Minister of information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stunned CNN audience yesterday when he said the best Jollof rice is prepared in Senegal. A claim that seriously weakened the ‘Nigeria First’ mantra meant to encourage patronage Nigerian goods and drive the nation’s economic recovery on a special edition of Quest Means Business anchored in Lagos.
Although Mr Richard Quest was later to clarify that the Minister misunderstood his question to mean which country jollof rice originated from. “That was why he answered Senegal.” However, the damage was already done, as social media would not let Lai Mohammed off the hook over his faux pas.Responding to a question about which country makes the best Jollof rice, the minister said: “I want to say probably Senegal.”
Jollof rice is a delicacy that is common among most countries in West Africa and in recent time there have been debate on the social media platforms about the country in the region that makes the best Jollof rice.
Quest may have been prompted to ask the question because of the raging debate.
Quest who had earlier expressed surprise at the minister’s response, however clarified that the minister misunderstood his question to mean “where did Jollof rice originate from,” which according to him was why he answered, Senegal.
However, the minister’s gaffe was clearly apparent and drew the ire of the social media, as the video went viral, with many lambasting the minister.
On what the government was doing to diversify the economy, Lai Mohammed had earlier said the government would tap from the potential of the creative industry, especially Nollywood, in its quest to diversify the economy.
“We must look at Nollywood as another platform where we can really, not only generate revenue, but to create jobs and also fire the imagination of the creative artistes in Nigeria. As at today, we produce more than 50 films a week, which is more than what Hollywood does.
“Nollywood is seen not just in Nigeria, but the whole of Africa and even the diaspora. So, we are actually producing for the entire world. We intend to leverage on the comparative advantage we have in the film industry because we believe that is one area where we are strong.
“And what we need to do is to protect the industry and promote it. We know the challenges we have today, notably, our inability to adequately protect the intellectual property of these films, lack of infrastructure and lack of access to funds. That is why even though we produce more movies than Hollywood, we admit that the quality of these films can be better.
“This is a country of over 500 languages and its diversity of culture. If we are able to allow our people to tell our story from our own perspective, we would be able to drive tourism. This government is focused on the Ease of Doing Business,” he added.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, reiterated government efforts to diversify the economy, through its recently launched Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
I detest the use of propaganda in information discrimination and management so naturally I am not a fan of Lai Mohammed but I have always felt the man was intelligent and does his job well using the means he has chosen. I, my wife and children simply stared in disbelief at Lai Mohammed yesterday telling the whole world on CNN that Senegalese have the best Jollof rice. Richard was obviously surprised that a minister of tourism of a nation will promote the tourism potential of another nation. There was no ambiguity in the question asked, the attempt to correct the gaffe was not lost on anyone as a matter of fact we all said before the rebuttal that Mohammed will make an attempt to change the narrative which is consistent with his nature and that was exactly what he did yesterday.
Leaving the issue of Jollof rice and looking at the way he answered other questions on Nollywood and tourism. In the past 2 years what has the government done to promote, protect and project the film industry and tourism in real terms, not much. He was talking of what a government that has only one year for real governance intends to do in the future as if they are still in the campaign mood. Lai simply amazed me yesterday and lost my respect. He is like most of the ministers in this government, empty.