Mrs. Abacha goes back to School

Posted by By at 4 February, at 08 : 46 AM Print

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/alaye/public_html/wp-content/themes/Video/single_blog.php on line 46

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/alaye/public_html/wp-content/themes/Video/single_blog.php on line 56

From my archives


After reading that the wife of Nigerian strongman, Mrs. Mariam Abacha, and other top military guns have enrolled in crash French courses, I decided to find out what gives. Two frustrating days of dialing, re-dialing and I finally got Abuja.

“Mademoiselle Abacha’s Ville. Que je t’aide?” A sing-song voice asked me.

“Is that the office of Mrs. Abacha?” I cried, trying to make myself heard over the bad line.

“Oui, monsieur. What can we do for you?” The lady replied, again in French.

Why did a secretary of Nigeria leader’s wife choose to speak French? English, as far as I know, is Nigeria government’s language, while Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba are recognized official languages.

“Ba naji Hausa?” I queried the lady. At least, her heavy accent didn’t sound remotely European.

“Ina ji so se.” I understand and speak Hausa very well. She replied in flawless Hausa. “What can we do for you.” She lapsed back into French.

“Kedu. Do you speak Igbo?” I tried Igbo.

“No problem on that one sir.” She replied in accentless Igbo. “How can we be of help to you, sir?” She asked, once again in French.

“Se e gbo Yoruba?” I asked in Yoruba.

“Omo Yoruba ni mi.” She told me that she’s a Yoruba lady. She promptly changed back to French, asking me how they could be of help to me.

“Do you really mean that I can no longer hold a conversation with an employee of the Nigerian government except in French?”

“Not my doing sir,” the lady crooned. “The powers decide, we just obey. If the ogas (masters) say that French it should be, French it will be. I’ll do anything to keep my job. Yes, yes, sir. I will speak Malay if they say so. Even Tahiti will pose no problem, sir. I will even go Dutch if they say so. You and I know say country hard. Naija no be like before. You won’t know how much it cost me to get this job, I don’t mean financially alone, sir.

“What is the whole purpose of this French policy, we are not even on good diplomatic ties with France?”

“Don’t ask me, sir. I am just an ordinary civil servant. We carry out policies, we don’t make them.”

“Why does Mrs. Abacha want to learn French?”

“I am not at liberty to discuss national security, sir.”

“Since when has the language the wife of a head of state speaks becomes National Security?”

‘Since when the powers said it has.” She replied hastily.

“Why French, in the name of Orunmila?” I cried in exasperation.

“Why not French, sir. What have you got against French? Don’t you know that all our neighbours are French-Speaking? Don’t you think it will bode well for our diplomatic stature if the wife of our president can converse easily with foreign leaders in the language of Voltaire? Can you consider the prestige the nation will accrue if our First Lady could serve as our leader’s interpreter in the Champ Elysee? Yes, yes, sir, the positive clearly outweigh the minuses?” She replied with a laugh.

I was not amused. “The Nigerian Foreign Affairs ministry boast of a number of competent interpreters, why should it become the business of the wife of the President to interpret? Won’t that be too cheapening Won’t that put many of our fine interpreters out of job?”

“I was just making a point sir. I didn’t say that Mrs. President would always be playing the interpreter. But now and then, when the situ gets tricky, don’t you think that a proper interjection by our First Lady in the host’s own language can thaw a diplomatic chill?”

“Oh, I see,” I said, not sure what I saw. I doubt if the French, who are ever so particular about their language, would appreciate the Generalissimo’s wife primary school-level French. “But is it true that Mrs. Abacha has directed all the wives of the top military guns to start learning French?”

“I am permitted to discuss National Sec.” I cut her short, ” Yes, or no?” I demanded.

In a voice laced with agony, she replied, “That’s patently not fair. Why are you attributing dictatorial tendencies to such fine woman? The First Lady gave no such direction. She’ll be the last person on this fine earth to give such an order, even if the constitution permits her.”

“What constitution, I thought her hubby is the constitution, ah, ah, ah!” I laughed.

She didn’t find me humorous and cautioned me in Yoruba: “I’ll be careful if I were you. About five to ten different security agencies are monitoring this call.”

“Sorry to put you on the spot, my sister. But I was just thinking why our leaders (even if they imposed themselves upon us) and their wives cannot get their priorities right. It took me two solid days to get this phone connection. And we call ourselves the giant of Africa. I can call Ghana from anywhere in this world. Instead of learning another colonial language, why can’t Mrs. Abacha put her considerable influence to use by helping to improve our, let’s say, telecommunications system, which is austere even by Africa’s standard. That’s not all, my sister. Very few of our Universities can boast of a decent laboratory or a library. Our so-called Teaching Hospitals are glorified dispensaries. Our road-networks are in sorry state. Most of our industries are operating at ten percents of installed capacity. We produce oil, but there is a riot every now and then over fuel- scarcity. We need the Asians to send us rice. We rely on British mad cows for meat. Few of our citizens can boast of decent drinking water. We cannot even provide electricity to keep our towns and cities running. All our public utilities are pre-historic. Our problems are so numerous that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface, yet our first lady took as a priority the learning of French. Why is the learning of French more important, to those who make it their business to rule us than getting food on our tables, than getting us adequate shelter, than getting our children to schools (even indecent ones)? I ask you, my sister, why are we so enamored with the French language?”

She again cautioned me in Yoruba, this time the agencies monitoring the call has increased to fifteen. I was undaunted.

With great passion, I cried: “What has France got to offer us? This is a country that has done its damnedest to destroy Africa wherever it can. Point to anywhere on the continent of Africa where there is strife, France is at the forefront. Without France bestial intervention, a million Rwandans might still be alive today. Without France support, Mobutu would have been history long ago. Without France divide-and-conquer tactics, African unity would have become a reality today. Tell me, my sister, who’s stoking the fire at Bakassi? As soon as Nigeria and Cameroun started saber-rattling, was it not France that immediately took sides and rushed military assistance?” There was static on the line, I’d to bellow at top voice to make myself heard.

She obviously was not impressed. In a voice that would have been admired by many radio announcers, she told me: “I am not allowed to discuss geopolitical issues.”

“Geopolitical issues!” I vibrated. “What issues, if any, are you allowed to discuss then? Armed robbers, both legal (read, police) and illegal have taken over our roads. There is a sense of general insecurity. We cannot walk safely on the streets; we cannot sleep soundly in our beds. Lagos has become a virtual Algeria, yet our leaders are learning French. How would that help us?”

She threw national security in my face, “I am not at liberty to discuss national security matters.”

“What issues is a PR woman allowed to discuss? I ask why our Pres’ wife is going French, national security forbade you from discussing it. I ask why the wife of our leader is choosing to learn French instead of getting us water to drink, you are hemmed by a law on geopolitics.”

She hurled freedom at me. “Actually, I don’t know what is agitating you. As a free citizen of our great country, Mrs. Abacha is, constitutionally, at liberty to learn any language she chooses.”

I cut her short. “What Mrs. Abacha chooses to do with her time is her prerogative. When, however, she makes a public pronouncement, they become public matters.



About the Author 

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

  1. Freedom Bookshop, near Apollo Theatre, Accra.
  2. WEB Dubois Pan-African Centre, Accra
  3. Ghana Writers Association office, PAWA House, Roman Ridge, Accra.
  4. Afia Beach Hotel, Accra

Where to buy them online:

On Lulu Books:

18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories

Ghana: Basic Facts + More:

Africa: Destroyed by the gods:

Africa: It shall be well:


Africa: it shall be well

on Kindle books:

on Amazon books:

on Lulu Books:

Africa: Destroyed by the gods

on Kindle books:


18 African Fables & Short Stories:


on Amazon books:

on Lulu Books:

 My Lulu Books page:


Get free promotional materials here:

  1. Africa: it shall be well:

A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: It shall be well’ can be downloaded here:

  1. Africa: Destroyed by the gods (How religiosity destroyed Africa)

A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: Destroyed by the gods’ can be downloaded here:

Read a review here

Femi’s Blog:
Websites: ;
Femi on Amazon
Femi Akomolafe’s Lulu Books page:
YouTube Channel:
Profile on New African magazine:


Facebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeby feather

Blog, News, Polemics, Random Musings, Satire , , , , , ,

Related Posts

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Support us with your Paypal Donations