drinks culture/policy to immediately stop and save the huge outflows of the money being spent to source and sustain the consumption of other people’s foods and drinks. As we are in democracy, the die-hards that are not willing to be weaned from their alien and foreign cuisines can be allowed to continue their preferences but in return, start to pay a commensurate consumption tax both as a new sustainable strong source of income to the government and to underwrite whatever subsidy is required to successfully entrench the new foods and drinks policy.

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All over the world, countries have their national foods and drinks policy which makes farming profitable and attractive to farmers. The policy upholds legacies to sustain people’s cultural identities and ensure that their public’s hungers are not satisfied only to be fuelling the economies of other countries. Governments’ exhortation for people to go back to farming will receive a big boost as the national foods and drinks policy will consolidate agricultural markets for farmers and investors alike. It doesn’t require a trip to England to be aware of English breakfast or the traditional English Sunday lunch. America, India, China, Italy and a host of others take pride in flaunting their own native cuisines. In Los Angeles, Hollywood and Showbiz capital of the world, ethnic restaurants abound for visitors, tourists and the residents to widen the indulgence of their palates as the needs arise. And if for no other reason than an economic reconnaissance, Nigeria is now at that critical junction when the cultural matter of her national foods and drinks policy need to be taken seriously.

In nearby Ghana, I witnessed an apparently well-to-do man coming with his entourage into an equivalent of our fast food restaurant. It was with pride that they ordered for ‘boiled yam and cooked beans’ to go with assorted meats of beef, goat, chicken, and poultry all locally grown. The national foods here bespoken of are not the perverted or corrupted assemblage of foreign foods just garnished with a local item but truly and wholly Nigerian foods; palm oil, melon and groundnuts oils in place of imported vegetable oils now scientifically proven to be dangerous to health causing life-threatening illnesses including different cancers. The celebrated ‘Ofada’ isn’t our only local rice but plenty of others also used to exist. Before the  English ‘Oat porridge’  was our own ‘Yam porridge’ now only resurrected at our parties. Growing up, educated and enlightened people made songs and dances of fried yam and plantain with fried pepper. Eggs were mainly of hens and sometimes, fowl, good for health and favoured by the tongues. Today so-called locally hatched eggs are from agricultural chicken breeders, mostly imported with all health implications ignored or glossed over.

Imported frozen chicken is openly artificially pumped up with dangerous chemicals; eyes only on profit and public health be damned! Our locally brewed gins are derided as harmful to health by the unrelenting and extensive propaganda of the importers of foreign varieties. A time there was when the Lagos landscape was dotted with palm wine bars, beautiful Nupe maidens on hand with their crispy roasted groundnuts to savour the wine. Today our palm wine and other heritage hooch and hock are virtually dead, courtesy of our giant breweries repositioning their products as replacements. In my village, there was a non-alcoholic wine made from rotten bananas and plantains but the aggressive marketing drives of our beverages companies have since confined it to oblivion railroading us instead to their artificial sugar-loaded alternatives despite all their health implications. We also had a specie of ‘electric fish’, a miniature of the catfish but much more delicious but today everyone prefers only imported fish. But the biggest tragedy is of a state famous for its love for pounded yam; in my foray of cultural promotions, I encountered people in the state who have foresworn the heritage food for an imported replacement because wait for it… the pounded yam is attributed to the upsurge of diabetes! However, despite all the foreign onslaught, South Africa has managed to preserve its own locally brewed beer and alcohols. It is all about entrenchment of their national foods and drinks policy.

Wrongful orientation has succeeded to scare us off our bush meat with lassa fever as the driving tool but almost all the foreign foods in the country, either in carton packs and or cans are preserved with the same chemical used to keep corpses from decaying. There once was a famous local bean cake that made a town famous in a South West state but today the same wrongful orientation of our palm oil being a tool of withcraft has perverted that cake to become a carricature of the western world pancake, the bean cake now being fried with an imported oil which could be the same dangerous oil from dead pigs fats!

A national food and drinks policy will make Nigerians eat only what we can produce ourselves, allow those still bent on foreign foods and drinks including patronage of the fast foods continue their obsession but at a cost for the government to underwrite the inevitable expenditures of cultivation, harvesting, transportation, and storage for our farmers. The brewing and beverages companies will have the option to either develop some local wines, beverage or gin of their choice for their marketing to qualify for an exemption or if not begin to pay ‘the local drinks development levy’ payable on every bottle, pack or satchet of their foreign products heavily camouflaged as local items.

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As written by Yinka Ogundaisi

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