Daughter of Nigerian dissident Abiola urges U.S. blacks to speak out on Africa Marylander seeks activism at NAACP convention

July 14, 1998|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The daughter of late Nigerian opposition leader Moshood K. O. Abiola challenged African-Americans yesterday to put aside their apathy toward injustice in Africa, saying their silence has hurt the continent and contributed to her father's death -- she believes by poison -- earlier this month.

"The regime in Nigeria is just as brutal as the one in South Africa," said Hasfat Abiola, 23, who lives in Prince George's County and spoke in Atlanta last night as part of the NAACP's annual convention.

"Just because they're black [in Nigeria] doesn't make it any better. Blacks here can't stand by and let that country go to waste. They're always silent."

Abiola appeared at the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in a last-minute addition to the organization's schedule.

"I wanted to be here," Abiola said in an interview. "If they were going to bring a significant group of African-Americans together, I had to speak out on this issue. African-Americans need to do more."

Her father was Nigeria's most prominent political prisoner when he died July 7 amid rumors that, after more than four years in prison, he would soon be released. Many critical of Nigeria's military government have disputed the official cause of death, saying he was murdered. An international medical team said an autopsy proved that he died of heart disease.

The Baltimore-based NAACP tonight will hold a meeting at the conference on the condition of Africa. The discussion will include the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins and Dr. Susan Rice, assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

The topics to be discussed at the meeting will be "precisely what Miss Abiola is talking about -- that's why we are making a major focus of this convention issues of Africa that are of great concern to our members," said Dan Willson, an NAACP spokesman. "We would only broaden her concerns to say that America in general is not focused enough on problems of Africa as a whole," he said.

Randall E. Echols, an attorney for Moshood Abiola, called Nigeria's system "military apartheid" and urged black America to promote African justice as vociferously as many Jewish Americans speak out on issues concerning Israel.

"Black America is only as strong as Africa economically, politically and socially," said Echols, who accompanied Abiola to the convention yesterday.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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