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.
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 – dianneAbbott.org.uk.
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. dianeAbbottt.org.uk. Diane Abbottt (MP) House of Commons London SW1A 0AA, firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 0207 219 4426, 07947 598 225.