President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered that prompt and appropriate disciplinary action be taken against those responsible for a wrongful insertion in his speech delivered on September 8, 2016 at the launch of the Change Begins with Me campaign, a statement by a spokesperson says.
The presidency has admitted to the plagiarism charge and blamed an unnamed “deputy director” for the intellectual property theft.
“It was observed that the similarities between a paragraph in President Obama’s 2008 Victory Speech and what President Buhari read in paragraph nine of the sixteen-paragraph address while inaugurating the Campaign on Thursday, September 8, 2016 are too close to be passed as coincidence,” Garba Shehu, a spokesperson posted on Facebook in the evening of Friday, September 16, 2016.
“There was a mistake by an overzealous staff and we regret that this has happened,” he wrote.
“Already, a deputy director in the Presidency has accepted responsibility for the insertion of the contentious paragraph. This serious oversight will be investigated thoroughly and appropriate sanction meted.
“The presidency wishes to state in the clearest possible terms that it regrets this unfortunate incident and will ensure that this does not happen again.
“President Buhari urges Nigerians to look beyond this incident and focus on the message of change, which the country needs in order to restore our cherished value systems,” the statement ended.
The Change Scandal
It has been found that Buhari plagiarised President Obama in the speech he delivered while launching the project aimed, ironically, at instilling a spirit of honesty in Nigerians.
Buhari lifted quotes from a 2008 speech by Obama, without any due acknowledgement, just as the Nigerian government’s ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign has also suffered another damaging allegation that it was stolen from a similar effort, ‘Not in My Country’. Lai Mohammed, the information minister has refuted the claims by the owners of ‘Not In My Country’.
“We must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long. Let us summon a new spirit of responsibility, spirit of service, of patriotism and sacrifice. Let us all resolve to pitch in and work hard and look after, not only ourselves but one another.
“What the current problem has taught us is that we cannot have a thriving army of rent seekers and vested interests, while the majority suffers,” Buhari said.
But facts have emerged indicating these quotes are not original to Buhari.
Adeola Akinremi, a columnist with ThisDay newspaper, was the first to spot possible instances of plagiarism between Buhari’s speech and a speech delivered by Obama when he was first elected in 2008.
In a speech delivered after his victory on November 4, 2008, Obama said to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters:
“Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
“Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.”
After highlighting the seeming plagiarism, Akinremi said the act was “unethical” and lampooned Buhari for allegedly indulging in it.
“It is immoral to plagiarize other people’s work, but even worse to use dishonesty to launch a campaign about honesty.
“When you use another person’s work without acknowledgement, you have plagiarized. You simply pretend as if it is your own. It is unethical. It makes a mess of the campaign from the start. That is what Buhari has done, nobody will believe in the ‘change begins with me’ campaign, because it was built on lies,” Mr. Akinremi said.
On Friday, presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, told Premium Times that “just becoming aware of the allegation and that the presidency would investigate”.
This is not the first time that Buhari would be trailed with allegations of plagiarism. The most famous phrase in his inauguration speech delivered in May 2015, ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody‘ was found to be lifted from a 1960s rock song, Out of Nowhere, by a rock group, War. The song is off an album called Black Man’s Burdon.
Only last Tuesday, in what appeared a striking similarity to the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, President Buhari called on Nigerian youths to make Nigeria great again through pursuit of knowledge, patriotism and commitment to values that promote national unity.
He made the call while receiving over 100 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members serving in Daura local government area of the state.
Additional reports by Signal