By Femi Adesina
You have possibly watched the 1998 action-thriller film with the above title, starring Will Smith. It was the box office hit story about a group of people plotting to kill an American congressman, and the tape of the plot was discovered.
Well, an Enemy of the State struck in Nigeria on Monday, but this time, it was no fiction. It was real life act of sabotage from somebody who does not wish his own country well at all, and who derived a sinister kind of pleasure from undermining the system.
President Muhammadu Buhari was to broadcast to the country by 8 p.m, to give an update on the battle against COVID-19, and what becomes of the lockdown that had lasted four weeks, particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states. Kano was also a point of heavy interest, with the strange deaths ravaging the state. Was it COVID-19 or not?
As the country waited for the president with great expectations, a purported copy of the broadcast began to circulate on social media from about 4 p.m. Whodunnit?
I took a look at the circulating document, and within one minute, I knew that it was a rogue copy. What immediately gave it away was the paragraphing. It was completely different from the one I had been part of producing, and which had been recorded for broadcast by the president.
Another tell-tale to the dubiousness of the document was the date it gave. It said the lockdown in the affected states and the FCT would be eased from May 2, while the authentic copy bore May 4.
There were some other discrepancies. Paragraphs that had been excised from the final copy were still intact, and the document was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, which you would rarely find in a presidential broadcast, which would have passed through a number of select and trusted hands.
The president’s aide said he had to work the phones as panic spread within the Aso Rock media office.
I made a few phone calls to those of us involved with the script, right from origination, which was from outside the presidency, to final editing, which I did, and the conclusion was easy to reach. Somebody had spirited out the original draft, which had gone through many stages of fine-tuning in terms of content and language, and thinking that it was a world exclusive in terms of artifice and underhand action, he fed it into the social media.
Who would do such a thing, except an Enemy of the State, someone who wants to ridicule the government, cause utmost confusion in the polity, and smirk his lips in malevolent pleasure, as the government, and possibly the media handlers of the president were flagellated, and taken to the cleaners.
Yoruba people talk of ‘ba ase je.’ Somebody who spoils the feast. Everybody is rejoicing and making merry, and he comes to pollute their joy. He could bring extremely bad news that sends everyone scurrying home, or looking for cover.
He could even urinate in the big pot of soup in the full glare of the merrymakers. Or he could pour sand in the big pot of rice on the fire. Ba ase je (spoiler of the feast) can strike in many ways. That was the same thing the Enemy of the State did.
Igbo people speak of the proverbial lizard that ruined his own mother’s funeral. That was what the hidden hostile hand did. But he forgot that in these days of technology, almost everything leaves a trail. Before the end of that evening, computer evidence had narrowed down the suspect, and he was already answering for his evil action.
If that person had got the final, authentic copy, that is the same way he would have leaked it. To what end, to what purpose? Sinister. Sneaky. Hateful.
Some people hate their own country, and ironically would be the first to complain that things were not going well. Every act of the government (any government) they would undermine. If they can stick a knife into the soft underbelly of government in any way, they do it with relish, and would be the first to grumble that things were not going right. Enemies of the State.
If the person that leaked the unedited draft of the broadcast had access to more sensitive national documents, he would do the same thing. If he cottons on information that could sell Nigeria to the enemy, he would gladly do it. Thou art in the midst of foes, watch and pray.
I am surprised that a large number of people, including newspaper houses, fell for the gambit. They took their information from the wrong source, and ended up publishing falsehood. That was what the Enemy of the State wanted. Cause maximum confusion. And he succeeded to some extent.
The social media is being used for every purpose: good and bad. It is the bastion of fake news, hate news, concoctions and all sorts of conjurations. Will the users and consumers be more discerning? It is said that the person that stole a keg of palm oil from the rafter is not the only thief. The person that collected the keg from him is also a rogue. Those who began to share an obvious leak, rebroadcasting it, are also not guiltless. Be quick to hear, and slow to speak.
•Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari