Originally published October 16, 2011
The past few days have witnessed a frenzied media atmosphere triggered by information released from Wiki Leaks on purported conversations some Ghanaian politicians and media practitioners have been having with officials of some foreign embassies in Accra.
The foray has attracted the same attitude of Ghanaians; that of ignoring the thorough analysis of the the substantive issues; particularly, of the serious implications it bears on our national security, sovereignty and stability of the nation and general well-being.
Instead, it has become fresh heap of dirt for mudslinging for political activists in the NDC/NPP political organizations; and laughable concert stuff for some media houses to take the nation to visit the circus. The weightier matters in the leaked information do not seem to impress, perhaps, the paid communication experts of our political parties who pick and choose what they think serves their party interest for discussion in media outlets.
In order to engage in critical intellectual debate on the Wiki Leaks cables to help us take a better look at our national security and national interest, as well as decide on the calibre of people we have to vote to be in charge of our national affairs, we need to spend quality time to read and analyze those aspects that undermine our sovereignty and economic stability due to the reckless handling of state information by some of our politicians when they meet their counterparts. Touching on the gossips of some of our elite politicians and media men, I am surprised.
For example, why would a high-ranking party member tell a foreign intelligence officer about the health status of his party leader? What do you gain in return? It is now clear that a lot more goes on in the dark beyond what we hear on TV and Radio. Looking at the cables, one gets the impression that the foreign embassies are talking to too many people as if the qualification is for all those who have a mouth to come and talk.
Consider how our political leaders and media personnel are running the race for political leverage, power and control in the country. How might we then be exhorted to be united as citizens of one nation, if the very same leaders allow their mouths to run amok, sometimes by totally uncensored venting of their thoughts and feelings about each other to foreigners? This is the same attitude that cost Ghana and indeed Africa our visionary leader Kwame Nkrumah. Declassified information on the overthrow of the first Republic attests to the above. What has changed is that, by courtesy of Wiki Leaks, the players in the game are now exposed before nightfall and not after 60 years when they might have died. It is time to draw a line between our self-interest and national interest.
Why would the friends of Nana Akuffo-Addo go to tell foreign embassies that Nana smokes marijuana and that he used to be on drugs but is now under control? This is a show of bad faith to Nana as far as their relationship is concerned. These stories about Nana have formed part of our “Accra politics” long ago but we shouldn’t have carried it up there: NO! Not by trusted friends. What was their motivation in this regard?
However, if the charges and rumors that some of our political elites patronize narcotic drugs are true, then our nation stands at a risk considering the bad effects drugs have on our society. If such rumors are untrue, then the misinformation creates distrust in such leaders; additionally, they rob us of quality leadership and create a political vacuum which takes time to fill. If such allegations were made ostensibly, just to gain political space, than we are charting a dangerous path for the future.
In politics, surely there are competitors in the race, but there should be no enemies or adversaries.
How can we possibly expect to enjoy harmony and peace in this country when others with differing political persuasions and orientation are considered enemies? Little wonder the politicians have got the nation so polarized. Again, putting into perspective, the judgmental observation of the ambassador and his wife who visited former President Jerry Rawlings; the length of their visit, I don’t know but apparently, it was long enough for them to conclude rightfully or wrongfully that Mr. Rawlings uses drugs. This is just unfortunate.
What the nation is witnessing is scandalous. If we cannot protect any state secret or keep our fellow citizen safe and free by exercising adult restraint on what we think about them, by shutting up, then we are putting the very survival of our nation into jeopardy. If we have our political activists who go anywhere they choose, talking any how, even on classified information to anybody without reporting back to their superiors, then we are doomed. Check out how your partners in foreign embassies reported the meetings with you, in detail to their bosses. They are smart. Aren’t they?
I seriously doubt if our politicians and some of our media practitioners know how the security apparatus operate in international diplomacy, judging from the excitement with which they run to answer questions at the embassies. In the game of “selling” information, your “product” may sometimes get into the hands of double agents or unofficial undercover agents.
Espionage is an ancient enterprise which carries in its tail bitter-sweet experiences for all those who engage in it. You go into it understanding that your fingers will be kept close to the fire so it can be burnt when the time comes. So why do people engage in this trade as agents or undercover agents to volunteer virtual information to a “case officer” in a foreign embassy. Are they on the payroll of foreign intelligence? Are they seeking to protect themselves or group party interest, or do they do so out of disaffection with their own parties to undermine and discredit or run down their political opponents?
Why has it becomes so fashionable for the custodians of our economic security and well-being to impress foreigners by stripping their country and their friends naked? The low regard for ourselves as a people, combined with clamour for people’s help, the dependency syndrome is precipitating this shameful course.
It may seem as if we just have a national flag which identifies us as a sovereign nation but we are not truly independent in our thoughts and actions. We don’t know how much more of the information is yet to be exposed so we need to develop the stomach to take more, since what is out now might only be a harbinger of frightening things to come.
THE GAME OF SPYING
The reason why institutions or nations of any consequence may wish to engage in surveillance and information gathering or be seen to be actively meddling in the internal affairs of others might be dignified. They might also do so for narcissistic intents and purposes. This intent should not be limited to western nations only but all other nations with consulates and embassies everywhere in the world. In some cases, it is meant to advance their interests militarily or economically against that of their neighbors, host and competitors, or to ensure their survival.
So whether as official undercover agents or Intelligence Officials for Embassies, Consulates, Trade Missions and other facilities, not all their activities are designed to benefit the host country, but I suggest that the motivation for engaging in an enterprise that is designed to feed avidly on the nakedness of another must be noble and not be trivialized as the notes seem to suggest about the attitude of some of our political elites and media personnel, who are literally queuing up for “employment” as gossips to sell our sovereignty for self and group party interest.
ACTIVITIES OF CONSULATE
Consulates and embassies including Ghanaian consulates elsewhere do not just issue visas and passports. In addition to promoting the interest of their citizens resident in the host country, they promote trade; assist companies to invest in goods and services to and fro.
Though not openly admitted, there is historical antecedence of consulate activities including Ghana embassies and consulates elsewhere, gather intelligence information from their assigned jurisdiction.
These activities cover the gathering of military intelligence, economic activities, the clandestine activities of terrorist, drugs and arms cartels, pirates on high seas, etc. These activities involve working with people.
Host government officials and politicians will also engage foreign diplomats to share information on wide range of issues. It is therefore not wrong for our politicians to flirt with staff of foreign embassies.
Ordinarily, it bears no serious consequences; therefore, these leaks on Ghana should not affect our dealings with the embassies and foreign policy direction.
What needs to be addressed is our politicians’ apparent poor level of application of how the Security apparatus of international diplomacy works: their lack of basic social ethics in governance, as well as, being infantile in the “art of gossiping”.
We need to pay attention to the protocol and diplomatic guidelines which the nation has enacted for our politicians and diplomats.
The leak from Wiki Leaks represents the soul of the nation. It is therefore, not a laughing matter; let us be serious as a nation and about our security.