Recently, no fewer than 300 pupils drawn from various secondary schools across the country stormed Lekki, Lagos State to test their cooking skills, particularly in local dishes to the admiration of all.
At the event organized by the UNESCO Institute for African Culture and International Understanding (IACIU) Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), 14 year-old, Yakubu Success led his team to emerged champions of the second edition of the programme: “Teens Can Cook Festival” with this year’s theme: “Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Food Recipes Using the Digital Environment”.
The Director of the IACIU, Professor Emeritus Peter Okebukola in his welcome address hinted that the major desire of the event “is to encourage cultural ambassadors to realize that African food is not just a commodity, but it is a veritable vehicle of identity, value and meaning.”
Okebukola added that young Africans should make use of various social media platforms to promote the Indigenous food recipes.
Also in her submission, the Organizer of the event, Mrs. Loveline Nwachuku, said that with “the fast changing generation’s lifestyles, people tend to prefer processed foods over and above our indigenous cuisine and such must be reversed before it’s too late.
“It is, common knowledge that generations of today are not attaching much significance to the indigenous delicacies. Hence, there is urgent need to teach young Africans how to prepare African dishes and preserve it recipes.”
Nwachuku noted that, “the project was designed essentially to teach young Africans various indigenous food prepared by the major ethnic groups and learn about the diversity of cultural expressions as enshrined in the 2005 Convention.”
“African teenagers should be encouraged to prepare various indigenous food in the continent,’’ she asserted.
The Proprietress of the hosting School, Mrs Blessing Nwibe also applauded the idea behind the cooking contest saying “children of nowadays don’t attach importance to cooking their indigenous cuisines.”
The event, which was held at Ark of the Lord Missionary School, situated at N0 1, Isaac Ibu-ofu Street, Thomas Estate Ajah had in attendance dignitaries across the country, staff of the Institute for African Culture and International Understanding, teenagers, Judges and teachers.
Success, in his reaction, said he was proud to be the leader of the winning team; the Hausa Group that won the cooking contest this year.
According to the teenager, “I am a student of Ark of the Lord Missionary School Ajah Lekki. I am 14 years old. I am also part of the winning team which is the Hausa group which I took part in.
“It was amazing and I had a lot of fun because it was my first time taking part in a cooking competition. My reaction to this cooking competition was unmeasurable. I was filled with joy and excitement because UNESCO hosted the cooking competition. It was fun and exciting.
“The outcome of the event was amazing as we never expected our team to be the winning team but we worked hard and did our best and behold we won and I also got an award for being the only male in the competition.”
The team leader advised his male teenagers to join the food and nutrition department in their various schools and learn how to cook,” adding his parent support also did go a long way to achieve his feat.
The competition, which was spiced with local music as entertainment, was a huge success as the participating teenagers gleefully start-up their cooking gas in the about 2 hour contest to demonstrate their local cooking skills. The judges tasted the food and a winner was declared.
In the words of Ambassador Labiran, Dr. Femi Adebayo and other members of staff of the Institute, it was praises galore for the initiator of the project and the Institute for giving its nod.
Since it’s inception, the UNESCO Institute for African culture and International understanding, situated at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential library in Abeokuta has been running programs in protecting and preserving our indigenous cultures through digital environment.
According to the project coordinator, students were selected for each of the foods that would be cooked. “Three students each for the three different types of regional foods.
“The Students were very excited about the competition and were looking forward to hosting another one in the near future. The climax of the competition was that the only male student was the declared winner of the event through his group’s food cooking and presentation( tuwosikafa served with okra soup). The students were very excited about the competition,” Nwachuku, who is also the Administrative Fellow at the Institute disclosed.
Through this program, by 2025 the Institute would have trained about 2500 African students on how to cook their indigenous cuisines, Nwachuku envisaged.
Kehinde Akinyemi is Special Assistant on Media to former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo