Ms Abbott responds...
see previous postsHey AbbottHey Abbott Pt 2
Member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington
HOUSE OF COMMONS, LONDON SW1A 0AA
24 Answering Service: (020) 7219 3000 Parliamentary Telephone: (020) 7219 4426
E-mail address: email@example.com Parliamentary Facsimile: (020) 7219 4964
18 May 2006
You contacted me about an article I wrote for a Jamaican newspaper about Nigeria. First let me apologise for taking so long to respond. We had local elections in Hackney at the beginning of this month and the campaign took up a great deal of my time.
Obviously I am sorry if my article caused offence. That certainly was not my intention. I realise that the title was quite provocative. But you will appreciate that I am not personally responsible for that.
But I am a little baffled by the response to the article. I wrote it after my second visit to Nigeria in the past six months. In preparation for both those visits I read widely about Nigeria. The issues that I raised in my article were: the fragility of Nigeria's democracy, corruption, religious strife in the North and the tragic situation in the Niger Delta due to oil pollution and the activities of Shell and other oil companies. And I know from my reading and research that these issues have been written about extensively by politicians, academics and journalists. Some of the judgements I have read from serious political scientists have been much harsher on Nigeria than anything in my article. So I could not have expected that, by merely discussing these issues, I would have excited the vitriolic response that I did.
Many people have taken offence at the comparison with Jamaica and speculated as to why I did not mention Jamaica's own serious problems with crime and violence. But the article is just one column from the regular weekly columns that I write for the paper. In other columns I have discussed at length Jamaica's own problems. The comparison with Jamaica was not meant to be slighting to Nigeria, but merely to engage the interest of Jamaican readers.
One of the issues that I raised was the attempt to alter the constitution to allow President Obasanjo to serve a third term. This was raised with me everywhere I went in Nigeria. After all my discussions I came to the conclusion that this would have undermined democracy in Nigeria so I was pleased to see that the Senate has voted the proposal down. But I do not see how it helps those struggling in Nigeria on this, and other human rights issues, to pour abuse on anyone who tries to discuss them.
The most important thing is that I was criticising the Nigerian government and multi-national corporations, I was not attacking the ordinary people of Nigeria.
I am disturbed by how quickly some of my correspondents have assumed that I am anti-Nigerian and responded with an anti-Jamaican diatribe. I have been a political activist in Britain for thirty years. Everybody who knows me understands that the last thing that I am is anti-African.
However I have had some supportive letters from Nigerians. One of them quoted from the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. I will leave you with this quote that comes from his novel "The Trouble with Nigeria"
"Quite clearly, patriotism is not going to be easy or comfortable in a country as badly run as Nigeria is. And this is not made any easier by the fact that no matter how badly a country may be run, there will always be some people whose personal, selfish interests are, in the short term at least, well served by the mismanagement and the social inequities…. Naturally, they will be extremely loud in their adulation of the country and its system and will be anxious to pass themselves off as patriots and to vilify those who disagree with them as troublemakers or even traitors. But doomed is the nation which permits such people to define patriotism for it"
With all best wishes
Diane Abbott MP
No wonder Ms Abbott is concerned even The Guardian has an article about it and an interesting quote from moi
"Another British Nigerian, in south London, wrote: 'We intend to mobilise and inform Nigerians in her constituency that she only represents the interests of "Jamaicans" and not of other nationalities."
'Think Jamaica is bad? Try Nigeria ... ' How Diane Abbott enraged a community
"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself." ~ Harvey Fiersteinget involved by sponsoring an African child today: