HE M. Yves GAUDEUL
Ambassador of France to Nigeria
on the occasion of the inauguration of Radio France Internationale’s service in Hausa language, based in Lagos, in conjunction with Voice of Nigeria
December 8, 2007
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I wish to thank you for giving me the honour of being with you today on the occasion of the commissioning of the Hausa language RFI studios. The project is within the framework of the cooperation efforts between Voice of Nigeria and Radio France Internationale. This is a clear indication of the direction and spirit in which France intends to work for development, through exchange and partnership.
With its Hausa language programmes, RFI aims at widening its horizon in terms of audience and taking “the diversity of French opinions”, and not France’s official views only, to the whole world. Although RFI is a state-owned radio station, funded mainly by the government, it is an independent radio station, which lends it credibility. By broadcasting in Hausa, RFI is reporting the social, cultural and political reality of those who have Hausa as a common language. In the same vein, this international radio station is bringing France’s outlook on the world to its Hausa audience, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect.
This respect for Hausa people is the attitude I have adopted since my arrival in your great country, Nigeria, four years ago. It stands to reason that Hausa culture deserves this respect. This has translated into a cooperation project with the University of Zaria and IFRA which aims to promote studies on contemporary societies in the North and to help Nigerian researchers in their investigations. It goes without saying that increasing the prestige of the Hausa language, in its oral and written forms, is part and parcel of the activities at the university.
Our interest in Hausa culture goes beyond that. What I intend to do today is to support the preservation of the Hausa cultural heritage. I am thinking especially about the rich written archives of the Kano Empire, some of which date back to the 10th century. In the first instance, we could provide support by sending an expert in archive preservation to assess the heritage and the needs in terms of preservation.
French interest in Northern Nigeria and its people can also be seen in our support to rural dwellers and farmers’ associations. I am referring to the ADENI (Agricultural Development in Nigeria) Project which is supported by NAERLS (National Agricultural Extension and Research) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
I cannot but talk about the network of three “Alliances Françaises” in Kano, Kaduna and Maiduguri. These are Franco-Nigerian centres that meet the expectations and interest of those who wish to learn the French language and acquire more knowledge about Francophone countries and cultures. The “Alliances Françaises” are also a means of promoting cultural exchange. In this regard, Alliance Française, Kano, organizes, every year, in January a music festival that features Hausa music. The next edition is scheduled for January 25 to 27, 2008 and I am sure that RFI will cover the event. The festival brings together Nigerian artists as well as artists from neighbouring countries and France.
Hausa music was also promoted in France with performances by three musical bands that were sent to France, two years ago, for the 9th ‘Festival de l’Imaginaire’, organized by Maison des Cultures du Monde.
When I talk about respect for Hausa people, I also refer to respect for their religious biliefs, notably Islam. France, like Nigeria, is a country with different populations and several religions. This respect for diversity shows that we are a secular country. In France, over 4 million people are Muslims and Islam is today the second religion, after Catholicism.
Of course, France has never been indifferent to the Islamic world. Rather, it works for dialogue and exchange when there is tension here and there. France has never been one of the countries that believe, wrongly, that Islam is responsible for terrorism.
Today, France has very close relationships with Arab countries and is working towards finding solutions for lasting peace. The situation is the same in the Near East where France is striving for the creation of a Palestinian State that lives peacefully alongside Israel.
All these upheavals and tension in the world are reported “daily” by RFI, with a concern for a balance in opinions. I am amazed by Africans’ high interest in world events. Every day, and everywhere, we can see people who are glued to their radio sets. There is also a lot of interest in the media and I know that the Hausa audience is keenly interested in news programmes and other programmes in Hausa broadcast by international radio stations, including “Voice of Nigeria”.
I wish to thank V.O.N. through Mallam Jijiwa, its Director General, for agreeing to work closely with RFI. The fact that the RFI permanent Hausa team was welcome is a very good example of cooperation. This is a project that we encouraged and supported right from the beginning, especially through the exchange of journalists of both radio stations.
From the start, we knew that such a partnership would require a concerted effort. The willingness and enthusiasm demonstrated by both parties have enabled us to overcome unpredictable but fortunately temporary obstacles. At this juncture, I would like to seize the opportunity to pay tribute to the Director of VON, the staff, the journalists, the technicians and most particularly to Mrs Lanni Smith, the project coordinator, who has relentlessly dedicated herself to the launching of RFI radio programmes in Hausa since she arrived in Lagos last year.
I wish the Lagos RFI team every success in their efforts and endeavours!