October 4, 2023

How Guinness World Record mania is gripping Nigeria

Joyce Jeoma

Masseuse Joyce Ijeoma ran out of steam during her marathon massage attempt

By the time you finish reading this article, chances are another Nigerian has attempted to set some kind of world record in a frenzy that has gripped Africa’s most populous country.

It’s hard to keep track of all the recent attempts, but one man sang for 200 hours, one man cried non-stop to set a record as you read this, one woman said she stayed indoors the longest while another was seen attempting to fry the most snails—one of at least six culinary-themed attempts—in the “record-a-thon” craze.

You can pinpoint the exact moment when some of the country’s 200 million people seemingly decided that every world record must be broken – a medium-sized crowd braved rain and darkness for four days in May at a posh Lagos venue to see Hilda Baci, a tired-looking chef cook her way into the record books.

She cooked for a total of 100 hours, and even though it was officially recorded at 93 hours and 11 minutes by the Guinness World Record (GWR), it was still enough to set a new record.

Not a day has gone by since then without the now familiar sight of a digital clock on a dark screen signaling someone, or a couple, trying to set a new world record.

Even GWR is struggling to keep up, having basked in the initial wave of attention as Nigerians eagerly followed Ms Baci’s performance.

“Enough of the record-a-thons,” the organization humorously tweeted Tuesday after someone suggested the idea of ​​not one, but two separate attempts — an “idea-a-thon” and a “puff-puff-a- thon”. “.

A woman holds up a Guinness World Record plaque

Hilda Baci sparked the craze by setting a cooking record in May

This followed an earlier GWR tweet saying that people should sign up first before trying to set a record. The “polite reminder” was seen as a cheeky swipe at Nigerians after a masseuse collapsed while trying to set a new record for the longest amount of time massaging non-stop.

That attempt was now abandoned, she said, adding that her 50 hours was enough for the record, even though she had not signed up for Guinness.

It’s the same bravado that marked the recent wave, with people brazenly announcing their attempts without signing up with GWR and breaking the rules.

Two chefs turned off their stoves and went to sleep during their attempts, which disqualified them.

“To avoid disappointment it’s important to make sure what you want to try is a valid record title and that you understand the guidelines,” a GWR representative told the BBC.

They said the organization had seen a spike in applications from Nigerians but could not confirm whether the number of attempts from one country itself was a record.

A woman baking

Farominiyi Kemi needs a bigger fryer for her record attempt

“Nigerians are funny people and we tend to get caught up in what’s happening righ
t now. In less than three months, the fad would go away,” said Farominiyi Kemi, the double effort that broke Guinness’ patience.

The idea of ​​two attempts was a joke, she told the BBC, but baking a record number of puff pastry – a soft round fried dough like a donut – has now taken hold in her mind.

One man who definitely takes his attempt seriously is high school teacher John Obot, who has been reading for the longest time in September.

He has received approval from GWR and is rehearsing to break the current record of 124 hours set in Turkey last year by Kyrgyzstan’s Rysbai Isakov.

Obot wants to read non-stop for 140 hours in the peaceful coastal town of Uyo in southern Nigeria.

“The motivation is to promote reading culture in Nigeria,” he said, leaving no doubt about his abilities during a brief conversation in which it was difficult to get a word in.

“I decided to pick a record that is meaningful,” he added, drawing a swipe at other attempts, including one for most coconuts that were only shelled with teeth.

“What value does that record have, or the people who want to kiss?” asked Mr. Obot, declaring his attempt at superiority only for the Nigerian and English classics he would read that day.

Crying human

Tembu Ebere says he cries for African youth to show them there is no limit

That kissing attempt has been — disappointingly for some — banned in the state of Ekiti where it was planned, with authorities warning all involved that there would be consequences if they continue their attempt to set a record for non-stop kissing. GWR removed this category after people collapsed during previous attempts (outside Nigeria).

“[The] ‘kiss-a-thon’ as an event is not only absurd, immoral, unhealthy [but] able to denigrate Ekiti’s image,” said a statement from the Ministry of Culture.

Ekiti is closely linked to the recent fad, as it was there that while the steam was still rising in Chef Baci’s kitchen and Guinness had yet to ratify her record, Chef Dammy turned on her stove to try to outdo her compatriot.

The physical strain of some attempts, as seen with the masseuse, is also a slight cause for concern.

Tembu Ebere, who has been crying non-stop for seven days, says he has serious health problems. He told the BBC he had a headache, swollen face, was partially blind for 45 minutes and has swollen eyes.

“I had to review and reduce my whining,” he said, adding that he was determined to see it through, so now he’s sobbing at his target, even though he didn’t sign up with GWR, so it won’t be an official record .

Many Nigerians who find the many attempts ridiculous say that Ms Baci has unlocked Pandora’s box.

And it’s not that the country is short of record holders:

and my personal favourite:

  • Chinonso Eche, who holds records for: most consecutive soccer touches in one minute while balancing a soccer ball on the head; fastest time to 1,000 football touches while balancing a ball on the head; most soccer heads in a prone position in one minute and most soccer touches in a sitting position while balancing a ball on the head in one minute.

But none generated as much of a stir as Chef Baci, who had a huge publicity machine behind him.

“We did a lot of background work,” says Nene Bejide, head of the PR agency that handled the branding.

It paid off that day – Ms. Baci received a call from the former Vice President, a visit from the Governor of Lagos State, record holder Amusan came along, as well as a relentless stream of celebrities and well-wishers.

Aside from the fame and fame that an endeavor gains – seen by an instant wave of social media followers elevating one to influencer status, a digital currency these days – there is also the personal enrichment.

Among other things, Ms Baci has received free travel for a year from a Nigerian airline, Chef Dammy received cash gifts. Others have openly solicited donations during their efforts.

“I had to do something extraordinary to put myself on the map, to put Nigeria on the map,” Ms Baci told the BBC after her performance.

It seems she did both.

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