U.S. ‘soft power’ diplomacy: Envoy tries tongue at Nigerian pidgin English


As a career diplomat he would be expected to be able to converse in several foreign languages, but it’s doubtful that Nigerian pidgin English would be one of them.

Yet the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria took to the airwaves to speak in the vernacular about the most pressing issues between the two nations, from gay rights and presidential elections to visa rules.

“Me I no talk say sanction go dey for Nigeria,” James F. Entwistle told presenter Oga Madam on a recent visit to Wazobia FM, the Lagos radio station that broadcasts entirely in the English-based patois.

“Make I repeat myself, the U.S. government no say sanction go dey for Nigeria because of same-sex palava o.”

In other words, the U.S. was not planning sanctions against Nigeria for passing a recent law banning same-sex marriages and civil partnerships despite the furor it has caused abroad.

Nor, he said, did Washington have a preferred candidate for next year’s elections, at which incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling party is expected to be pushed hard by the main opposition.

“First make I tell you say U.S. no get any candidate for mind,” he said, according to the weekly English-language newsmagazine Tell. “The only thing wey go sweet us be say make the election dey transparent, credible and concluded.”

The U.S. Consulate in Lagos confirmed in an email that the quotes attributed to the ambassador were correct.

“He knows a few words and phrases and received assistance from the staff to do the interview,” a spokeswoman added.