Image caption: Masseuse Joyce Ijeoma ran out of steam during her marathon-massage attempt
From puff-puff-a-thon to cry-a-thon, craze for Guinness World Record rages in Nigeria – BBC
By the time you finish reading this article, the chances are that another Nigerian has attempted to set some kind of world record in a frenzy that has gripped Africa’s most populous country.
It is hard to keep up with all the recent attempts but one man sang for 200 hours, a man is crying non-stop to set a record as you read this, a woman said she was staying indoors for the longest time 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 fall – a medium-sized crowd braved rain and darkness for four days in May at a swanky venue in Lagos to watch Hilda Baci, a tired-looking chef, cook her way into the record books.
She cooked for a total of 100 hours, and although it was officially logged at 93 hours 11 minutes by the Guinness World Record (GWR), it was still enough to set a new record.
Since then, no day has passed without the now familiar sight of a digital clock on a dark screen signalling that someone, or a couple, is attempting a new world record.
Even GWR is struggling to keep up, after basking in the initial swell of attention as Nigerians keenly followed Ms Baci’s feat.
“Please enough of the record-a-thons,” the organisation humorously tweeted on Tuesday after someone broached the idea of not one, but two separate attempts – an “idea-a-thon” and a “puff-puff-a-thon”.
This followed a previous GWR tweet saying that people should first apply before attempting to set a record. The “polite reminder” was seen as a cheeky dig at Nigerians after a masseuse collapsed while aiming to set a new record for the longest time spent massaging non-stop.
That attempt was now abandoned, she said, adding that her 50 hours was enough for the record, even though she didn’t apply to Guinness.
It is the same bravado that has marked the recent wave, with people boldly announcing their attempts without applying to GWR and not sticking to the rules.
Two chefs turned off their stoves and went to sleep during their attempts, which disqualified them.
“To avoid disappointment, it is important to ensure that what you want to attempt is a valid record title and that you understand the guidelines,” a GWR representative told the BBC.
They said the organisation had seen a spike in applications from Nigerians but could not confirm if the number of attempts from one country itself constituted a record.
“Nigerians are funny people and we tend to ride on the wave of whatever is happening at the moment. In less than three months the craze would die down,” said Farominiyi Kemi, the double-attempter who broke the patience of Guinness.
The idea of two attempts was a joke, she told the BBC, but frying a record number of puff-puff – a soft round deep-fried dough like a donut – has now taken firm root in her mind.
One man who is definitely taking his attempt seriously is secondary school teacher John Obot, who is going for the longest time reading aloud in September.
He has obtained approval from GWR and is rehearsing towards crushing the current record of 124 hours set last year in Turkey by Rysbai Isakov of Kyrgyzstan.
Mr Obot aims to read aloud non-stop for 140 hours in the peaceful coastal city of Uyo in southern Nigeria.
“The motivation is to promote reading culture in Nigeria,” he said, leaving no doubt about his capability during a short call in which it was hard to get a word in edgeways.
“I decided to choose a record that is meaningful,” he added, taking a swipe at other attempts, including one for the most coconuts dehusked only using teeth.
“Of what value is that record, or the people that want to kiss?” asked Mr Obot, who proclaimed his attempt superior just for the Nigerian and English classics he would be reading on the day.
That kissing attempt has – disappointingly for some – been banned in Ekiti state where it was planned, with authorities warning all involved that there would be consequences if they went ahead with their attempt to set a record for kissing non-stop. 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] capable of denigrating the image of Ekiti,” a statement from the culture ministry said.
Ekiti is closely associated with the recent craze as it was there that chef Dammy, while the steam was still rising in chef Baci’s kitchen and Guinness was yet to ratify her record, turned on her stove to try and outdo her fellow countrywoman.
The physical strain of some of the attempts, as seen with the masseuse, is also a slight cause for worry.
Tembu Ebere, who is crying non-stop for seven days, says he’s experienced serious health issues, telling the BBC he has had headaches, a swollen face, went partially blind for 45 minutes and has puffed eyes.
“I had to restrategise and reduce my wailing,” he said, adding that he was determined to see it through so is now sobbing towards his target, even though he has not applied to GWR so it won’t be an official record.
Many Nigerians who find the slew of attempts cringeworthy say Ms Baci unlocked Pandora’s box.
And it is not as though the country is short of record holders:
- Tobi Amusan – Women’s 100 metres hurdles
- Gbenga Ezekiel – Most skips in a minute on one leg and my personal favourite:
- Chinonso Eche, who holds records for: most consecutive football touches in one minute while balancing a football on the head; fastest time to 1,000 football touches while balancing a ball on the head; most football headers in a prone position in one minute and most football touches in a seated position while balancing a ball on the head in one minute.
But none of those generated as much buzz as chef Baci, who had a huge publicity machinery behind her.
“We did a lot of background work,” said Nene Bejide, head of the public relations firm that handled the branding.
It yielded results on the day – Ms Baci had a call from the former vice-president, a visit from the Lagos state governor, record holder Amusan stopped by, as did a never-ending stream of celebrities and well-wishers.
Aside from the stardom and fame that an attempt garners – seen through an instant swell of social media followers that elevates one to influencer status, a digital currency these days – there is also the personal enrichment.
Ms Baci has been given a year’s free travel by a Nigerian airline among other endorsements, chef Dammy received cash gifts. Others have openly solicited donations during their attempts.
“I had to do something that is basically out of the ordinary to put myself on the map, to put Nigeria on the map,” Ms Baci told the BBC after her feat.
It would seem she has done both.