The floods in Nigeria wreaked havoc and thousands of those affected are in temporary camps and are still trying to get their lives back again. Recently, something happened in Warri that again proved why that place is the undisputed Comedy Capital of Nigeria; there was ‘Garri Panic’! As scary as it may sound, it was actually a really funny period, albeit a short one.
So I was at the salon on my street, getting my hair ‘did’ when I noticed different people passing, with bags/sacks of garri. When I saw the first person, of course I didn’t think anything of it, after all wetin concern me with another woman sack of garri? But when it became a steady stream of garri sacks ‘marching’ past, I had to pay a closer attention. I had to ask questions, biko! It all looked so strange, like the world was coming to an end or something. Garri sacks were filing past on heads, shoulders, wheelbarrows, bikes and cars. It was an interesting sight. When I asked what was happening, I was told the flood was causing the price to skyrocket; and ‘humans’ were in a hurry to buy as much as they could before the price ‘space-rockets’. A bowl of garri that sold for N350 or N400 was selling for between N1200 to N1500. Everyone was in a hurry to buy garri. Garri sellers were having fun and making ‘madt’ sales. Even those that had bought theirs cheap and had only just found out about the hike, yanked up the price of ‘their’ garri. Women rushed about either to the market or to nearby garri sellers to buy in large quantities. Some of those women bought garri on credit.
One lady, pastor’s widow hoarded her garri and ‘codedly’ sold for N 1300 to select customers. Some sniggered, “See wetin pastor wife dey do?” Others supported her, after all, “na widow she be”. Mama Isi was unaware of the sudden price hike. She was happily selling her garri at N400 and thought that the steady and continuous stream of customers into her shop buying garri was nothing short of divine favour; she was probably rehearsing her testimony for Sunday’s church service. In fact she was so happy measuring out garri and collecting N400 for each bowl that she sold all the garri she had, forgetting that she had none left at home for her family’s dinner that evening. The funny thing was that, it was upon her arrival home that evening that she heard of the garri price hike; she had gone to buy garri and was told it was N1000!
In those few days of the madness, almost everybody became a garri seller. Some women who had never sold anything in their lives, jumped into the business. Many women were in a rush to get to the villages where garri was made so that they could buy at cheaper rates before the innocent villagers got wind of the situation. It seemed like the further one went, the better the chances of buying ridiculously cheap garri. One lady who wasn’t even a garri seller jumped into a boat and headed for unfamiliar territories. She succeeded in buying sacks of garri and on the way back, there was an accident; the boat capsized and both garri and humans landed in the water. Some of the passengers couldn’t swim and tragically lost their lives. This lady though was very fortunate to have survived, but without her precious garri.
The price was however back to normal within the week. Many who had bought the precious commodity in bulk, and at an expensive price were at a loss (on both ends) at what to do with their ‘plenty’ garri, because obviously not too many people were interested in buying garri because they still had more than enough at home. Usually garri cannot be stored for that long, especially in damp conditions and I am a little curious to know what would become of all the excess garri. I have visions of people sneaking to refuse dumps and stealthily but hurriedly dumping sacks of bad garri before running away. OMG, LOL…what a sight it would be!