Jamaica? No, she wrote it all by herself.

Jim Jepps

Dianne Abbott (left), don't know who the other bloke isDianne Abbott MP, writing in the Jamaican Observer (Think Jamaica is bad? Try Nigeria), has managed to annoy two governments at once - not bad going.

Abbott clearly and unequivocally said of Nigeria that "Shell and other Western Oil companies have, in collusion with successive military dictatorships, raped the region."

She then went on to rail against the death penalty, oppose government corruption, oppose environmental destruction and to promote the ideas of democracy - is this really such strong stuff, let alone controversial?

"Jamaica has some problems, but people who want to dub it a 'failed state' should look more carefully at other countries in the developing world with far more serious social, political and economic problems."

Who could object? The Observer reports that one Londoner replied to the article saying that "We intend to mobilise and inform Nigerians in her constituency that she only represents the interests of "Jamaicans" and not of other nationalities." Which is silly. Get a grip!

Uche Nworah writes that "If she still has any pride and shame left, Miss Abbott owes Nigerians, including the ones living in her constituency an apology for her scathing and hurtful remarks." (link)

As if the duty of Nigerians is to flag wave for the Nigerian government and it's dirty deals with multi-national corporations. Was that Ken Saro-Wiwa's problem? Not patriotic enough?

Abbott has supposedly offended her Nigerian constituents (I'm told her constituency has the highest proportion of Nigerians in the country) but how can saying that Nigeria has a corrupt government and implying it is ruled by multinationals offend Nigerians? Surely they knew this already. It shouldn't offend a US citizen if someone criticises George W. Bush's regime, or a Briton if someone verbally attacks Blair - so it's simply weird to think Abbott offended Nigerians by calling for an end to corruption, or Jamaicans by saying that Jamaica could be better.

While Nigeria is one of the worlds largest exporters of oil it is simultaneously a country where the poor live in the most appalling conditions and the heavily militarised government provides little in the way of public services. It is only possible to hold the hand of friendship out to the majority of people in Nigeria by opposing the government and its craven kow-towing to big business.

Dianne Abbott was absolutely right to be critical of the Nigerian government and it is difficult to take seriously those who pretend she is somehow anti-Nigerian by sticking up for their interests.


A nationalist race to the bottom Gary Young is more critical


Statement made by Ken Saro Wiwa before his execution by the regime we are not supposed to criticise


"My lord,

We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory.

I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the Company’s dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.

On trial also is the Nigerian nation, its present rulers and those who assist them. Any nation which can do to the weak and disadvantaged what the Nigerian nation has done to the Ogoni, loses a claim to independence and to freedom from outside influence. I am not one of those who shy away from protesting injustice and oppression, arguing that they are expected in a military regime. The military do not act alone. They are supported by a gaggle of politicians, lawyers, academics and businessmen, all of them hiding under the claim that they are only doing their duty, men and women too afraid to wash their pants of urine. As we subscribe to the sub-normal and accept double standards, as we lie and cheat openly, as we protect injustice and oppression, we empty our classrooms, denigrate our hospitals, fill our stomachs with hunger and elect to make ourselves the slaves of those who ascribe to higher standards, pursue the truth, and honor justice, freedom, and hard work.

I predict that the scene here will be played and replayed by generations yet unborn. Some have already cast themselves in the role of villains, some are tragic victims, some still have a chance to redeem themselves. The choice is for each individual.

I predict that the denouement of the riddle of the Niger delta will soon come. The agenda is being set at this trial. Whether the peaceful ways I have favored will prevail depends on what the oppressor decides, what signals it sends out to the waiting public.

In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side. For the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41: “All those that fight when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the oppressor.” Come the day."

—Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa


May 2006

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