Heart of Arts


Toyin Falola


Did you miss the statement by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that he deserves to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records? If so, visit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGMs6_FWkCY. I thought the citizens that he governs were shouting “Emi L’okan” to become wealthy and famous like him. I was surprised to learn that the President himself wanted to become a Chef to cook Jollof Rice for two weeks without stopping so that he, too, could enter into the Guinness Book of Records. O ti ya!

There is never a dull moment in Nigeria. If you don’t see a man descending from a mountaintop where he had gone to speak with God directly, you will meet him in the valley, providing you with testimonies of his recent successes, including how a Dangote truck ran over him, crushed his bone into pieces, and he stood up after that to go to a Buka to eat pounded yam with cow leg. The new prayer point is to enter into the Guinness Book of Records, even if your favourite drink is Trophy or Star!

Currently, what should one do to get quick fame in Nigeria? Participate in a Guinness world record? Besides, how hard can it be? Many youths and influencers are doing it, and the results have been impeccable. Like a social media challenge, Nigerians are applying to either break or create a new world record. Visualizing it as an outlet for success, application to the record has more than tripled after Hilda Bacci’s success; one would think Nigerians just know about Guinness World Records. But with over a million copies sold every year and strategic publicity through social media and TV shows, Guinness World Records is not new; however, for Nigerians, it just might be the newest challenge for the quickest fame.

In an inspiring, awkward or questionable pursuit, there has been a wave of application to Guinness; reportedly, over one thousand five hundred in two months from Nigerians to participate in the Guinness World Record. Like blind men who just received their sights trying to make up for the years they couldn’t see, Nigerians are rushing to claim one record or the other for various reasons that are not just for money. In a not-so-surprising turn of events, many have indicated their desire to apply or even applied for one “…athon” or the other.

There is the laughable “kiss-a-thon” that failed to happen in Ekiti State because the state government banned the activity based on it being absurd and immoral. The wash-a-thon by the OAU student, Enitan Subair, who washed for 58 hours. Tembu Ebere cry-a-thon, in an unofficial attempt, cried for seven days. Joyce Ijeoma attempted to break the record for the longest massage and collapsed after 53 hours. John Obot read in a read-a-thon for 145 hours to beat the Guinness record, while Woli Arole wanted to hold a 5000-hour pray-a-thon, stating that the exercise is beyond record-breaking but also hosting a prayer revival and many more.

Background check on Guinness shows that it is basically a book company compiling “officially amazing” record-breaking strives. With about 4000 records printed yearly in prints and 3000 records posted online, they have reportedly sold over 100 million copies. They do not pay anyone for setting a record nor do they offer any monetary or technical assistance for participating. In fact, Guinness receives $5 for setting a new record and $1000 or $800 to expedite your application, which does not guarantee your application will be accepted.  Guinness officials might take more than a month to accept an application and even two weeks to respond to a question. The rules are stringent; they can be over 30 pages and must be followed dogmatically. Surprisingly, some records are not even printed; many may never see their names in print. May be the Jagaban has even applied, and the letter is yet to reach Aso Rock.

Certainly, the requirements and monetary implications are not minute. Regardless, the craze to set a Guinness record is still ravaging. Nigerians are not oblivious to this, and some start their exercise without officially applying to Guinness. In a country where “leyin owo owo lo tun ku” reigns, why would anyone suddenly be interested in a record that consumes a lot of “owo.” Nigerians now want to spend money to look for money!

Before Hilda’s success, some Nigerians have set records, but they are not as popular. The difference is the publicity: PR backing Hilda’s cook-a-thon. Guinness does not offer money for setting a record, but in place of money, it offers fame and recognition in all countries of the world. If you play your cards well and have the right sponsorship and publicity, you will reap the benefits of a Guinness record, which might eventually lead you to make more money; in other words, using money to make money. Out of the many things Hilda did, she started a class with a registration fee of N35,000 and has been claimed to have made millions from her classes alone.

Aside from money and fame, there is the ability to be immortalized forever in a book. As long as Guinness records remain relevant, participants will forever be immortalized in print, as long as their names are printed and as long as someone else does not break that record. They have a historical importance attached to their names where their names would forever be known for setting a record. There is also the desire to make a change, support a cause, promote a brand and push oneself to achieve a difficult milestone. Hilda Bassey is a cook who wanted to revitalize her career. Enitan has a washing brand, Bayode Treasures-Olawunmi, the previous holder of the read-a-thon record, wanted to encourage reading culture among Nigerians, shifting their attention from frivolities to the importance of hard work while Woli Arole wants to have a revival in the form of a marathon.

Nigerians will always be Nigerians. “Emi lo kan” has to strive. Everybody wants to be famous, so what should you do if you have no worthwhile record to set? Create a frivolous one, add jara to it, and you become an idan. Nevertheless, this trait is not only distinct to Nigeria. Guinness World Record has been awarded to the weirdest achievements. From the longest nails, the most cockroach eaten in a second, the greatest number of candles extinguished by farting, the most tattooed person, the heaviest train pulled with bread, the longest attacks of hiccups, most eggs crushed with the head, most plastic surgeries done. The list is uncountable.

The idea is you don’t have to be a genius to set a record. Guinness doesn’t also discourage you from setting a record as long as it is provable, quantifiable, and breakable, they only encourage that it is meaningful. No wonder the Guinness database holds more than 30,000 Guinness categories. Nigerians are either taking a cue from this, or they are just independently thinking of records to set. On the bright side, no one has shown intention of breaking the record for the longest attack of hiccups.

Breaking a record is attractive. Being a semi-god on a piece of paper, a correct jagaban, a champion waya. The rewards are captivating, but it is not without its implications. Spending a large sum for a Guinness record and not achieving or having a short-lived success achieving it can be devastating, without even considering the time and effort put into it, but what is more devastating is the health implications, which might be short-lived or permanent. Sleep deprivation is a major characteristic of any marathon that can cause memory lapse and other health issues. The health implication also differs depending on the record to be set to be achieved. Joyce fainted while attempting to set a record. Tembu suffered a swollen face, headaches, puffy eyes, and partial blindness after the exercise. Bayode, who held the record for longest reading in 2018, hallucinated and couldn’t eat properly during the exercise. After the exercise, he started using glasses, occasionally forgetting people’s names, and still suffers from some health issues.

It is no news that Nigerians run on the waves of trends. Sooner or later, the urgent desire to achieve a Guinness record would give way to a new trend, but before it does, the reward would have been reaped by the country and those who strategically participated, as long as we do not make a fool of ourselves to the world by engaging in frivolities and trivial records. Guinness World Records gives global recognition. The certificate issued is recognized internationally. This can be useful to expand your network, increase your fame, brand your product, and advance your career. Having a Guinness certificate in your resume would shine.

Let me offer unsolicited advice to the ambitious ones. The fame and the spotlight are inevitable if you play your cards well, televisions show, conferences, endorsements, public speaking, and brand promotions all wrapped within the ball, fame would be yours.  Achieving a Guinness Record is no small feat, and this would boost your confidence, gratifying you for achieving what no one else did. If the record is for a cause expect more focus to be given to the cause, the same if it is for a brand.

Since it is evident that achievement in Nigeria tends to have a ripple effect, achieving a Guinness Record might inspire another to achieve something similar. Active participation from Nigerians in the record highlights Nigeria on the world map as a country with diversity, talent, and creativity. It helps to foster a sense of pride and unity among Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora. This collective growth would give Nigeria international recognition making it an attractive place for tourist visit, which in turn generates economic value. In short, Nigeria benefits from every worthwhile Guinness Record that focuses attention on her, and she suffers from a gimmicky Guinness Record. Overall, the Guinness World Record should not be so important that it takes focus from more pressing issues in the country. Perception should not be replaced with reality.

As advice to all who are willing to listen, participating in the Guinness World Record is rewarding if the proper preliminary procedures are put in place. Strategic publicity and PR are inevitable, as well as a good and reputable sponsorship. Have a well-trained, determined team. A medical examination should be done before the exercise. Above all, the record proposed to be set should be for a meaningful cause that would reflect true achievement.

I have an idea for the ambitious: use the Atlantic Ocean to swim from Lagos to Houston!

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