British Prince Charles has embraced one of his country’s colonial legacy in Africa during a visit to Nigeria, asking assembled dignitaries, “How you dey? (How are you?)”.
The Prince made the remark during a meeting with former heads of state, presidential candidates, leading politicians, and stars from the world of fashion, music and the arts, as part of his tour of The Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria, all British former colonies.
‘It is hard to believe that nearly 30 years have passed since I first came to this city,’ he added in a speech at the British Deputy High Commissioner’s residence, continuing, ‘As they say, “God don butta my bread” (God has blessed me),’ he said, praising the city for its dynamism and energy according to AFP.
Pidgin English is a language widely spoken in former British colonies in west and central Africa, including Anglophone Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana.
Although spoken by more than 240 million persons, Pidgin is not officially used in any of these countries. This is partly due to British marginalisation of its former colonies’ cultures and also the perpetuity of the illusion that British English is superior to Pidgin.
As UK seeks to reignite ties with its former colonials after BREXIT vote in 2016, British officials are trying to promote a new vision of British-Africa relations, recognising the dynamic changes that have occurred in the region since British departure.
During her visit to Kenya, UK Prime Minister Theresa May promised to strengthen British partnership with its former colonial territories after BREXIT. She added that ‘True partnerships are not about one party doing unto another, but states, governments, businesses and individuals working together in a responsible way to achieve common goals’.
Prince Charles decision to speak pidgin English in Africa may seem like a step towards British engaging with Africa, in a way different from the past, not limited to Africans embracing and appropriating British language and culture, but also British trying to speak Africa’s pidgin.