AFTER WIKILEAKS, ANY HOPE FOR NIGERIA?
When news of the latest leaks of mainly American diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks first broke on Sky News, I was seated next to my wife. I quickly told her that the leaks would undoubtedly contain messy details of President Yar'adua's last days in office and the untidy shenanigans that ensued in the battle to succeed him.
I told her that disclosures were likely to open a can of worms with possible revelations about the untidy death of Chief M. K. O. Abiola in custody as well how the late Head of State General Sani Abacha met his maker. A few days afterwards newspaper reports of the latest disclosures proved that my hunch on the magnitude of the revelations concerning Nigeria was correct.
So far, the leaks have exposed the President's seeming impotence and vulnerability in the uncertain days when his principal lay critically ill on his death bed. It revealed his suspicion of the motives of the infamous 'cabal' that kept the President incommunicado for so long.
Also, in spite of repeated denials from the Villa, we now know for certain that the President at a point considered himself inexperienced for the top job. He expressed his revulsion for the intrigues and uncertainties associated with political offices.
If the leaked cables are also to be believed, his eventual decision to seek re-election was an afterthought. It was the clearest clue yet that the man may have been pushed to seek re-election by people who stood to benefit most from him. The former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Edwin Clark certainly fit the category of such people.
Even so, I was certainly shocked but not entirely surprised at the ease with which multinational companies like Shell appeared to have penetrated and even compromised the working of our government at all levels if we accept that Nigeria is still a sovereign nation, that is. The question is valid because unless we accept that Nigeria is undoubtedly a banana republic, I can never imagine American government officials discussing the health of their leader with the Nigerian Ambassador in Washington for instance. It would probably be viewed as treason.
The leaks revealed that Jonathan, then acting President, serially discussed Yar'adua's terminal illness with the American Ambassador Robin Sanders. She was equally on hand to urge him to be his own man after the demise of the former president.
The most disturbing issue here is the total lack of sanctity in the institution of our presidency. The security situation around the presidency and other institutions of government leaks like a sieve. Nothing appears sacrosanct. A foreign power can have such a fundamental impact on our government at the highest level at our collective expense any day and it would all seem like routine. Whatever may be the motives of Robin Sanders, at what point do we distinguish between Nigerian national interests and the interests of the government she represented?
Sadly, the leaks also exposed the degree of endemic corruption in high offices, and how those fortunate to be around the corridors of power used their privileged positions to enrich themselves, without regard to our national interests. One clear message here is that our leaders and those fortunate to be in positions of influence lack patriotic ideals.
In most civilized countries, it is not uncommon for multinationals to have different lobbies in place for the furtherance of their business objectives. But if there was one significant lesson from the damning revelations from WikiLeaks, it is to the extent that Shell have crossed all decent barriers in the way they seemingly compromised the workings of our government at different levels in the advancement of their narrow interests to the detriment of 150 million Nigerians.
The leaks quoted Shell's Regional Executive Vice-President for Africa Ann Pickard to have told Sanders that if the House of Reps passed the much awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) - which seems to be taken an eternity - Shell needed to move quickly to obtain any necessary changes before it became law! She confessed to having a smooth working relationship with the federal legislators. That was after she had also bragged about their embedded agents in almost every critical government Ministry!
So, what do we glean from all these? My take is that there is little hope for this country unless our leaders become more patriotic by putting our national interests first. We must, like the Americans have no-go areas in defence of the same values. If the executive arm or its agents is hopelessly compromised by a foreign power, the National Assembly must be prepared to check their tyranny in the collective interest of the people. What the leaks exposed was that in Nigeria, that may not be the case.
It was obvious in the way Shell runs its affairs in Nigeria. It was also typical in the case involving Pfizer, the American drug major. A situation where multinationals treat Nigerians as sub-humans and get away with it because of the foibles of government officials that will not do their duty is unacceptable. But there is yet another fundamental reason for my anger.
Presently, there is so much noise from the government about the Vision 20: 2020 master plan. The question is: how can we make any development plan work in an environment painted by the WikiLeak reports? How can we compete favourably in a globalized world when our plans and relevant laws to advance them are corrupted by agents of our predators masqueraded as genuine competitors?
Coming so soon after messy revelations about Siemens and Halliburton scandals, the WikiLeak reports which may become more devastating in the coming weeks certainly paint a very gloomy picture for our future.
2011: Shagari's 'One Term' solution is no solution
If the reports carried by yesterday's edition of ThisDay newspaper are to be believed, the incumbent Deputy Governor of Sokoto State Mukthari Shagari favours a situation where the President Goodluck Jonathan will be re-elected in 2011 to sever only a single term in office terminating in 2015, after which the position will revert back to the North.
If the suggestion is his way of calming frayed nerves in the north on the contentious issue of zoning, he came short, in my opinion. In the first place, the South East also has a genuine case for 2015 and I support them. If the Southwest was on the throne for eight years, and the north insists on completing its two terms until 2015, fair play demands that either the Southeast or the South-South should produce the President in 2015.
Besides, Shagari's suggestion appears too expedient for my liking. All the people speaking from both sides of their mouths presently are only doing so because Jonathan is the incumbent president and nothing more. My take is that decency should be made of sterner stuff. Leaders must learn to respect written agreements pure and simple. There can be no middle ground. The PDP leadership including Nukthari Shagari must learn to do the right things always. Half measures will take us nowhere. His suggestion offers no solution to the raging controversy. It actually compounds it.