“Oga, make I add the kpomo?”
“Yes na. Why you do like say na today I start to come chop for here?”
“Ok Oga. Your money go kon be N500 be that o.”
“Bros, haba na! Nor be chicken I say ake you put o, na kpomo I talk. The kpomo with this jollof and dodo suppose be N250 na.”
“Oga, nor be our fault, na kpomo wey don dey cost so.”
I couldn’t help but stare in disbelief as I observed this conversation between customer and food-seller while waiting to take my order at this canteen (yes, there are days when bachelors get too busy or tired to hit the kitchen). For a moment I thought I was deep in the interior parts of Ogbeogonogo Market located in the capital city of my home state, haggling over the price of “ogbono” seeds, which were forbidden by the natives (for traditional reasons) and consequently sold at Black Market price. Well that wasn’t the case. In reality I was over three hundred miles away from that market, witnessing the price of consumable cow skin (popularly known as “kpomo” in these parts) influence the price of a meal so much that the buyer was about to cough out double the amount usually paid. It wasn’t the fault of the canteen owners though. They were only reacting to new prices slammed on the commodity by the guys from the abattoir, who were in turn reacting to some really disturbing news from “Oga at the top dem.” Yes, they had probably heard reports of the Federal Government’s plan to put a stop to the sale and consumption of cow hides and skin, for the purpose of “fetching a higher dollar”, and probably channelling more of the same into the manufacture of leather products.
What sounded like an expensive joke at first eventually gained momentum, and when early this week citizens caught wind of the grim reality that was staring them in the face, they took to the major social networks to express their frustration. A friend of mine updated his Blackberry Personal Message thus: “#PonmoMustStay #PonmoOverLeather . I have a fundamental right to ‘Efo riro’ and ‘Ponmo’.”
And on the Twitter-sphere, aggrieved citizens whipped out hashtags like #KpomoForLife , #KpomoOverIphone6 , #LeaveOurKpomoAlone , #GovtNeverLovedUs and #BringBackOurKpomo. Obvious expressions of despair, and who can blame them? For the average Nigerian, it appears that the government wishes to deprive them of their right to consume “Kpomo”; a commodity they all know and love, a regular feature in many cooking pots across the country, a financially convenient alternative to fish or chicken, and a real “stomachful” when effectively combined with other parts of that lunch menu.
Beyond all the public disapproval, this decision which the Federal is potentially set to take (that is, if the reports are true) beats me. Sure enough, cow hides and skin are potential income generators, but should that be done at the expense of our pots of soup and stew? Should profit be emphasised over survival? This proposed directive can be likened to an attempt to ban the tapping of palm wine because the trees produce palm oil which would be more profitable as a sale/export commodity. Really, the logic is questionable. If cattle were primary vectors of the Ebola virus, or had become endangered species as a result of excessive consumption, the reason adduced by the government for such a drastic step would have been valid, but that is by no means the case. A number of questions arise from this development. Does everyone go for leather bags or shoes? How many can even conveniently afford leather? Is it right for the mother to take food items to the market for sale while the child yet suffers from hunger pangs? Yes, the marginal value of cow skin as meat is little, but we the citizens love it that way. Besides, it does our pockets a lot of good. Stopping the consumption of Kpomo is like telling us to stop letting garri swim in water (whether or not in the company of sugar) just because of its low nutrient content, as compared to when it’s rolled up and pushed to navigate through a plate of soup. Kpomo over shoes and bags, I say! I refuse to let the government mess with my diet!
I was too aggrieved at this development to address the issue alone, so I brought along two friends to equally add their own two kobo. With me here are Kevin Osasumwen and Tina Idialu, and they are willing to serve us with their unique take of the Kpomo crisis.
[The following conversation may contain lines which are unsuitable for those with sensitive thoughts and an extremely wide sense of imagination. Reader’s discretion is advised.]
KEVIN: You see, what Jona is doing? Of all things to clamp down on, it’s Kpomo! Ah, so there will be no Kpomo when I order “Ewa ati Dodo”? Or when I want to eat “abacha”? No, FG no o!!
TINA: Damn, I never knew people loved Kpomo as much as I do. Kev, take it easy ehn….
KEVIN: You should have been there when I called my mother today. You could literally feel and touch the rage in her voice………Haba, Kpomo!!! I chew Kpomo! I lick Kpomo! Damn, I suck Kpomo!!!!
TINA: Hmm….this one that you are licking and sucking Kpomo, I really hope we’re still talking about Kpomo here.
KEVIN: I dey suck Kpomo na…..all those red spots you see when it’s served up? I can’t leave them untended.
TINA: But concentrating only on the red spots won’t give you the desired taste from the Kpomo na. You could nibble on the inner flesh too before you lick around the red spots….. *chuckling*
KEVIN: Sure….glide the tongue up and down the kpomo before licking, so the full taste comes out, and whatever liquid that is present in the Kpomo would be felt.
TINA: Kev! You are naughty o
KEVIN: Coming from the one who just gave a tutorial on effective Kpomo licking, well…..
TINA: Well I hardly lick my Kpomo…….I like it a bit hard, so I can suck on it a while, roll it around the tongue to savour the taste, then chew lightly….very very lightly.
KEVIN: There are those ladies who go on to treat Kpomo like a chewing stick, depending on how hard when served……well I do mine slowly; concentrate on a few angles, my mouth could go at the Kpomo sideways or upwards, but in the end no part is unattended.
TINA: Hmmmmm…..that’s, err……really thorough.
KEVIN: There was the day the inner part of my tongue got swollen……I cherish my Kpomo like that. All that’s required is a clean source.
TINA: *giggling*……Dude, but it’s still meat we are talking about, right?
KEVIN: So you do concentrate on the edges, or you take up all at once while chewing the meat?
TINA: Well it depends on the make-up of the Kpomo. You know, shape, size and texture……I like to do “mouth-teasing”, little light nips here and there, usually so I’d get the feel.
KEVIN: Sure enough, size is key…..and then again, speed is usually detrimental to effective chewing…..of the meat, that is. Never chew fast. A little wiggle sideways like a gearstick is nice too.
TINA: Yeah, but there’s the feeling that comes with increasing the velocity of the chew. You do have to speed up the tempo a bit.
KEVIN: For me, the chewing is circular, then up and down, then sideways slowly…..of course, a little speed for the juicy effect of the Kpomo.
TINA: Not quite sure of what you are describing……but it still fits.
KEVIN: Nothing like fresh Kpomo, freshly washed, perfectly oiled……and I like the reddish ones, not too reddish too….with most of the cow hair skinned out, and a smooth outer layer.
TINA: Hmmmm…..you are really into Kpomo o. I really admire your passion. Maybe one of these days you could stop by at my house, so I could serve you up with some, I’d really love to see how you chew it up and……
CHI: Alright, alright, thank you both for your very unique contribution. It’s been, err, fun to imagine and take in. (To audience) I had brought them here for a serious discussion on the Kpomo crisis, but then along the line I was no longer sure of what they were talking about. Well that depends on where your mind was going, because it’s a perverted world we live in these days.
Yea, it’s a world where everything these days comes with some sort of sexual innuendo. When I was a kid, 69 was just a number that came before 70, “head” was just a body part, “come” meant nothing more than getting to a particular place, and females didn’t exactly share the name of a vital organ with a domestic animal. People’s minds are so warped these days, that “Kpomo” just has to mean something else. It just sums up the nature of the times we are in: our values are in disarray, our security is under constant threat, our spiritual role models have troubled private lives, and even our diet is now endangered, yea, that Kpomo we all love to get our mouths on.
To those whose minds could hold out until this point, thanks for stopping by, and never pass up the chance to chew on that Kpomo…..I’m talking about the meat.
(For the sake of privacy, the guests have requested that all information about them be withheld.)
Follow the author on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur.