God Bless Iye Didi-Ikpolo, The Lokoja Road Side Food Vendor
By Odaudu Joel Minister
Lokoja is not only famed for the confluence of River Niger and River Benue but also the ever present road side food vendors who advertise steaming hot akara, fried yam, plantain, fish, etc, on tables and holler at residents and travelers passing through to patronize them.
These roadside food sellers and “mama put” joints have now become the unlikely superheroes of Lokoja town due to the critical role they now play in keeping hunger at bay. They are the Avengers of Hunger in Lokoja town right now. Óla ejumomi.
In the current hardship, “óbata ókpakoko” in Kogi state where salaries arrive as inconsistently as the speed of Glo network, the residents who are mostly directly or indirectly dependent on salaries from the government have turned to roadside food vendors for sustenance at the rate that is all time high. They go their mostly for cheaper foods and to buy on credit until the time they ever see the August Visitor called salary. Even people who hitherto did not patronize roadside food vendors as such have become ‘customer dada’ because the hardship now forces them to turn to cheaper alternative – where they can also buy “until the end of the month”.
Since “constant payment of salaries” has made it so difficult for civil servants to buy good food stuffs from big supermarkets to satisfy their stomachs with good food, God bless Iye Didi-Ikpolo, whose fried yam, akara and akamu to match has become a formidable saver of hungry souls in Lokoja.
Iye Didi-Ikpolo sells fried yam (didi, as it is called in Igala language), akara and akamu, alongside fried fish and roasted plantain, a delicacy myriad of Lokoja people love.
She fries her “didi” and akara every evening at the well known and ever busy Ganaja junction, located right in the nucleus of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
During my last visit to Lokoja in April, I stopped over at her “mama put” stand to enjoy her “didi” and akamu. I had a tin of peak milk which I bought from one of the roadside “abokis”, pocketed, before walking down to Iye didi’s place. As I perforated and poured the milk on the very thick akamu I was served, I saw some takeaway packs beside her as she fries her yam and akara. I then asked myself: “Wetin carry takeaway packs come where dem dey fry yam and akara”? Awuwu no!
It was then I discovered that now in Lokoja, it is not only the fancy eateries and regular restaurants that uses take away packs, even akara and yam sellers on the roadside now have them to serve their unusual customers who hitherto rarely patronize them but have been blown their way by the hurricane of “regular payment of salaries” in Kogi State. Òjò ki m’uwa gba.
The above reality on the hyper-stringent economic climate in Kogi which I have trembled to ventilate is only true for the common man. The almighty Edward Onoja does not need Iye didi’s delicacy. Super Commissioner Asiwaju Idris Asiru does not need any food cooked and served from any “mama put”. Even the ever powerful Yakubu Okala and Ahmed Ododo who are not responsible for the pathetic situation of civil servants in the State but have always worked hard and ensured workers salaries are paid as and when due are not, and cannot be customers to Iye “didi’s fried yam, akara and akamu to match at Ganaja junction. Needless to say, such a “mama put” stand is meant only for middle and low income earners who the major consumers. Super-duper government appointees alluded above enjoys the pleasure of patronizing Seat of Wisdom Supermarket at Gadumo, and Chuks Supermarket opposite the Lokoja Post Office.
It is not unreasonable to assert that Kogi State Government owes these roadside food vendors a huge debt of gratitude for keeping the citizens of the capital alive and kicking. Try to imagine the devastation hunger would have caused without Lokoja liquidators of hunger.
God bless Iye Didi-Ikpolo, whose fried yam, akara and akamu to match has become a saver of hungry souls in Lokoja the Kogi State capital.
— Odaudu Joel Minister
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