Over the last few days, I have been wondering what would happen if the Wikileaks cables released information specific to Nigeria. This line of thinking was generated by friend, Beauty, who made the following comment to the Corruption Inc: Nigeria vs. Dick Cheney post of December 3rd, 2010:
"...We are masters of illusion and until we get WikiLeaks style revelations, Nigeria will remain irrelevant. "Nigeria is the sort of country where information is a closely guarded commodity. And when those not included in the 'circle' gain access to it, they must be careful how they share it, as that could be dangerous. Nigeria does not even have a Freedom of Information Act. The bill has instead bounced around between various branches of the government and is currently stalled in the National Assembly.
Given these and other realities, I concluded, very simply, that any Nigeria-related cables from Wikileaks, would be big news. But only amongst a minority. The truth is that people like me - Nigerian political observers - would find it interesting and would analyze every morsel down to a crumb. However, a majority of Nigerians might never see or learn of the information because the traditional Nigerian press might not carry it. This is not because these cables would not be 'news' but simply because, carrying it could isolate them from future information. Or, as was the case for Leadership newspaper staff and Channels TV in 2008, led people to jail and misguided censorship.
And now that three new cables have been released with Nigeria-specific information, those of us who have been waiting to learn more about the intricacies of Nigeria's political and economic elite are having the dots connected, so to speak. There were previous cables in which Nigeria was mentioned in connection to other issues (i.e. the country's failure to hold it's weight in the Commonwealth under Yar'Adua's rule, Iran's intentions to export terrorism to the country, how diplomats preferred Obasanjo to Yar'Adua, how the US financed NGOs during the 1993 elections etc.) but these newest ones which focus on recent political happenings are intriguing.
I understand the outrage that Wikileaks has created amongst certain circles. For one thing, I honestly believe that individuals, even those related to governments, as in diplomats and officials, should have some measure of privacy. In a world where pop culture and reality television have turned most of us into voyeurs, that need for private speech remains important. However, for those living in countries ruled by corrupt politicians and their peers, the unveiling of information from Wikileaks can serve to undress many a fraudulent leader and if used adequately, empower people to change their 'leaders'. That might be wishful thinking on my part, but the optimist in me continues to believe that at some point, an awakening will happen in Nigeria and that it will force citizens to realize that things, as they are, can no longer continue. Will Wikileaks be a part of that awakening? The optimist in me will not hold it's breathe.
This post will be followed by copies of the 3 cables released today, December 9th, 2010. I am posting them so others can read them and take from them what they will. Considering that the Wikileaks site continues to get hacked, having these documents in as many places online will help others have access to it.
And just in case anyone was wondering how I really feel about the Wikileaks situation, I will say what I told a few friends recently - it's all very interesting. Truth is, I am on the fence. What I do know, for certain, is that the world as we know it has changed.
Stay tuned for the NaijaLeaks...
UPDATE: Cable 1 discussing corruption by late President Yar'Adua, his wife and their associates is up. Cable 2 discussing political insecurity during the transition between Yar'adua and Jonathan is available here. Cable 3, which focuses on Shell in Nigeria and therefore, oil, is available here.
Hattip to friend, Idris Bello, from whom I stole the term 'NaijaLeaks'. Additional hattip to friend R.A. for alerting me to the release of the cables.