Let Them Chop Cassava!

In Nigeria chop means to eat, it can also mean to eat with immoral or criminal greed.

Cassava is a root carbohydrate staple. Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava and the 6th largest oil producer in the world. 

On January 1st 2012 the Nigerian Government shocked its citizens by announcing a 117% rise in the price of fuel. As 70% of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day, for many the price hike was a serious threat to their very survival.

The government argued it could no longer afford a subsidy that kept the price of petrol artificially low, ministers admitted there was rampant corruption in the petroleum industry and claimed subsidy removal would thwart the activities of a shadowy "cabal" of oil marketers and politicians who profited from the status quo and over whom they were powerless.

Incensed that their notoriously profligate and highly paid leaders, (some four hundred senators and representatives earn substantially more than President Obama,) had done nothing to tackle corruption, Nigerians of all classes took to the streets demanding a reversal to the original 65 Naira per litre price.

As the protests developed, the profligacy, corruption and ethnic divisions that have blighted the country's development came into sharp focus.




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Who Is Chopping Cassava?

On Jan 1st, as l drove away from Freedom Park where I’d just anchored an emotionally fraught 10thedition of Change a Life show, l got the news of the fuel subsidy removal and consequence fuel price increase. It was exactly a week after the Christmas day Boko Haram bombing. Perhaps it was the memory of the wracking tears of the family of the youth corps member slain during the election who were on the show or my own daughter’s tears at watching the Christmas day bombing news on TV a week earlier. Something snapped inside of me. So at 8am on Jan 3, l simply picked up my bag and joined the NLC/JAF protest march from labour house in Yaba to Gani Fawehinmi Park in Ojota.

I marched first and foremost as a citizen but by evening the image of my very angry self had circulated on major news networks and my creative partner , Chris Dada had called from London to ask a very important question “So why are you not documenting this? We are filmmakers we must document and editorialize history". He got on the plane. By the next day we were filming as l was meeting with different heads of civil society and labour groups.

 It was clear that something had shifted in the Nigerian consciousness, which requires a different sort of documentation. Our challenge was, shall we just stand back and document or shall we have an opinion. Should we editorialize history as it unfolds?

 The answer came as we watched Segun Aganga, the minister of Trade and Investment proclaim that the government will be importing 1600 diesel engine buses as palliatives for the subsidy removal. Coming out of the mouth of Aganga, it had a definite Marie Antoinette feel. It speaks of the extreme disconnect of government that a man so well educated, founder of the Nigerian leadership Institute would make such an irrational, unconsciously callous statement without irony.

 The Nigeria government was clearly telling its citizens “let them eat cake” Curiously president Jonathan had some months ago, on national TV and perhaps in anticipation of this moment advised Nigerians to start eating cassava bread!

In Nigeria chop means to eat with moral or criminal greed.

ChopCassava.com is therefore an editorial documentation of the people’s protest as it unfolds as well as a revelation of many layers of disconnect between power and people

Funmi Iyanda

January 8th 2012