How does it feel to be claimed by an ethnic group when you were created to belong to nobody and everybody? In this week’s Interview With, Pepper sits with us to discuss its experience in the hands of Yoruba people.
Zikoko: It’s nice to have you here.
Pepper: I’m not sure I can say the same.
Listen, if I had my way, I would not even do this interview at all, but my agent thinks it’s important. That’s why I said let me take a short break from all my hard labour and come here.
Even now, as I’m sitting here, I can hear the anguished cry of some Yoruba people who think I have disappeared from the surface of the earth.
This is a lot to unpack.
What I have experienced in the hands of Yoruba people is a lot to unpack. That’s why I am not even bothering to unpack it again.
Okay now you have mentioned a name. We are making progress. Can you tell me what your relationship is like with Yoruba people?
We are unequally yoked, me and Yoruba people. It is a parasitic relationship.
Who is the parasite and who is the host?
I am the host, and Yorubas are the parasite. Quote me anywhere, I will stand by my words and tell anybody that I said it.
When I was created, I was made without an ethnic group in my mind. God said, “Pepper, I have made you to add flavour to the lives of the people I am about to create.”
I was made to belong to nobody and everybody.
The Yorubas tasted me and started plotting how to make me their birthright. And given how people now associate me with them, you can see that they have succeeded.
Other ethnic groups use me with caution, almost as if they are scared of Yoruba people catching them in the act. They use me in stew, and it’s like I’m not even there at all. Only tomatoes choking me and erasing my presence. Hausas just need to make small powder out of me for suya, and they are satisfied.
But you see Yorubas? [shakes head in regret] They don’t use me to cook food. They use food to cook me.
I’m not sure I understand.
Let me ask you a question. When you want to cook noodles, what should be more?
Good. Let a Yoruba person cook me. N100 pepper for N50 noodles. I sometimes wonder, if you want to eat pepper, just say so. Don’t use noodles to disguise.
Can you point out a particular reason for this—
Whatever you want to call it.
Frankly, I don’t know. But I think their cultural myths have a role to play in this. It is in Yorubaland I heard that anyone who does not eat pepper is a weak soul.
Yes oh. Apparently, they believe that they are prone to a number of ailments and maybe death if they don’t eat me. It is why most Yoruba people cannot survive in foreign countries.
They say Abuja people are addicted to cocaine. But you see Yoruba people? Pepper is like cocaine for them. Deprive them of it for three months and see how they will become something else.
It used to bother me. A lot. But at one point I’ve just decided to surrender. I looked upon Yoruba people and thought, “Nah. These ones are beyond redemption.”
Can you point out the moment you made that decision?
Frankly, I think every moment in my life has been leading up to that final moment. Because each time I think Yoruba people can’t go any lower, they dig even deeper.
The first shocker for me when they called me and said, ‘Oya stand well. As from next month, we will be putting you inside a biscuit for small children.’ This was late in the 90s going to early 2000s.
What biscuit was that?
I was surprised. How did the board of investors allow a Yoruba man to pitch the idea of putting me, fresh pepper, inside biscuits for young children. How?
I thought Pepper Snack would be the end of my inclusion into branded products. Apparently, I was wrong. Almost two decades later, another Yoruba man showed his hand on the board of Minimie chin chin.
How did you feel about it?
How else was I supposed to feel? They have been putting me in chin chin unofficially. Even in puff puff and pancakes and akara. I just underestimated their ability to take it to a professional scale.
One day, a Yoruba person will blow on a global level, and it will be for an invention related to pepper. Mark my words.
Why do you say that?
As we speak right now, a Yoruba person is planning how to include me in cake.
I raise you this man.
Wait, he’s not done.
Can I say the truth?
I don’t mind the idea. Imagine red velvet cake with slices of red pepper peeking out. The taste.
Wait a minute. What’s your name?
Um, why are you asking?
Answer me first. It’s important.
Kunle. My name is Kunle.
Oh, I should have known.
You are an opp. And I was here, pouring my heart out to you.
No, wait oh.
Please. Let me go before you eat me.
[Pepper walks off in disgust].
Check back every Friday by 9am for new stories in the Interview With… series. Read older interviews here.
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