By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor
But for WIKILEAKS and its snoopy engagement, Nigerians may never have been treated to the bizarre nature of how their country is being surrogated by mere business concerns. Or, what led to the removal from office, of the national chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu?
And, whereas a feeble response has been offered regarding the veracity or otherwise of the leaks coming out of WIKILEAKS by the Nigerian government, keeping mum or toeing the line of the Western world by admitting but condemning the leaks would have served Nigeria’s interests much more.
Take, for instance, the role of Shell in the affairs of Nigeria!
In a recent Sunday Vanguard interview with Olisa Agbakoba, a former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, president, he said of Nigeria’s oil industry: “Our oil is half stolen by foreigners and we can not even say how much oil we produce on a daily basis: we have no idea and yet you say we have political leadership, we don’t.”
Therefore, when WIKILEAKS discloses that “A representative (Ann Pickard) in Africa for the Anglo-Dutch energy firm, Shell, mentions, in a passing reference, that the company has employees seconded to ‘all the relevant’ ministries of the Nigerian government”, it should concern Nigerians.
Continuing, WIKILEAKS discloses:
“The Ambassador asked what the Embassy could do to help with the Joint House Committee on Petroleum Upstream and Downstream and Justice that is working on the PIB.
Pickard said she hoped the current level of dialogue between GON and IOCs continues. Unfortunately, “We have not been able to meet with President Yar’Adua for nine months,” she said. “They have him protected.” She said it would be helpful if the Embassy would continue to deliver low-level messages of concern. In particular, she thought it would be helpful for the Embassy to call on Speaker of the House Dimeji Bankole to see where he stood on the bill.
Beyond that, she would like to keep the Embassy in reserve and use it as a “silver bullet” if the PIB passes the House. The Ambassador noted that the U.S., U.K., Dutch and French embassies had already made a joint call on NNPC General Managing Director, Dr. Mohammed Barkindo.
“CHINA’S INTEREST IN NIGERIA’S OIL BLOCKS
“10.(C) Pickard mentioned China’s recently reported interest in Nigeria’s oil blocks. She said Shell had received a copy of the letter that Special Advisor to the President on Petroleum Matters, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, had sent to the Chinese which said that their offer for oil exploration blocks was not good enough.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, had denied that the letter had been sent, but later conceded that GON was only “benchmarking” to see what the IOCs should pay for shallow-water licences.
Pickard said Shell had good sources to show that their data had been sent to China and Russia. She said GON had forgotten that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries.
WIKILEAKS was also able to treat Nigerians to details of “How Former Sec of State Rice Got Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari Fired From Burma Job Over Incompetence”.
The cable reads in part:
1. (U) This is an action request. See para. 4.
2. (C) Department views the “good offices” mission of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SRSG) to Burma as an important vehicle for encouraging democratic progress in Burma.
Consequently, Department has viewed with growing concern the lack of progress on core political steps that the UNSC called on Burma to take such as the immediate release of political prisoners and the opening of a meaningful, time-bound political dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority leaders, in particular, with Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), over the course of SRSG Gambari’s four missions to Rangoon. Indeed, it appears that Gambari’s access to regime officials and ability to secure results has only contracted over the course of these missions. His access to democratic leaders has been constrained by both the regime and more recently a loss of confidence in Gambari among leaders of the democracy movement.
3. (C) Gambari appears unrealistically upbeat, pursuing and reporting progress on peripheral matters (e.g., a possible economic forum, the possible placement of a UN staff member in Rangoon) that are a distraction from what the Security Council has articulated as critical goals and identified as Gambari’s mandate.
4. (C) Considering the key role of the good offices mission and Gambari’s inability to secure significant progress from the Burmese regime, USUN is asked to demarche SYG Ban or Ambassador Kim to seek Gambari’s dismissal as SRSG for Burma. This demarche should occur as soon as practical.
5. (C) Taking into account Gambari’s usefulness in his concurrent role as UN advisor on the International Compact with Iraq, as well as SYG Ban’s likely sensitivities in regard to a possible dismissal, Department provides the following talking points (not/not to be left as a non-paper) for use by USUN in this demarche:
6. (C/rel to UN) Begin points:
”Over time, the United States has become increasingly concerned that the UN good offices mission in regard to Burma is in dire jeopardy.
Special Representative Gambari’s fourth and latest trip to Burma continued a disturbing pattern of regime-managed itineraries; restricted access to key regime officials and activists; and complete lack of progress on the critical issues that form the core of Mr. Gambari’s mandate: the opening of a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, toward democratisation and national reconciliation, and the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.
”While the main responsibility for this lack of progress should be attributed to regime intransigence, Mr. Gambari has not been willing to acknowledge it. This lack of progress, Mr. Gambari’s inappropriate claims of success regarding peripheral issues, and his unwillingness to press the regime more forcefully for progress have caused us to conclude that his continued involvement undermines the good offices mission and should therefore be ended.
“We have no wish to embarrass Mr. Gambari and have no intent to link any removal with a lack of progress in Burma, but we would ask that you find a way to terminate gracefully his participation in this particular mission. In particular, we cannot support further travel to Burma for discussions with regime leadership by Mr. Gambari as part of the good offices mission.
”We urge you not to rush to name a replacement. There have been a series of Special Representatives, none of whom have succeeded due to regime intransigence. Absent some sign that the regime is willing to engage seriously, we fear appointment of a new envoy could actually encourage the regime and some of its friends to continue to emphasise process over substance. As you requested, however, we are willing to share ideas of possible candidates as you consider next steps.”
This would be the first time that Nigerians are having what can be described as a snippet into what actually led to the exit of Nigeria’s Ambassador Gambari from the Burmese assignment on behalf of the UN.
Wikileaks publications disaster for world diplomacy
The publication of a cache of highly-sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables by anti-secret website, Wikileaks, is “a disaster for all diplomats”, Nigeria Minister of Foreign Affairs Odien Ajumogobia, has said.
The North America Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who was responding to questions at a forum on Nigeria-U.S. relations, organised by a Washington- based group, Constituency for Africa, said: “Because the nature of our enterprise is discretion and when discretion is breached, it does have serious concerns some of which are security in nature.
Incidentally, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, moderated the event, which was attended by several members of the diplomatic community from both countries.
Sanders has been cited as the author of several of the highly “confidential memos” from Abuja which were published by Wikileaks on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Ajumogobia said “obviously sensibilities will be affected by the leaks” and acknowledged that his name had even appeared in some of the U.S diplomatic memos published so far.
“If you said something in confidence to someone, you don’t expect it to be on the front pages of newspaper,” the minister was quoted as saying by the News Agency of Nigeria.
“That’s why the world takes it seriously; some school of thought believes that the truth should be exposed regardless of the consequences.
“I do not share that view and I think most reasonable governments wont,” he said.
The minister said he believed that Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, who is facing sexual molestation allegations, crossed the line by releasing highly-classified documents.
“There are few people who disagree and I feel most people don’t expect their confidential discussions to be in the public domain.”