Is Dianne Abbott, MP, A Friend Of Nigeria?

by Uche Nworah

She is a successful black woman no doubt, a role model of sorts for most black women in the UK. Undeniably she has already secured her place in the history of UK politics as the first black woman to be elected into the UK parliament. She represents Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency, one of the poorer districts in inner London.

This daughter of immigrant Jamaican parents rode on the back of the ‘black vote’ to victory in 1987, by her own admission she owes much of her success to the support of Nigerians resident in her constituency. She was quoted to have remarked thus: “Nigeria has a very special place in my heart and I have so many friends there. My constituency in Hackney, East London, has the largest Nigerian population anywhere in the UK”. These remarks from their Member of Parliament (MP) will surely gladden the hearts of Nigerians living in Miss Abbott’s constituency, particularly Nigerians whose entrepreneurship drive the local Dalston market and contribute immensely to the local economy.

Dianne Abbott

It may seem however that the honourable MP does indeed have two faces; the real one has always landed the divorced mother of one son into controversy. Her decision to send her son to the £10,000 a year private City of London School was one of such. She herself later realised the folly of her decision which she described as “indefensible”. The controversy caused by her poor morals and leadership by example still haunts her till date. Her actions were seen by many in the UK as hypocritical because majority of her constituents live in poverty and school children attend under-performing and failing public schools, a situation she didn’t create but which she hasn’t really done much to change. According to the UK Guardian newspaper, Hackney North and Stoke Newington is “one of the most deprived areas in London with significant ethnic minority population”.

Dianne Abbott has now also shown Nigerians and by implication her many constituents her true face by her comments in a recent article she wrote for the Jamaican Observer. In that article titled Think Jamaica is bad? Try Nigeria. She attempts a weak comparison between her home country (Jamaica) and Nigeria. Her impressions about Nigeria obviously were formed during a recent visit as part of a UK parliamentary visit, financed obviously with tax payers’ money from the two countries as Nigeria must have committed resources as well towards hosting the delegation.

While Miss Abbottt is entitled to her own opinion, it is important also for her to understand that decorum and public etiquette demands that she and her likes learn to make guarded statements, especially when commenting about other countries, especially when her comments (because of her political position) are bound to be either misinterpreted by others, and also if such comments are likely to ignite further the flames of inter-ethnic wrangling, in this case between Nigerians and Jamaicans in the UK, whom if Miss Abbottt had bothered to find out do not necessarily enjoy a cordial relationship.

She may have slipped in the article through the back door to be published in her home country with the understanding that it would never come to the attention of Nigerians who generously hosted her during her visit, but she forgot that we now live in a global village and that technology and news wires now direct specific news stories of interests to peoples’ emails and also to other websites as news feeds, which is why her article has come to the attention of Nigerians. She cleverly did not publish the said article on her personal website –

Whatever her motives were in writing the article, and irrespective of her relationship to the new Jamaican Prime Minister (Portia Simpson Miller), it is in bad taste to ridicule another sovereign nation and to juxtapose two countries (Nigeria and Jamaica) using biased indices. It is ethically and diplomatically wrong for her to sacrifice Nigeria’s national interests in an effort to improve the ratings and acceptance for the new government in Jamaica. If she was a private individual her opinion wouldn’t have mattered so much but considering that she made the remarks as a serving UK member of parliament who obviously enjoyed the privileges of a sponsored state visit to Nigeria, the least she could have done was to keep her thoughts and reservations to herself, or better still seek clarification and get better information about Nigeria and her people rather than relying heavily on dinner table ‘second hand’ information which do not represent the reality of today’s Nigeria in every ramification.

While Nigerians accept that things are not quite going the way we would all wish, we also believe that our problems can only be solved by ourselves, and with the help of our genuine friends in the international community who also have a mutual stake in our socio-economic well being.

The fact that she failed to notice many of the changes and reforms currently going on in Nigeria in the key economic sectors (no matter how little) and failed to acknowledge such in her article leaves one to assume that she may have other sinister motives.

If she still has any pride and shame left, Miss Abbottt owes Nigerians, including the ones living in her constituency an apology for her scathing and hurtful remarks. What she has done amounts to stabbing Nigerians in the back and seemed premeditated to move the hands of Nigeria’s national re-birth backwards.

If only she knew all the efforts Nigerians in their personal capacities are making to reclaim the glory of our country and make her great again, after recently re-joining the world’s international community again following decades of ostracization as a result of the activities of successive military juntas, she wouldn’t have made such remarks.

Maybe she is not aware of the resources being committed by Nigeria and her people towards re-building Nigeria’s image and make her an attractive investment destination once again, we surely need the help of our friends at this moment in our history of which obviously Miss Abbottt is not one of them. As we say in Nigeria, with friends like her, who needs enemies?

Whatever her future political plans are, I’m sure that Miss Abbottt knows better than to count on Nigerian votes in the future.

Nigerians living in the UK should make their feelings known both to the Nigerian government through the Nigerian High commission in the UK and also to Miss Abbottt herself. Her contact details are as follows. Diane Abbottt (MP) House of Commons London SW1A 0AA,, telephone: 0207 219 4426, 07947 598 225.

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uwa guni September 28, 2009 - 12:59 pm

In reply to Dianne’s article, i would like correct and advise that before she gets into any form of comparism next time, she should get her facts right.

This is because, in her article, she has mentioned that Nigeria’s independence was in 1963; this is wrong! Nigeria’s independence is 1st of October 1960.

Dapo February 2, 2009 - 3:32 pm

You don’t motivate anybody by comparing their deficiencies to others. She would get no respect from her son if she continually compared him to her friend’s son and told him he was lacking – so why do it with a sovereign state. That’s what has caused offence in Diane’s article. Seems it’s the Labour way – even Gordon Brown has told the UK Think we got it Bad? Try Italy or Japan. I bet those nations just love him!

Kaycee December 23, 2008 - 2:07 pm

Anyone a the right to voice their opinions on anything but someone of such position knowing how wide this article will spread does not do anybody a ny good. what does it mean to say ‘Think Jamaica is bad, try Nigeria’ ? This is ridiculous! for those of you supporting this article, get a llife! there are better ways to write this than cheaply prtinting it on a National Newspaper. I am proud to be Nigerian wherever I go, If you only know my nation by reading about it or visiting, keep it to yourself! Nevertheless only statistics say that Nigeria is a corrupt Nation – What is the basis of such statistics, are they represnetative of any nation on earth? who carried out such statistics? Open your eyes people!! They can hide ‘theirs’ better than we can – forget it, there are educated criminals!

Jamara Newell November 21, 2008 - 3:27 pm

Well written piece. Not sure what the hub bub is about, the MP was quite correct. I would have seen reason for offense if she attempted to paint Jamaican as a prosperous state but she didn’t so if she threw Nigeria under the bus she also Jamaica there too.

emem November 16, 2008 - 1:19 pm

exellent article!

joe parker May 24, 2008 - 5:37 pm

I read this article by accident from Google lucky search and then Dianne’s column. I found it really interesting both raised issues I hadn’t really thought about before.

As a white bloke from Southampton UK I don’t have any experience at all to base any criticism of either article on, at all. Except to say that it seems to me that one of the most important – perhaps the very most important – duties of every person in a society or a community or the world is to seek out wrongdoing and try and to the best you can, holding up your hands if you have drifted into wrongdoing yourself. I think the tone of Dianne Abbot’s article is perhaps a bit misplaced in trying to cheer up her countrymen at Nigerians’ expense. On the other hand though, her concerns seem genuine; no-one has posted here to say ‘there is no corruption, she’s wrong’ or ‘there is no pollution, she’s wrong’ and she says her normal column is very critical of Jamaican problems.

I think you have to be vigilant and critical of your leaders all the time – but not cynical. It never ends because people in power always fail – in Southampton we had a corrupt and badly performing city council for years and we’re still fighting to replace. It’s the same thing the world over.

saheed fasasi May 13, 2008 - 10:08 am

very nice

Linda May 4, 2008 - 5:20 pm

Dianne Abbott is typical of New Labour. Lives the high life and feels free to criticise other countries and the state they are in whilst many of her constituents have to carry on with a very low standard of living. It’s typical of her to try to get the vote of those with a Nigerian background in her constituency but not really do anything for them. An mp is there for everyone, no matter what race or colour by the way. Maybe she has the conservatives and Thatcher to thank for her grammar school education, that gave her the opportunity to get where she is today. She sends her son to private school and expects her constituents to be happy with sub standard state schools created by Labour. Hypocrite. Keep voting for her and she wil never help you out(nigerian or otherwise)- only keep her high paid mp salary and get as many freebies and media appearances as possible. Time for a change?

BEN February 18, 2008 - 7:05 am

I love Dianne Abbott and always have. Being Ghanaian myself I think the whole issue of Misrule in Nigerian and other African nations deserves attention. Considering the resources, both human and natural available to Nigeria it is a shame how things have turned out.

However I think things a gradually inproving in Nigeria and I hope nigeria becomes the giant that it is capable of being. I for one think if Nigeria get it right the sub region would benefit enormously.

My admiration for Dianne has not deminished as a result of her article, however I can understand how the comparison’s with Jamaica might be deemed unnecessary considering the sensitivities that exists.

Ras tafari February 6, 2008 - 9:55 am

Dianne Abbott might have said what she is alleged to have said but what can’t be hidden is the wretchedness of modern day Nigeria.

The ordinary decent folks in Nigeria cannot be blamed for this but the succession of vagabonds in power can most definetly be blamed. Escalator to Olumo rock? Ok you find roads to nowhere in Sicily but at least the country functions and people lead dignified existence.

I can see where Uche is coming from due to the needling that goes on between Jamaicans and Nigerians (Africans) in UK.

genngaolaleye February 4, 2008 - 6:24 am

Dear Diane, Your remarks about nigeria govt and multinational coy are the truthful. Do they the critics want you to say the contrary and economic with the truth. Let the politicians and so called corrupt leaders in nigeria change for the better. If you other opinions positive about the situations innigeria pls go ahead to divulge it for the intenational communities to see. Bravo!

Y December 9, 2007 - 7:05 pm

Nigeria has its problems and none of us can be blind to that, but writing an article called "Think Jamaica is bad. Try Nigeria" isnt exactly the way to go about making any difference. It is a cheap ploy and a pathetic dig. If Miss Abbot wanted to talk about the issues Nigeria has, she has a right to do so, but how does this comparison help anyone?

chiji November 18, 2007 - 8:05 am

Dear Uche, Please allow the truth to be told,i realy patrotism but please dont follow it blindly. Diane Abbott has said what she saw regardless of who it favour. This reminds of the civil war era in nigeria when reports of the war reported falsly to world and in the effect creating a huge loss lifes.

Brad July 1, 2007 - 5:40 pm

Dianne Abbott has the right to voice her opinion. Your article seems to say that just because she has Nigerian friends and a Nigerian political base that she should not comment on the reality that she observed while visiting Nigeria.

The lady spoke openly, if only every politician were so bold.

dele_cassius May 22, 2007 - 6:40 pm

Well done Uche, whilst appreciating your measured and enlightened response to Dianne Abbot's article, there is nothing the lady said that is not true.

Those of us who live abroad should not be blinded by patriotism into not discussing the Nigerian situation as it is.

We cannot doubt the fact that Nigeria is a nation with unfulfilled potential which has experienced misgovernance by every single leader since gaining Independence.

As a London Resident I have found Ms Abbot to be a manipulative, inconsistent and opportunistic politician whose only claim to fame is the fact that she is the first Black female MP, however on this one occasion I agree with every single word written in her article.

It is not right for those of us who live abroad to look at Nigeria with rose tinted vision whilst glaring social, political and econonomic attrocities are being commited every day by our so called leaders.

Let us call a 'spade' a 'spade'!!!

Oje Ivagba April 12, 2007 - 6:39 pm

Well I must confess we Nigerians love to take honey even if God has put a sour taste in our mouth..

What sanity is there in being deceived? why do we always want to hear good things and dream stories about Nigeria.especially those of you in jand,and U.S and maybe Pluto. We greatly underestimate the impact of corruption in Nigeria..Even if we decided to all become saints now..the damages been doe already and its going to take 2 generations to get cleaned.

Why?..How come?..because of indifference, and exactly what I read in some peoples article here. You expect someone to come to Nigeria..your motherland ,the same that is so good you dare not return to and tell you Nigeria is 'TRYING' based on the fake development indicies and parameters you are counting and displaying.

I want Nigeria out of this corruption stronghold 'like since yesterday'..But lets not expect people to praise us for being in darkness at 47years…we have no justification for our backwardness. Not even the military rule, we Nigerian collectively have alwaysbelieved in the saying the 'The end justifies the means' thats what got us all so cold,selfish,wicked,evil and despirately desirous that our dirt is covered. Nigeria must forge ahead out of this dark age…and it is only through real ACTIONS….not pampering..

I have seen retirees die on pension queues, workers salaries delayed for months,government agencies meant to serve turned to revenue generation tools..and worse of all the same impoverished masses unyeilding to resist to dine with the devil.sometimes you may be tempted to say we all are paying for our wickedness..There ha beeen too much evil and indifference to this evil in the land by 99.9% of Nigerians..Just imagine its time for elections where are the people to bring about change…they just took the last flight out of town,just in case there is a little chaos..we all now we are unsincere to Nigeria..if GOD had found ten holy Nigerian he may have spared us from this REIGN OF TERROR and .

I would urge Nigerians in diaspora that are of GENUINE means and intentions to find your way back here and deal collectively with this menace and those who are perpetuating CORRUPTION in Nigeria…ESCAPISM…and wishfulthinking and emailling on blogs is not the answer!!!!!

SOME OF YOU DON'T HAVE THE SLIGHTEST IDEA OF THE STATE OF THINGS AT ALL….else you would have praised the MP Ms. Diane Abbott..or whats are name!

Emmanuel Onuoha April 3, 2007 - 6:25 am

I heard about the Diane Abbott's article on Nigeria for the first time last but i never bother to see what it was all about. I have always admired her achievements in the UK politics and have always seen her as a wise woman. I once lived in her constituency. Recently, I read about her in Wikipedia so as to learn more about her life and work. It was there i got the link to her article in the The Jamaican Observer. It was then I noted the reason why there was much criticism of her article.

Well, I am a Nigerian. I love my country but I have always hated the Politics and Government of Nigeria. I know corruption is the rule of the game. We were once rated the 2nd most corrupt country in the world after Bangladesh. Of course the common man has little or no role to play in this.

In my opinion, Diane did not do well with her article. She did not sound like a friend of Nigeria or like someone who has sympathy for Nigeria. She was simply using Nigeria's situation to console her people. Which is not right. I still wonder what way her visit to Nigeria helped us. I would be glad to hear her criticize the Politics and Government of Nigeria but her article degraded the whole nation and its people. Let her address the problems of her country. There is no need for the comparison.

And for the few who showed support for her article, Nigeria may be bad, corrupt or which ever way you may decide to put it, but let us still remember that, Nigeria is still our land and home. Whatever she has said about our Nigeria and her people, goes before us where ever we go.

Ogo Ogbata May 25, 2006 - 6:00 am

Well said, Uche! You may have saved me the trouble of writing a rejoinder on Nigeriaworld. I fully agree that Nigeria (and virtually every other black nation) has many many problems and I support a radical struggle for change. What I don't understand is the comparison by this lady MP. The tone of her article was antagonistic and arrogant. Her rejoinder in the Evening Standard further confirmed her poor taste and judgement.

Diane, I would love you to comment (if you dare) on the £17,000 you failed to declare re TV appearances and the hypocrisy of sending your son to a private school. How is such behaviour different to the corruption you spoke so eloquently of?

The black race has so much potential to excel. Our greatest obstacle is disunity and Abbot's article is certainly going to provoke more of that. I have personally written articles re. corruption and poverty in Nigeria and gnash my teeth everyday at the deplorable state of affairs. However, to say that Nigerians make everyone else look like amateurs when it comes to corruption is truly laughable.

I work in a world class financial organisation and believe me the highest volume of fraud hardly comes from Africa. Last year millions of credit card details were stolen by hackers in the U.S.A and a lot of money was spent on replacing the cards affected. Phising frauds occur on a daily basis and often we have to close down impersonating websites trying to lure customers into deep waters. Here in the UK, postal lottery scams and identity fraud have become a way of life. When Britons get letters saying 'hurray, you've won the £100,000 star prize (even though they never entered into any prize draw), they know to put the junk mail in the bin where it belongs. However, 419 letters from Africa make front page headlines.

As a matter of fact, the sophistication which criminals in the western world display, make Africans look like amateurs! Where do you think inspiration for movies like Ocean's 12 is drawn from, the imagination alone? Please. The only difference is that there is a justice system in place here (which ensures a majority of crimes are investigated- even if many of the criminals are never caught) and none in Africa. Our problem is that of disunity, and lack of structure, order and resocialisation. Corruption is only a by product of this as growing up in the early 1980s, Nigeria was never known for corruption.

Certain aspects of our history may be painful but that is where the answer lies. In the era of slavery and colonial rule, we were taught to hate and distrust each other so as to facilitate our exploitation. Sadly we are still operating on this level. Diane acknowledged this when she said that growing up she was taught that Jamaicans were superior to "Africans who lived in huts and didn't know how to comb their hair." The tone (and not necessarily the content) of her recent articles suggest that she still doesn't know any better. Have you ever heard the English MPs publicly making similar comments about the poverty and desperation in Eastern Europe? Rather they're finding ways to help fellow white people. Soon Eastern Europeans may be the new source of cheap labour and with the rise of the BNP, black immigration will be curtailed.

I love black people- be they Jamaican, Nigerian or Ethiopian. We are strong and beautiful, we have suffered and endured so much. Let us unite to rebuild and recover ground and stop inciting anger and other forms of negativity. Every black person is an African- full stop. Those who don't know or believe this must realise it doesn't change the truth one bit. In the eyes of white people we are all the same. Until a successful black nation emerges there is no need for name calling and finger pointing. We should be seeking solutions to our problems and not creating more.

Let Peace Prevail!

Richard May 22, 2006 - 5:30 am

I think M/s Abbots is correct in voicing her observation, regardless of the general composition of her ward. As an outsider looking in, people need to voice there distaste and expose countries practicing bad governance. Much too often this is foreseen as a taboo for an high profile black person to say what they see, such as in this case. I wonder if this criticism had come from another ethnic group, would it been an issue. In conclusion, these improperly governed countries need to stand up for there population and keeping silent is not going to address the short comings of these corrupt governments, as M/s Abbot's article highlighted.

Diane Abbott MP May 19, 2006 - 11:30 am

18 May 2006

Dear Uche,

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 Nigerias 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 Jamaicas 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 Jamaicas 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

(Posted by Site Admin)

Bisi Adewole May 16, 2006 - 11:22 am

Very good and appropriate response. Well done

Reply April 26, 2006 - 3:27 pm

Let the truth be told. We have been defensive for too long. Nigeria is not "it". Our leaders need to set their egos aside and get to the job of building a nation that people can live in and respect… I don't mean building pointless structures like elevators to get us up to the top of Olumo Rock in Egba land.

Asuquo Ema April 20, 2006 - 6:07 pm

Yes! Dianne Abbott is certainly a friend of Nigeria. What did you expect her to say? Come out from Nigeria and lie that things are good and coozy like that U.S senator ( I have forgotten her name)did when she visited Nigeria during Abacha's regime. Only about one percent of that population in that country lives in luxury. There is no more a middle class in Nigeria! It's either that you are rich or poor and let's face the truth here most Nigerians are poor!! I am sure that you are one of those Nigerians that live abroad and enjoy all the conveniences and amenities that life has to offer here but when a foreigner goes to Nigeria and makes an honest observation of how things are in the country you are ready to cry foul and critize. It's okay to critize but please be truthful. This lady was just being plain honest based on her observation. Even Nigerians that live abroad make this same observations when they go back home and they are in total shock because of the horrible conditions they encounter while they are there visting. Yes of course!!! Nigeria will make other countries like Jamaica look like amateurs when it comes to corruption because unfortunately we have proven to be experts in that field. My brother – The truth is a bitter pill to swallow!!! Let deal with it instead of avoiding it.

Have a good day

Anonymous April 20, 2006 - 11:53 am

Your article is good but you would have reminded those of us who don't live in the UK and who did'nt have the opportunity to read the article in question what it says. I mean, just a summary of it would have helped people like me to understand fully your anger.Is it possibile you send me the article by email on:


Regina Anyanwu, Paris


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