Buhari And The Big Tray Of Jollof Rice– Chuks Ubani

By Ikenga Chronicles March 29, 2017


I can’t remember how old I was then. Maybe I was in primary two or three, I can’t readily remember. All I know is that I was old enough to go to my mother to complain over anything that I wasn’t happy with. But on this day, this was one complain that taught me a great lesson of my life.

On this fateful day, it was evening time, and I was hungry. My mother and elder sisters were in the kitchen, cooking jollof rice. I was then the only son. Maybe I allowed it get into my head, maybe the aroma from the jollof rice that I inhaled, went into my tummy and caused a little katakata therein, making the little worms in my tummy to protest, rattling and unsettling me. The biting revolt in my tummy readily found an expression in my mouth. I went straight to the sitting room, where my mother was attending to some visitors.

“I am hungry, you people should give me food”, I cried, with tears dripping down my cheeks.

My mum didn’t utter a word. Mrs Edet, my mother’s friend said, “Chuks, be patient, your mother is still preparing your dinner”. I just mumbled and grumbled and went out of the sitting room. Later, I went outside to play with other children, until my immediate elder sister called me that food was ready.

I got into the house, and was moving straight to the kitchen. Then I saw a mountain of jollof rice on a very big tray–that kind of tray that they used to fill with rice during our birthdays in those days. I was shocked! Before I could fathom what was happening, the sitting room door was jammed from behind. I looked and saw that my mother was already standing by the door with a big broom in her right hand, with that kind of frown that foretells that danger isn’t too far from you.

She bellowed: “You can’t disgrace me in this house. You want to tell the whole world that I don’t take care of you. The fact that you are the only son is not a licence to be stupid. Before you disgrace me, I will put sense into that your head!” Pointing to the Dining table, she screamed: “Now, go and sit there and make sure that you finish that food on the tray before the next fifteen minutes, or I will teach you the lesson of your life!”

For those who know my family very well, they can attest to the fact that it is far better to fall on the wrong side of my father than my mum.

Back to my story. I looked towards the kitchen, the door had been closed, apparently by one of my sisters, and it must have been in strict adherence to my mother’s instruction. I looked at the tray of jollof rice, puffing out hot misty smoke. The aroma no longer had its usual effect on me. I looked at my mother again, and the broom in her hand and then her face. Terror gripped me!

I was like a trapped rat with no means of escape. Food made no meaning to me. Hunger left me, or I forgot about my hunger. The thing that was of utmost importance to me was a means of escape, not jollof rice, not food. I could have traded anything, just anything I had, to escape the looming Armageddon. Unfortunately, there was nothing to trade.

There was no way I could have finished that tray of jollof rice in 3 days time, given a normal situation, but I was not in a normal situation. I was in trouble. My inability to hold my tummy in check has led to its conspiracy with my mouth to ‘land’ me in trouble.

“Are you deaf? Didn’t you hear me? Go and sit and finish that food now!”

As I tried to take a step towards the dining, my legs gave way. I fell on my knees and started asking for forgiveness.

I don’t know how many blows my head and back received of the broom, all I knew was that, after what seemed like endless serious bombardments on my head, my shoulders and back of the head, I was finally free! Free not to eat the jollof rice, but free to ‘bolt’ out of the house! That was the greatest freedom that I badly needed then.

My point in this story?

Governance, especially in Nigeria, and at the highest level, is like jollof rice. Very great aroma! Great taste, with all the perquisites and trappings of office, but we should always ensure that we have the capacity to take in all that we crave for, especially, when we make so much trouble to get it.

For years, Buhari, even after ruling this country as a military man, did everything humanly possible to become the President of Nigeria. He tried and tried and tried severally, but each time he failed. He cried, threatened and did everything possible. .. and finally finally, somehow, he found himself as the President of Nigeria. Then suddenly, he discovered that appearance is not the same with reality. He confessed almost absconding, but did not. What he discovered was far greater and bigger than what he had cried and sought for over the years.

Having strenuously fought for, cried and gotten his heart’s desire, willingly, quickly and easily relinquished by Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari’s situation seems like mine, in that room, alone, with a tray of jollof rice, my mum, a big broom and a frown.

Nigerians have now taken the place of my mum. They are not excited. For long they have worn this frown on long faces that seems to be getting scarier by the day; their broom of insults, tantrums and curses on government, daily is frightening. Time seems to be running out.

In my case, I surrendered and negotiated my way out with a few blows from the broom, but Buhari seems to take the challenge of eating and ‘finishing’ his own jollof rice prepared by Nigerians. The questions are: How many spoons can he take? What is the capacity of his tummy? How long can this take before time runs out?

Time shall tell!


  • Chuks Ubani is an Abuja-based lawyer and is on Facebook as Bro Chuks Ubani
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