Jollof Wars: All For The Culture

Jollof Rice is Nigeria’s crown jewel, nothing unites the country more than a good old jollof discussion. What makes it even more special is the claim Nigeria’s West African neighbours insist that they have on it; Senegal, Ghana and the Gambia all have their versions of jollof.

Jollof Rice is a fragrant one pot rice dish made from plain white rice, red tomatoes and fragrant spices. It has arguably become the staple in Nigeria alongside eba, fufu, garri, pounded yam which are generally known as swallow. Jollof rice is the one party dish that always finds its way to every single party of Nigerians at home and in diaspora, and is a winner every time.

So who first created the jollof rice dish? As much as Nigerians hate to admit it, Jollof has its origins from Senegal, we know this, and it is indisputable, much to our annoyance, because the word jollof itself is a wolof word, a language spoken in Senegal. Jollof means “one pot” which is essentially how the jollof rice dish is made. I suppose since it is called jollof rice, one more word after jollof was added, then there must be other one pot dishes in Senegal? As an aside, I am curious. Is there a jollof beans? Jollof cassava? Jollof plantain?

Since the origin is no longer disputable, Nigerians have moved to the more important matter, which is, who makes the best jollof rice? For some reason, probably because Senegal pioneered it, the jollof war leaves them untouched for the most part. The main disagreeing parties are Ghana and Nigeria. More than once, I have played the devil’s advocate, asking my friends,

“But Nigeria did not pioneer this dish; surely they must make the best?”

To which I have always received the same answer.

“Life does not work that way, it is quite normal in life for the trainer to grow and hone his skills in such an expert and innovative manner, that he outdoes the trainer, Nigeria has the best jollof.”

There are mock fights because of and hero songs about this dish, it is arguably the easiest meal to make, yet the easiest to ruin. It is one of those dishes which can go wrong if a step or an ingredient is missed. It can lose its essence. Conversely, because of its one pot nature, it is tasty regardless; people will eat it and complain as they do. Most Nigerians will learn to cook jollof rice before any other dish, jollof rice was one of the first dishes my mother taught me to cook.

In 2014, Nigerians and Ghanaians set aside their differences to unite when British chef Jamie Oliver added jollof rice to the long list of dishes he made. The hash tag jollofgate trended on twitter as West Africans on home soil and in the diaspora disagreed vehemently with his version which had parsley and lemon. A few months ago, the Journalist Richard Quest visited Nigeria and asked the Nigerian Minister for Information one jollof question.

“Who makes the best jollof rice?”

It was a simple enough question, one which always elicited a light hearted response and applause. Lai Mohammed responded, to everyone’s shock.


There was an audible gasp from the crowd, and since this was on National Television, everyone saw it, and shortly after, there were clips circulating on the internet. Another jollof gate was created on twitter, Nigeria’s neighbours Ghana had a good laugh. People were calling for Lai Mohammed’s head and his resignation. He was a traitor who had committed an unutterable sacrilege. Richard Quest tried to do some damage control, and said the Minister had heard “where did jollof rice come from” and not “who made the best jollof rice”.

Although there have been a few “jollof wars”, there has been one moment of jollof victory. When Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook visited Nigeria last year, he told his audience;

“I had jollof rice and shrimps and it was delicious. I have been warned never to compare it to the Ghana jollof rice.”

Nigerians took this statement and ran with it, claiming the Zuck had endorsed Nigerian jollof as the better one. I personally think mentioning Ghana jollof in the same sentence as the Nigerian jollof should have earned him a jollof gate on twitter.

I would be shocked if there’s anyone who is Nigerian, or is of Nigerian descent, and has not had jollof rice. Show me anyone who is non-Nigerian and lives in Nigeria or lives elsewhere but has some linkages to Nigerians, and hasn’t tried jollof. That is an atrocity that needs to be fixed, you need your jollof fix. It goes really well with chicken and plantain. Do not wait for August 22nd,which by the way, is World Jollof Day. Try it today, if you are in Nigeria, visit a restaurant, the more low end, the better. This is because jollof is tastier when it has a smokey flavour which is derived from cooking on open fire. That smokey flavour is known as the party flavour.

Nowadays, with the explosion of content on the internet, I have seen hash tags on social media proclaiming the dish served up at a certain party a cultural revolution #jollofrevolution #jolloffortheculture #winnerjollof #Nigerianjollof. Indeed I have heard a man describe his girlfriend as Nigerian jollof; there is no better complement. If someone describes a person to you as Nigerian jollof, that person embodies all that is good and all that cannot be broken. Jollof rice has become a beloved piece of national treasure, one that attracts goodwill and unites the people; why else do you think I named my podcast “Salute to Jollof”? Here’s my podcast, for your listening pleasure.

Recently, I have begun to write and create on the subscription and patron based platform patreon. If you would like to support yours truly, and to read and listen to more of my work, please click here for my podcasts and short stories. 


The Chairlady For Jolliness And Nuptial Endowment Series

A short introduction to the series
The series has its foundation from the news story of a State Governor in Nigeria who created an office for his sister. She was named the Commissioner for Happiness and Couples Fulfilment, and public outcry followed. The Chairlady for Jolliness And Nuptial Endowment is a satirical piece that goes on to explore politics and policy decisions around the African continent, and their consequence for the ordinary man.  For the story which broke towards the end of 2017, click here.



Two months ago, I became the Chairlady for Jolliness and Nuptial Endowment. I think it is important at this early point to mention that I deserved it too, because although I am not a politician, I am happy and my marriage is fulfilled.

Before my appointment, I was a woman of God, still am, running a successful park and shop business, mother of six children, and married successfully for 20 years. Somebody was asking on the radio how you know a successful marriage. Well I say I have been married successfully because my husband Joseph and I still live under one roof even after all our years of marriage, all my six children are his’, we all go to church in one car and I still cook him pepper soup on Sundays.

I proudly stated some of this in my inauguration speech and all the newspapers won’t stop printing it, that means it is popular and worthy of emulation. In all my happiness at this blessing, I felt confused at the name of my portfolio, because people were laughing about it, calling it local. But I have accepted it all in good faith; after all, I am a successful businesswoman in my own right who is now a politician. When you have a good salary and benefits, an official car, a nice office, and a secretary, everything else will sort itself out. But yes, that title wasn’t exactly what I would have written myself. Ah, and that secretary who is always wearing very short skirt suits. I do not like her overly long and bright nails, and bleached knuckles. But we must all key in into His Excellency’s vision.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised when I received the phone call and confirmation. Do you know who is the happiest for this news? My husband is. You see, all my comportment has worked, when I used to tell him that worshipping at Holy Faith Chapel has its advantages, he argued. Who is laughing last now? Men! To drive 30 minutes to a connected church where everyone is a big man, and His Excellency himself worships there, what’s the big deal with a bit of driving in traffic for a good cause? I cut out running generator in my shop for electricity before 1pm and converted the money into nice clothes for church for the children and for us. Everything we wore was asoebi; it is not enough to say you are husband and wife; your clothes must match to illustrate your bond and your class too. All these are investments, but when you tell men, they do not listen.

Anyway, the night of the announcement was extra special, he called me asa! I haven’t heard that nickname since we had our first, and as you know by now, I have gone on to have 5 more. I think our wonderful children contributed too, because when I kit them up, and my husband too, and we sit together, full of smiles and happiness, I was clearly the ideal candidate for this role. The women’s group helped also because I often offer to help with everything, especially for church announcements and event planning. Ah, it has paid off.

The First Lady is also my friend, because of Holy Faith Chapel. She must have given His Excellency the green light to appoint me. I call her mummy. I remember one Sunday morning; my father was visiting us for a week and he wouldn’t stop complaining about his pension. I told him not to come to church with us; to rest and watch some football. He would have said something unhelpful to the First Lady, I was sure. That day I made sure to tell her a kind word. I said “mummy, you look joyful, blue is your colour and the Lord is working mightily through you and daddy His Excellency”. And I went away. The key is to greet and complement often, but never harass and never ever ask for money or contracts. Never ask for a job for your children or relatives, most importantly, never ask for pension for your father. Life is about looking at the goal and packaging. Now that I am Chairlady, is my father not getting the entire pension he is owed? Even my husband is getting a pension too from the province and he hasn’t even retired.

My husband has never been more attentive and helpful; you should see him telling the driver, my driver, what errands to run. You would think he was the Chairman for Jolliness and Nuptial Endowment. I told him he was the Assistant Chairman for Jolliness and Nuptial Endowment. He just threw his head back and laughed his big deep laugh, the one I hear only when he’s speaking to “My Oga”. I have since realised that “My Oga” cannot be his boss or a supplier, but must be one of his girlfriends. Ah don’t look so surprised, I know that laugh. He laughs that way too when I lend him money to pay some of the rent, a sound of sheer pleasure at getting his way.

Anyway, I am not complaining o, I have my six children, so I am jolly and endowed. He’s told me to call him Chief, the Honourable Chair, and he laughed that big laugh again. My husband was pleased for me. For all his indiscretions, he’s still the lifter upper of my head. Well after Jesus. But you know who wasn’t so pleased? The people of the internet.

I do not know how they got my photo, and many photos of me were being circulated with ugly rumours and lies. People do not understand that our society is being ruined by unhappiness and divorce, there is need for my position and I will do my best to show them. Now that orientation month is over, I plan to start immediately. My office has two responsibilities, like two branches; Jolliness and Nuptial Endowment. I plan to spread Jolliness first, and I will do that by putting Christmas trees in every market, every school and every hospital in the province. I will put Christmas lights on the poles of street lights and traffic lights. Not only will it spread happiness which is the main objective, but it will use solar power, so even when NEPA takes the light and the streets are dark, our Christmas lights and trees will light up the entire Odon Province.

To be continued next week.

Recently, I have begun to write and create on the subscription and patron based platform patreon. If you would like to support yours truly, and to read and listen to more of my work, please click here for my podcasts and short stories.