Monday 7 March 2011

NaijaLeaks: A Speaker so disgracefully indiscreet

NaijaLeaks another torrent

If we thought the Nigerian version of WikiLeaks (NaijaLeaks) had stopped like a case of a plumbing mishap, we were met with another seemingly shocking exclusive released as a teaser by the newspaper yesterday.

As we discussed the issue on Twitter, it did not dawn on us that the exclusive being announced was sourced pre-emptively from WikiLeaks where the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives had met with the then US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders in 2009 to discuss a number of topics that included electoral reform, the fight against corruption, the presidency and the then recently conducted rerun of elections.

Once again, there are sensational and headline grabbing points that jump out of the cables [1] which I believe would be covered extensively by other newspapers and blogs, there are more pertinent issues however that inform the quality of these cables.

If we were under any illusion about the job description of an ambassador only being the representative of a country and its interests to another, we might have missed out the additional work being done that in non-diplomatic terms really is espionage, spying, subterfuge, suborning and eliciting information from the powerful and in the know whose egos when adequately massaged will reveal almost unprintable material.

The Speaker’s Weakness

The Speaker it was suggested had become a confidant of the President leading the Ambassador to expect to glean a lot from the meeting but it appears she was not prepared for all that she heard.

Certain elements of the Speaker’s character were described in the cable, it would appear that not only was he a speaker, he was a talker and garrulous at that; I having seen him on the BBC HardTalk programme; he does appear smug too.

The Speaker, the cable avers is known for his gregariousness, reading through the cable, this was offered hardly in praise but more in derogation that the Ambassador was keen to take advantage of. The precursor to the meeting suggests he was sometimes elusive but certainly ego-driven.

Gregarious generally means being sociable which is a good trait of politicians; it also means the seeking and enjoying the company of others – in the presence of other powerful people or those who accord the person a sense of importance, this trait can lead to delusions of grandeur, exaggerations, assuming airs, indiscretions and worse as the cable refers to rumours of his abuse of power.

A man full of himself

As a senior politician, he had opinions that he freely shared about every issue he was asked about but there seemed to be a wide gulf between his actions and his good intentions which was evidenced in his suggesting receiving inputs about electoral reform from civil society but had not to that time when asked consulted with civil society.

In fact, it was the Ambassador that informed him of which organisations to consult with and she offered to facilitate forums about such matters; this considering he was supposed to be a high-ranking representative of self-same people he should have consulted before.

The ambassador observed “Changing his entire body posture” and this must have been the Speaker getting quite comfortable to be as indiscrete as one fully inebriated or as one tweet suggested, he succumbed to the effects of administered truth serum.

There are many instances where the cable suggests the Speaker lead and helped the Ambassador further her inquiry as the cable used phrases as “Given that Bankole had opened the door”, “taking the queue (sic, that should have been cue) and implication on board”; it appears the Speaker could not exercise restraint as he claimed, he stated, he added, he lamented, he agreed, he said and it is doubtful that he can at the revelations of this cable suggest he was quoted out of context – he appeared to be in his full garrulous element exhibiting all gregarious traits bordering on a Williams Syndrome trait; the unusually cheerful demeanour and ease with strangers.

She gets more than she expects

The Ambassador [2] comes with glowing credentials that make for her ability to tease information out of Nigerians with ease, with degrees in international relations and having held sensitive policy advisory positions in the US government, she had every making of an interrogator handing you a glass of wine with a smile whilst getting all she planned to get out of you.

Everyone who seems to have conversed with her appears to have been too forthcoming for comfort, however, having massaged the ego of the Speaker the revelations in this cable are not only scandalous but call into question the whole democratic experiment in Nigeria as one hardly representative of the people, the fight against corruption being one of personal vendettas and gaining pecuniary advantage, that electoral reform might not produce the real dividends of free and fair elections, that the justice system had been completely suborned and money shielded criminals from prosecution.

Not a pretty picture of the Speaker of the House of Representatives who cannot keep his mouth shut and definitely not a pretty one of Nigeria’s immediate future.


[1] | Wikileaks CABLE: 'Supreme Court Bribe'

[2] Robin R. Sanders - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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