The fallacy of the Nigerian Cassava Bread

by Ahmed Dodo

When the news first hit town a few months back that the Federal Government under the leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has a plan to soon roll out an indigenous special bread for the mass population of hungry Nigerians, the first thought that raced through my curious mind was that of bewilderment and inquisitiveness. I was bewildered that despite all the security wahala the administration was going through, the president and his team could still have this indigenous idea to feed Nigerians on specially made cassava bread, a one- in – town baked loaf for the matter. Secondly, I was equally full of inquisitive, wondering what this famous bread would look like. But my prying eyes needed not much worry as the presido in company of his inner cabinet and other well wishers launched the yummy looking bread few weeks later amidst elaborate fanfare and behind the scene expensive owanbe party and other chop-chop, merriment and jamboree that usually accompanies government launching in the country.

I could still remember the president happy smile as he took the first official presidential bite on the cassava loaf, as well as the grinning faces of his cabinet team and other well wishers who were lucky to be present at this historical unveiling of this MADE IN NIGERIA bread. I must admit that I could not control my watering mouth as they all took turn in biting the bread and chewed happily to cameras, and suddenly wished I was part of this hype. But not to deter my troubling soul, I made up my mind to go look for this spontaneous looking bread few days later across all the bread selling joints around. I was highly disappointed when I could not find the shape of this presidential bread among the other less popular breads in all the bread outlets I visited. It actually took me a strong willpower to convinced my hungry mind to forsake the quest to eat this powerful bread and tell myself that after all what the president and his team have been able to invent in this 21st century is nothing but a fallacy that would never see the right side of the day.

Few weeks later, thinking about this proud invention by our government I realized that I ought to have been ashamed that I was actually longing to eat cassava bread, when millions of my countrymen and women were still finding it difficult to buy a mudu of garri in our various markets across the country, and that the hitherto cheap garri made from the same cassava has since gone out of the reach of the common man. Again, I reasoned that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan could have spent the millions of naira channeled into this famous cassava bread into ensuring that our popular garri as a matter of urgency become assessable and cheap to the citizenry. I suddenly had the impression that it is actually a slap on the face of the leadership in this country that while the world is moving fast into a 21st Century technological age , inventing nuclear energy, easy and modernized communication gadgets, new breakthrough in medicine, convenient transport system, admirable cars, phones, computers, realistic revenue generating and development policies and other hitherto unthinkable man-made inventions, my dear country is proud to have invented bread from cassava, what a smack on the so-called giant of Africa.

I am equally appalled that the government could set up a special trust to oversee this 18 century invention and at the same time channel huge sum of money to propagate this uninspiring project. One would have thought that given all the enormous wealth at the disposal of the present administration the president and his team would have had the vision to encourage the invention of a made in Nigeria car, a made in Nigeria computer, a made in Nigeria phone or even a made in Nigeria match stick. It would have been commendable if the government had seen it as innovative if they had channelled the millions spent in inventing this garri bread into reviving our comatose electricity supply, our dilapidated public schools and our deathtrap roads. It would have made a lot of sense to me and I believe other frustrated Nigerians if its vision of development had seen the need to modernize the slums called satellite towns in our over pampered federal capital city, and the other eyesores in most of our villages across the 774 local government councils in the country. Truly, it would have been more dignifying if some of the millions spent on this presidential bread were put into reviving some of our passed out industries and dreaded hospitals.

It would have been laudable if the undisclosed amount of money spent in baking this elite bread were squandered on free conventional bread for every household in some of our hungry villages who over the years are still finding it difficult to buy the famous Agege bread, Fesojaye bread, Albarka bread and the other locally made bread available yanfu-yanfu across our streets. I believe Nigerians would have been more proud and grateful if the government had found a reasonable way to reduce the high cost of flour and the other high-priced bakery ingredients in our markets. They would have been more grateful if the outrageous cost of bread across the country was tame and made it possible for every household to be able to afford bread in their homes. But unfortunately the scenario today in Aso Rock is the obsession for casasava bread by the president and his team; one bread most of us know they will never eat privately inside their fortified mansions during their rich breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Well, thank God I never get to taste this famous presidential bread, as I am sure the taste would never have been compared with the normal cheap bread we have been forced to buy and eat over the years since our return to a full fledge democracy more than ten years ago. Please have you tasted this presidential loaf?

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