American ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle, has scored something on the scale of a diplomatic bulls-eye on account of a radio interview he gave in Lagos early in the week to the Pidgin English station, Wazobia FM.
Media assessment indicates that Mr. Entwistle’s performance is creating a buzz in Lagos where Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Ghanaian journalist and broadcaster for the American National Public Radio, NPR, reported that Mr. Entwistle wowed his listeners not so much on account of “the content of the interview or the pressing issues the ambassador discussed” but for the language he chose to render his interview: pidgin English, Nigeria’s unofficial lingua franca.
Pidgin English, is the popular lingua franca spoken throughout West Africa. It is spoken by about 5 million Nigerians as a first language and some 75 million as a second language according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
Same Sex Legislation:
NPR quoted Mr. Entwistle as saying “Sometimes as a diplomat you get stuck in this government-dealing-with-government rut,” adding, “You have to remember that your job is also to get out and understand the country and the people.”
So when Mr. Entwistle was asked about Nigeria’s controversial new anti-gay legislation and whether the U.S. might impose sanctions, he replied in pidgin English saying: “The U.S. government no say sanction go dey for Nigeria, because of same-sex palava-o.” In standard English this means, the U.S. is not going to impose sanctions on Nigeria for passing a law criminalizing same-sex marriages.
The same-sex legislation, recently signed into law by President Jonathan, has been a point of intense contention in Nigeria, polarising the civil society that is generally opposed to it against a broad section of the populace mostly of the faith community.
Street opinion suggested that the legislation was, in part, to spite on America and its western allies who spoke harshly against the law and sought to abuse what was thought to be the “purity of African culture.”
2015 General Elections:
Ambassador Entwistle also spoke on the forthcoming elections, using the opportunity of the wide-reach of the station to lay what many will presume is the template of the expectations of the international community in the coming elections.
Here is what he told Lolo Omotunde of Wazobia FM:
First make I tell you say US, no get any candidate for mind. De only thing wey go sweet us be say make the election be transparent, and credible.
Make Nigerians pick candidate wey go sweet deer belle, wey go do well well for dem. Nigerian people I wan tell you sey make you vote for good people.
In Standard English this is what he said:
First let me clear the air by saying the United States has no favoured candidate in this coming election. The one thing that will please us however is for the elections to be transparent and credible.
It will be a great idea too for Nigerians to pick the candidate of their choice, and I will implore voters to honour their votes by voting wisely for the candidate of their choice.
Beyond the diplomatic maze:
Foreign diplomats infrequently appear on Nigerian broadcast media and Mr. Entwistle’s pidgin example and performance was a first by all accounts. In the eighties, another American ambassador, Princeton Lyman, used to cast in local drama performances with Nigerian actors.
NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton quoted Omotunde who interviewed Ambassador Entwistles as saying: “He sold himself into the hearts of many Nigerians,” adding: “That’s quite a plus for the American Embassy.”
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