Perhaps it is worth putting all the points of this ‘case’ in a blog post. So here goes.
First off, if every Nigerian was forced to be in one of two camps – ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, it’s safe to say I’d firmly be in the ‘pro’ camp. I like the man. That’s my bias. So when I see news stories making wild allegations against him, I tend to give them a second look. As an example, a few weeks ago, ThisDay newspapers reported that CBN awarded a N9.5bn contract to a bankrupt firm, Dermalog. I thought this was odd and within 30 minutes of looking around the internet, I found the story to be 100% false – not even 1% true. ThisDay has since deleted the original story but published this apology/retraction a couple of days later.
So last week when a journalist friend of mine mentioned that her online paper had received an email making very strong allegations of the religious kind against SLS, I asked her to please forward me the email which she did. I was keen to see what the new gist was about and if it was true. Here’s what followed.
The email was sent out by one Wendell Simlin with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. We (I will use ‘we’ because I shared the email with a couple of friends and we sniffed around it together) then did some checking around the email. To be clear, I have always been suspicious of the President’s Special Adviser on New Media (I wont dignify him be typing his name in this piece). To my mind he has always been a duplicitous character skilled in the dark arts. But we didn’t do anything special at all. Just basic checks around the email and crucially, the attached word document.
1. A simple google search of Wendell Simlin turned up a Facebook page with only one photo. The photo had about seven people in it, including the SA New Media (it has since been deleted). Is this enough evidence to say it was him? Of course not.
2. Do you know how to check an email’s header? Go to this link which shows you how to do it in a few clicks. Again, this is nothing complicated at all. When we checked the email header, it pointed to an IP address in the Kubwa area in Abuja. The ISP was Galaxy Backbone, which provides most of the internet hosting services to the government. On its own is this enough evidence? No.
3. Searching around Facebook again pointed to a long standing ‘relationship’ between Mr Simlin and the SA going back to at least 2010 spanning ‘pages liked’ and threads commented on. Enough evidence on its own? I doubt it.
4. The final piece in the puzzle however was that Mr Simlin typed out the allegations against SLS in the body of the email but then included the same text in a word document and attached it to the email. Again, nothing ‘technical’ was done here – it was as simple as opening the attached word document and right clicking to pull up its properties. There it was – his name as the author and person who last saved it on Hewlett-Packard computer (this is automatically done when you use your computer to generate a document).
Now a lot of noise has been made around this part of the evidence namely ‘anyone can type a word document and change the name’. This is true. But it is also simple to check out – all those who received the original email with the attachment have carried out the same check and found the exact same properties. Perhaps I have so much time and hatred for this guy that I went out of my way to edit the properties with his name but it is tough to explain how I did that with the original recipients given that I wasn’t the one who sent out the email.
5. Furthermore, an online newspaper, Premium Times, who have received official emails from the SA in the past have checked out previous email headers from him and compared it to this particular one from Wendell Simlin. They matched i.e the emails were sent from the same computer/location.
Perhaps each of the above items is not enough to convincingly prove that it was him. Perhaps. But it is very difficult to argue against all of the evidence taken together.
All of that is hardly the story though. There are very worrying issues thrown up by this matter. The first is that the email to smear SLS with Boko Haram was sent by an aide to the President just a day after 59 school children were massacred in a school in Yobe. At a time when even the most hardened Nigerians were saddened by the atrocity, someone somewhere in the Presidency thought it a good time to score political points by directing suspicion towards an ‘enemy’ of the President who has already been suspended from office and charged with very serious offences.
Secondly, religious baiting is a very dangerous thing to do in Nigeria. More than 100 people died over a matter as trivial as a Miss World competition in 2002. Once the religious touchpaper has been lit in Nigeria, no one really has any control over it and many lives will be lost before people calm down. The email sent out by the SA was dripping with Islamophobia and also contained outright lies and smears not just against SLS but against Alhaji Mutallab – a man who reported his own son to the American authorities when he noticed extremist tendencies in him.
In any other country, this would be a sacking offence and possibly worthy of prosecution. But not only has the SA in question here kept completely silent, he is actually writing articles where he hints that online critics of the government might be ‘satan’ afterall. All of this is amusing but hardly surprising. He works for a government that not only recently gave Sani Abacha an award, it actually went out of its way to justify the awards on the grounds of his wondrous achievements as Head of State.
We’ve sent a formal complaint (along with all the evidence) to a government minister but I am not sitting here holding my breath that he will be so much as censured. It is what it is. We are also exploring other avenues to make formal complaints. He is afterall paid from the public purse.
But it’s important to make the point that just because you remain in your job and you can keep quiet about the matter, presumably till it dies a natural death, does not mean those who accused you are fools.