v dir="ltr">Okpa, the traditional eastern delicacy is gradually making its way into the hearts of Abuja residents, occupying the enviable position of most popular street snacks in the FCT.
From the satellite town, to the city center, the rich orange presence of Okpa is easily spotted along busy spots in Abuja, beckoning on addicts to have a taste of the local delicacy. To most lovers of this delicacy, a typical day only starts with their favorite Okpa taken with pap or soft drinks, to get the required energy for the day’s job.
Unlike pastry snacks which are mostly considered as junk and avoided by adults for their high calories and low source of energy, Opka is widely accepted for its rich source of energy and affordability, as 2 wraps of N100 worth of Okpa can sustain an able bodied man through the day.
Like Kilishi in the north, Okpa is no respecter of tribe and culture, as most Nigerians relish the local taste of bambara nut properly blended with the rich flavor of Nigerian palm oil.
And so like most cities in Nigeria, it is no longer surprising to find Okpa being hawked on most streets in Abuja like the federal secretariat, Wuse market, zone 4 junction, Beggar, Utako market, FCDA, motor parks, and other busy spots. For hawkers of this food, supply must always meet demand so as not to lose their loyal customers.
Although most hawkers have had their fair share of experience with officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, they insist on satisfying their customers’ desire for their favorite snack, especially since the business has been rewarding.
Before now those who traded in Okpa business are majorly from south eastern part of the country, but today the business has attracted many other people who also earn their livelihood from the sale of Okpa.
Some hawkers who spoke with METRO say they ventured into the business because it is not capital intensive, and also allows them time to take care of their families since Okpa is usually bought and consumed in the mornings. The business is said to be carried out between 6am and 12noon in Abuja Metropolis, after which the hawkers, who are mostly women, retire to their homes to cook for their families and also prepare for the next day’s business.
For Mrs. Chioma Nwogu, a widow who has been selling Okpa for the past seven years, the business has been a lucrative one, from which she has been able to fund her children’s education alone.
“I thank God for my life today, this business has kept me and my family out of hunger. It has provided shelter and other basic necessity of life for us. After I lost my husband, my neighbor who is doing this business introduced me into it. When I started this business, it was not easy for me because I have to wake up every 4am to prepare it, cook it and take it out to the street to sell. Initially I became discouraged, at a point I fell ill with all the stress involved in the business, but my friends and colleagues kept encouraging me. Today this Okpa has helped me train my children from primary to secondary school level and to crown it all, my first son is in two hundred level in UNN.”
Another trader Miss Rita Okewu, who spoke to our correspondent, lament reckless behavior of men of the AEPB task force, who chase hawkers of the streets not minding the risk of running into oncoming vehicles. She said it’s unfortunate that the task force pretends not to be aware of the harsh economic realities, instead they chase them even when they are in the confines of motor parks where they hardly constitute any form of disturbance.
Okewu however said she would carry on with the business since it helps sort some of her school needs. “I enjoy this business because it serve as an after school business for me and my siblings. Although it is not easy but I have learned how to handle the business with all passion, as the money I realize from sales of okpa goes a long to finance my studies and other family needs” she further debunked the notion that those involved in okpa business are wretched and an never do well in another business, saying she knows of an okpa trader who has built two houses from proceeds from the business.
“The truth of the matter is that, we are not poor or with poor knowledge of other business. Every business has its secret, people out there see us as people who are suffering but we are not. Anything you do in life is full of struggle but you cannot because of that stress and run away except if you don’t have defined target and determination to do it”.
Like the sellers, lovers of the delicacy also cuts across all social and economic divides, as those who understand the nutritional value of the delicacy, go all out to either to ensure their families enjoy these nutrient.
Miss Doris Uchenna, who plies her trade along Jabi Edo line, said her special okpa recipe has attracted customers from far and near, including the elites who make special request for her okpa. While describing the business as lucrative, Uchenne said the business has also made her build relationships, as some of her customers trust enough to place for orders of large quantity of okpa. “People who patronize us are not just the passerby, I have a specific customer who come with her Jeep to buy Okpa in large quantity. Most times she calls me to request for N3000 worth of okpa which she keeps in her refrigerator to be consumed whenever her family wants.”
Mr. Joel Odoh, a regular customer of the snack said, he picked up the craving for Okpa during his wife’s pregnancy a year ago and has found it difficult to stop since then.
Originally a delicacy from the eastern part of the country and some middle belt states, Okpa has gained national acceptance unifying the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria through its rich local flavor.
Made from dry bambara nuts, which are threshed to remove the peel before grounding into powder. The powder is then mixed with pepper and other spices, before wrapping into poly bags or banana leafs. Okpa unlike moi-moi, is best enjoyed when locally prepared devoid of much condiments, to allow for the natural aroma to tickle the nostrils of its consumers.
The health benefit of Okpa are enormous, as the legume is said to be high on protein and carbohydrate and low on cholesterol. Its chemical composition is similar to soy beans.