John Kerry’s Visit: Beyond The Cover Story

Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati

Essential elements of intelligence and the intelligence cycle in overseas relations include what is better described as “the cover story”. It is an old conundrum referring to the story that is put out to the public and sustained as a narrative to mask far more strategic interests in government-to- government relations. It is based on that established thin line between the right to know and the need to know and indeed in diplomatic relations, if ordinary people are allowed to know everything, there will be utter chaos on the streets around the world. I make this point in the light of the excitement that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit appears to be generating. He will visit Nigeria, August 23-24, after Kenya, 22-23, and from here, he will jet off to Saudi Arabia, 24-25.

The cover story is that he will hold talks with President Muhammadu Buhari, Northern Governors and religious leaders, give a speech on “countering violent extremism” in Sokoto, and thematically focus on “counter-terrorism efforts, the economy, the fight against corruption and human rights issues” during the trip. Nicely, correctly crafted cover story! America loves Nigeria. America wants to help Nigeria. And once we are told this story, even our foreign ministry officials get really excited. They tell the President: “this is big! It shows America is supporting the administration. Mr. President, America loves you, don’t mind those tweeps on social media.” They would have forgotten most conveniently that Secretary John Kerry has been visiting Africa since 2014, and before him, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did so too. We tend to be overly impressed by the recognition, but we often fail to look beyond the cover story.

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Source:: PM Newspaper