LOUD WHISPERS: The Spirit of Hilda

In the early 1990s, my younger brother Tunde asked me for a favour. We were still living in London then. He wanted to host a birthday party at our place, my husband and I agreed. I asked him about his catering arrangements and he said he hoped I could provide the food. I told hm I did not mind making some things, but I would need help. He said he had a friend who would come over to help me. That sounded reasonable enough. I went grocery shopping the day before and got all that I needed. I started cooking at 7am that Saturday, convinced that the ‘friend’ would show up to support me. My husband went off to work. I chopped, sliced, blended, washed, cleaned, over and over.  The ‘friend’ was nowhere to be found. I cooked Jollof Rice, Fried Rice, plain White Rice, Moin Moin (from scratch), grilled whole chickens, chicken wings, fried plantain, sauteed beef, fish and roast potatoes. All by myself! I was not a caterer. I loved to cook back then, and I could make a mean pot of Jollof Rice, my fried rice too was great. In those days in our circle of family and friends in London, we did communal catering for events, with people offering to bring different things. Now, there are professional Nigerian caterers to take care of that. I thought saying yes to my brother was not something I should even have to debate. If only I had known.

I could not reach my brother, we did not have cell phones then and he was not home. I had no idea who this ‘friend’ was (my brother was still single then) and I did not know what he did or did not do to make her decide not to show up. It was none of my business. Except for the fact that it did become my business when I found myself cooking alone for ten hours. My brother showed up at 5pm, and wisely decided to cut up the vegetables for the salad and run to Tescos for Ice Cream. I suppose he was concerned that one of the cooking utensils surrounding me might mysteriously land on his head. Ten hours!

Hilda Effiong Bassey, famously known as Hilda Baci has just cooked her way into the Guinness Book of World Records. She cooked for 100 hours and forty minutes. Her story is one of the most inspiring we have seen in recent times. Her amazing and daring venture brought hundreds of thousands together online and offline, praying for her, cheering her on, dancing, it was an overwhelming display of love and solidarity. As she neared the finish line of 96 hours she had set for herself, nine hours beyond the record set by the previous holder, Hilda decided to go for another four hours to make it a cool one hundred hours. I cooked for ten hours and felt like I had been run over by two trailers. This young woman was on her feet cooking for ten times that amount of time.  Hilda Baci stands for everything we know the true spirit of Nigeria to be – bold, brave, assertive, enterprising, innovative, talented, original, it is an endless list. It is a shame that all these attributes have been buried under a crushing weight of hopelessness, despair, lack of opportunities and lack of empathy. What Hilda Baci has done is to scrape and clean away all the negativity, the same way she meticulously washed her pans and cleaned her food items. Nine days before Hilda’s triumph, the majestic Tiwa Savage stood before His Majesty King Charles 111 and showed the world what a talented African is capable of. Her raw talent and show-stopping green dress at the coronation concert drew attention in all the right ways. Hilda Baci was supported not only by her immediate family, friends and corporate partners, but total strangers who were drawn to this unusual spectacle of a strong, charismatic young chef cooking her heart away with a clear vision and mission. According to her, she had prepared for this for five years. She did not just turn on her gas cooker one day and decide to break a world cooking record. She came prepared. Even when it seemed as if she might be overwhelmed, she was surrounded by a force that was almost magical in its manifestations. The cheers and claps of her supporters, calls and even visits from the high and mighty, a praise and worship service together with a vast number of online participants. This is who we are as Africans. Every daughter out there is our daughter and every success she records is ours. This is who we are as Nigerians. For the 100 hours that Hilda cooked, we did not care where she was from, if she was a Christian, Moslem, Buddhist or Atheist, if she was married or not, we did not know and it did not matter. All we saw was a determined young woman who was following her passion with a clear destination in mind. We don’t all have the same opportunities that Hilda has had, the same nurturing mother, spaces, resources and so on. Yet, we can start with whatever we have, or if we are in a position to do so, help someone realise their dream.

Wherever there is success, there is jealousy and envy. Two men, one from Ghana and one from Liberia, and a woman from Kenya, have declared that they want to challenge Hilda’s record. They have a right to do so, but why now? Why not let Hilda at least receive her certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records. Well, they can try, it is a free world. Considering the level of preparation Hilda put into her historic project – the cooking competition experience, personal development, branding, marketing, sponsorship deals and so on, Hilda is nobody’s mate as the young people will say. I was so inspired by Hilda. Africans and Nigerians have a lot to share with the world. Take a look at our movies, fashion, literature, music, art and food, not to mention our raw materials and solid minerals. This should give us pride and hope. Our leaders should help unleash the unlimited potential we have in all fields, so that the Hildas in our midst can be the norm and not the exception.  Prepare. Plan. Practice. Protect. Persevere. Promote. Persuade. Hilda had all these ‘P’s and many other alphabets working for her. It does not matter how old we are. There must be something we are passionate about doing for 100 hours non-stop, well something productive and not life-threatening. Maybe I should try and write for 24 hours non-stop first and see how far I get, 100 hours is a long time! Congratulations Hilda, I am so proud of you. May you be blessed in all your future endeavours.

 Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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4 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Spirit of Hilda

  1. Fisolami May 27, 2023 at 8:50 am

    Congratulations to Hilda, thumbs

  2. Maryam May 27, 2023 at 10:42 am

    Hilda the champion

  3. Rachael June 9, 2023 at 11:36 pm

    Yes, Hilda has truly inspired a lot of people

  4. Adegbola Opeyemi June 10, 2023 at 12:32 am

    Can’t wait to see more Hildas


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