I want to tell you about my good friend, Lilian Ifemeludike. We went to secondary school together in Nigeria (St. Louis College, Jos). I don’t remember if we were always in the same classroom, but we were in the same class, and as time went on, we got to know each other more.
Although Lilian and I were not BFFs, we did know each other well enough. She was always that girl – the one who was obviously open to things beyond her. Young and naive (and listening too much to my boy cousin who in hindsight did not know much), I thought that having an open mind like Lilian was a bad thing. She just always seemed like she knew there was a life and a world beyond us and she was willing to live it. I should have known that my cousin did not know what he was talking about; he was, after all, the one who told me that women’s breasts only grow after a man played with them. This was in response to my worry that I did not have breasts. He commended me for not having breasts because it proved that I was still a virgin, a good girl. I digress.
Lilian was different. I left Nigeria in 2000, and since then, I had neither seen nor spoken to Lilian, until last year when she came to America and we spoke like we hadn’t missed a 15-year long beat. And she told me about all her plans, including a book she wrote in French. That’s right, French. Meanwhile, Vera Ezimora is yet to complete a book in English, the language she actually speaks most.
Lilian has finally published her book, and she launched it at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. The book is called, J’apprends Avec Mes Amis (I’m Learning With My Friends). Like my daddy would say, there were several “people of personality” present at the launch. Like the Honorable Commissioner for Education of Lagos State (represented by Mrs Sewanu Ayodele Amosu), Her Excellency, The wife of the Executive Governor of Lagos State (represented by Mrs Olufunke Kofo-Abayomi), the wife of the Executive Governor of Anambra State (duly represented), the Director and the Cultural Consular of Alliance Française, the President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the CEO Franco-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
There were also several children from several primary and secondary schools across Lagos State who got copies of the book. AirFrance Nigeria and SevenUp Bottling Company provided lots of fun gifts to the children. J’apprends Avec Mes Amis was written for children to encourage the early learning of French in our schools.
To say that I am proud of my Lilian would be a gross understatement. Lilian, I’m raising a glass of milk to toast with you and in your name. I’m so proud of you, and I cannot wait to see what else you have in store. And you have to teach me some kind of French that is more than saying my name.