THE WIKILEAKS LEAKAGES ON NIGERIA
Technology has always had great impact on the nature of news, but it is so astonishing today, particularly with the invention of the internet. Anyone with something to say can publish it on the internet and web pages, with both positive and negative consequences.
In this regard, few issues this year will generate as much public interest and outrage as the damning revelations by a whistleblowing website, Wikileaks, founded by Australian national, Julien Assange. The international community was jolted by incredible details of cable discussions that supposedly took place among high government officials.
Nigeria was not spared from the prying eyes of Wikileaks. Among the baffling disclosures on Nigeria by the website was blow-by-blow account of sensitive diplomatic discussions which reportedly took place between President Goodluck Jonathan and immediate past American ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Robin Sanders during the twilight of the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua presidency. The report claimed that President Jonathan expressed unwillingness to stand for election next year, citing his 'inexperience' as one of the reasons.
Also revealed were discussions between the President and the US government in which the latter had requested for the immediate disengagement from office of former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, as a condition for technical assistance from the American government. Reacting to these two accounts, the Jonathan Presidency described the cable contents as 'third person narrative' and exaggerated.
Perhaps more baffling was the claim by Wikileaks that Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Shell, planted its staff in key ministries of the Federal Government with the aim of getting access to privileged information, especially on politicians' every move in the troubled Niger Delta, where Shell has huge investments. The cache of secret dispatches which Wikileaks claimed exchanged hands between Shell and American embassies in Africa also mentioned names of prominent Nigerian politicians on the list of people providing covert support to militants in the Niger Delta region. Shell did not deny the allegation, it only claimed the substance was exaggerated.
Altogether, the Wikileaks saga raises a lot of concern, if not outright apprehension on the vulnerability of our security network. This poses real danger to democracy and government operations, internally and bilaterally. The development has unwittingly brought us much closer to an information bomb, equivalent to what futurist Alvin Toffler in his book The Third Wave calls a 'shrapnel of images' with unwholesome consequences. Shell's indictment is as disturbing as the disclosure of private discussions, which reportedly took place between President Jonathan and the former American envoy to Nigeria. They all border on failure of security.
What Shell reportedly did amounts to espionage. If it could penetrate government ministries with such ease, there is so much to worry about our national security and sovereignty. We urge government to see the Wikileaks scandal as a wake-up call and should, as a matter of expediency, launch full investigations into it. Intelligence agencies should check the subversive nature of these reports. With general elections fast approaching, nothing should be left to chance. National security is of great essence.
These disclosures are also a challenge to our media. A nation whose leaders systematically and surreptitiously hoard information on the affairs of state, is inherently in danger. This does not help democracy to grow. It is one of the reasons the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) has become more expedient than ever before.