Buhari and ‘classified information’: Should Nigerians be worried about ‘secrecy’ or ignorance?
President Muhammadu Buhari recently revealed, in an interview, that Nigeria’s most wanted suspect in the ongoing corruption war currently resides in the United Kingdom, however, he refrained from naming said suspect. Buhari granted this interview in London, where he was visiting for the Supporting Syria Conference.
In addition to the president’s statement about the anonymous suspect, he responded to questions on the issue of Boko Haram’s leadership and if his administration asked for western military assistance at the G7 meeting in June 2015, by stating that the information he receives about Shekau are “conflicting” and discussing details of the G7 assistance in public was out of the question.
I receive conflicting information about the status of Shekau. Some say he has been removed and replaced by a less charismatic terrorist. I think he must be on the run.
…Yes. I did, but I don’t want to give details of that in public.
This is not the first time that the Nigerian president would appear to be withholding certain information on matters that concern the country, whether in terms of security or policy, through the use of vague words or an outright refusal to be specific. While the federal government certainly reserves the right to conceal information on legitimate security or private interest basis, of greater concern is the fact that the Buhari administration might truly have no adequate knowledge of what, precisely, is going on in the country that they govern. Last year, at the first presidential live media chat, Buhari confidently noted that
Some supposed leadership wanted to make contact, but we insisted on identifying the leadership of the so called Boko Haram. We want to be sure that they are complete.
Sufficient access to [factual] information increases economic and social development, because the citizens are well-informed which causes them to participate in their governance and inspire effective decision-making in a democratic society. In order to win a war against corruption, such as the one that the Nigerian government is presently caught up in, freedom of information must be practiced.
However, insufficient intelligence-gathering in Nigeria remains one of the barriers to disseminating factual information to the general public and this shortcoming is responsible for the lack of confidence in the Buhari administration, as well as its under-performance. There are cases where the federal government has to [arguably] maintain a level of secrecy, such as concerns national security, which is acceptable. But, the current administration in Nigeria seems to either constantly blur the line between what the general public needs to know – which is practically everything within the confines of the law – and what they not know themselves, or ignore the gaps that appear in the public speeches that they give.
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