WikiLeaks, an international non-profit organisation has been making the news recently for good and bad reasons depending on the way one decides to look at it. They publish submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous sources. Wikileaks launched its web site in 2006 and began as a regular wiki site (user-editable site) but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication site, and no longer accepts either user comments or edits. Julian Assange, an Australian, is generally described as its director. Assange, an alumnus of 6 universities is known to have studied various courses including Mathematics, Physics, Neuroscience and Philosophy. He is presently facing charges of rape in London.
WikiLeaks has received praise as well as criticism. The organization won a number of awards, including The Economist’s 2008 New Media Award. In June 2009, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange won Amnesty International’s UK Media Award, in the category “New Media”, for the 2008 publication of “Kenya: The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances”, a report by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights about police killings in Kenya. In May 2010, New York City’s Daily News listed WikiLeaks as first in a ranking of “websites that could totally change the news”. Julian Assange was named the Readers’ Choice for TIME’s Person of the Year for 2010. (Source: Wikipaedia)
WikiLeaks Mission Statement reads: Help WikiLeaks Keep Governments Open. This gives us a general idea about what they do. They essentially seek to make Governments transparent and more accountable (in other words their job is to primarily snitch on governments). They claim to have thousands of diplomatic cables (correspondences) between countries.
Most countries (Nigeria including), have perceived this exposé by WikiLeaks as embarrassing. For instance, WikiLeaks released cables showing US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton instructing US diplomats to collect DNA samples, fingerprints and credit card details of key UN officials. The leaks reveal that Libya’s “Brother Leader” Qadhafi, dislikes flying over water, only stays on the first floor, tends to receive visitors and conducts meetings inside a traditional Bedouin tent, and is accompanied everywhere by Ukrainian nurse described as a “voluptuous blonde.” In Germany, WikiLeaks reveals that Angela Merkel “avoids risks” and is rarely creative. We now know (or rather already know) that in far away Russia, President Dimitry Medvedev, plays second fiddle to his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, described as an “alpha dog”. And that Russia has virtually become a “mafia state”.
Our own President was not spared by the “tell it all” site. WikiLeaks put the spot light on President Goodluck’s impasse during the twilight of the Yar’Adua administration. It provided Nigerians a different view to our dear President’s character. In one cable, President Jonathan (then the Acting President), admitted his lack of experience but affirmed his willingness and capacity to lead the Country. In my own opinion this shows him as a true leader. His political rivals have criticized him and have tried to portray him as diffident and pusillanimous. But on the contrary, admitting ones lack of inexperience is a sign of good leadership especially in a country like Nigeria where every politician portrays themselves as all knowing demagogues. It would indeed be interesting to see what leaked cables (or phone conversations for that matter) will reveal about the characters of such people.
Nigeria always seems to take centre stage in situations like this. Hear this: Of the 251, 287 cables yet to be made public involving the United States, 4598 are sourced from Nigeria. And this cables date back from 1966 to February 2010. Tongues have begun to wag. Tales have started spinning. If 3 released cables have exposed us as a frail, unsure and porous country; what will the rest tell the world about the most populous black nation on planet earth? 1966 seems like a long time given that Nigerian leaders time and again tend to have skeletons in the drawers. Will Wikileaks tell us stuff the Police have since not told us? Questions Like who killed Bola Ige, Marshal Harry, and Chief Moshood Abiola may finally be answered. Would we be told whether coup plotters had outside help?
The point remains that if more information had been made available by respective governments, companies like Wikileaks and Nigeria’s whistle blowing site- Sahara Reporters- may have never been necessary. Now the world is paying the price for such perceived negligence.
Questions bordering on the justifications and implications of Wikileaks’ actions have formed controversial debates. I for one do not believe that everything must be known. A balance has to be found. Shouldn’t a government reserve the responsibility to shield or protect its citizens from perceived damaging or dangerous information? And to what extent does National Security override personal scores? And what lines divide these if one may ask? Wouldn’t this leaked information make worse already frail diplomatic relationships between countries?
For instance, the released diplomatic cables on Nigeria revealed that Pfizer (Pharmaceutical Giants) tried to coerce the Attorney’s General office into dropping the case Nigeria had against them. Although the US Department of justice may probe Pfizer on allegations of corruption practices following revelations of its “dirty secrets” in Nigeria, couldn’t this be read as a breach in Nigeria’s national security? Again, Shell’s vice-president for Sub-Saharan Africa claimed or rather boasted that Shell has seconded employees (spies) in every major Nigerian institution. By this disclosure, the whole world now sees how porous our security agencies are and how our so called friends in the west perceive us.
The Petroleum Industry Bill, which if passed may tend to give Nigerians more control over their oil has been lying comatose in the National Assembly. Obviously this Bill does not favor Multinational oil companies. If these cables are anything to go by, then it would be justified to say, this Bill has not been passed for obvious reasons. This implies that some companies influence may have indeed gotten to our highest law making institution.
I consider Wikileaks the “Amebo” of our time. And Since Nigerians are always in the fashion of recreating things, we can call our own AmeboLeaks. It could help unearth some of the Nation’s unanswered questions while the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) lies dead in the Hallow chambers of the National Assembly. AmeboLeaks can begin to tell us how much exactly a Nigerian Senator earns. It could even take the “struggle” a bit further by revealing which government official eats certain apples from the hands of imported Indian damsels. Am sure AmeboLeaks will surely cause more “katakata” than WikiLeaks has done.
©2010 Ewoigbokhan Otaigbe Itua