‘Change Begins With Me’: Nigerian Writers Accuse Lai Mohammed Of Stealing Their...

‘Change Begins With Me’: Nigerian Writers Accuse Lai Mohammed Of Stealing Their Idea (READ)

By Ebenezer Olatunji | News Reporter on September 10, 2016
change lai mohammed muhammadu buhari
President Buhari hands over the Message of CHANGE to the Minister of Information & Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed at the Launch of the National Re-Orientation Campaign at the State House Conference Centre on 8th Sep 2016. | State House Photo

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 launched a new national orientation project tagged, “Change Begins With Me”, believed to be a brainchild of the minister of information, Lai Mohammed.

The project is aimed at changing the “crooked ways” of Nigerians and rebirthing a new nation and it wasn’t well received by Nigerians who see it as an abdication of responsibility on the part of General Buhari and his government.

The president and his party, the All Progressives Congress, where Lai Mohammed was the spokesperson during the 2015 elections, promised to bring change to Nigeria, if voted in. But, now, it turns out, Buhari told the country in his “Change Begins With Me Speech” that Nigerians need to change before the promised change could be delivered to them.

It turns out that the same old scandals that trail Nigerian government projects is rearing its head on this one.

Two writers, Akin Fadeyi and Omor Bazuaye, are accusing the minister of stealing an idea they shared with him, and presenting it to the country as his.

Bazuaye has published an article laying out his allegations against Mr. Mohammed on social media. He claims that  the national re-orientation campaign slogan, ‘Change Begins With Me’, an exact replica of their own campaign ‘Not In My country’ which he developed with Fadeyi in 2006.

He also claimed that Mohammed repackaged their idea after they shared it with him, without acknowledgement, or carrying them along in its adoption, and implementation by federal government.

Read Bazuaye’s write up below:

How FG Plagiarized Akin Fadeye’s Not In My Country
* Launched it as Change Begins With Me

We received with utter shock and disbelief attempt by the Federal Government through its Ministry of Information and National Orientation to clone and plagiarize our work, “NOT IN MY COUNTRY”, in what it now calls “Change Begins With Me”.

Only a few days ago Nigeria celebrated the arrival of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook into the country.

Zuckerberg developed something extraordinary and revolutionized the IT world.

He came to Nigeria looking for and to give courage to emerging stars.

I had written then that Nigeria has a “jungle fever” that allows it to always celebrate what is foreign as against the ingenuity of its own people.

While we rolled out the drums and even engaged in what Zuckerberg wore or ate in his brief stay in Nigeria; my attention shifted to Nigerians doing remarkable things yet ignored or abandoned.

There is the case of John Obaro who created the software for Treasury Single Account {TSA}. What did he get?

He received the biggest scorn of his life.

What I didn’t realize was that I could become the next victim until Thursday, the 8th of September, 2016 when I saw that the idea we dropped in the office of the honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Lai Mohammed; what seems a perfect replica of it was being launched by the Minister without the consent of the real originators.

We have evidence of our communications with the Minister prior to this day. We even have pictures of our meeting with him. He can’t deny it.

We implore him to just do the needful.

I know many would almost certainly defend anything under this govetnment; the owner of this project is a lover of APC and an ardent admirer of President Buhari too.

It’s a shame this is happening and coming under a government one would have thought would do things differently.

As far back as 2006, Akin Fadeyi who was then the Head, Corporate Communications of MTS First Wireless  where I worked stumbled on an idea.

One day Akin called me and said he wanted to “pick” my brain on something.

He was my immediate boss and we had come to be very fond of each other. I was learning fast under him and I guess he saw something in me I probably never knew was there.

But trust Akin to always have brilliant ideas. When he started talking I immediately knew it was something big.

It was a concept to re-engineer the minds of citizens away from the filth of moral decadence the country had fallen.

First, I consider it noble that such a young man could come up with such a selfless idea and be prepared to put his hard earned salary to drive it.

I was “wowed” and immediately wanted to be a part of what I instantly knew was big, something that could leave our both names on the sands of time.

But we needed a name for it so Akin invited me and another friend Ganiyu Olowu to the lagoon side of University of Lagos for some brainstorming sessions.

Between us, we came up with the name: NOT IN MY COUNTRY and decided to use the instruments of theatre or if you like drama to pass the message.

For 10 years, Akin held on to his idea, shopping for credible corporate organizations or development agencies who can partner with him.

Together with him, we spent those years in and out of locations shooting flicks; hiring professional actors like Tina Mba, the popular actor “Saka” and others.

It cost us money with Akin paying and footing most if not all of the bills. I have deliberately called names in my narration, names of people from whom anyone can easily verify.

Sometime in 2014, we had the honour of making presentation on it to Hussaini Abdu, the Country Director of Action Aid. I’m sure he can remember because it made a good impression on him.

We have also enjoyed tremendous support from Mr. Emeka Opara of Airtel Nigeria on this as well.

How could I have forgotten Simon Kolawole who lavishly gave NOT IN MY COUNTRY, a back page story in THISDAY NEWSPAPER and of course ace broadcaster, Gbenga Aruleba who graciously entertained Akin Fadeyi on his programme, Focus Nigeria for free and the entire management and staff of TVC who have given tremendous media coverage for this project.

Unfortunately, the period between 2006 and 2015 didn’t provide the right kind of atmosphere about a country and a society that was keen about fighting corruption.

So when in 2015 a no nonesense crusader of anti-corruption who was riding high on the change mantra; President Muhammadu Buhari came to power, I pulled a call to Akin telling him perhaps this was the hour we’ve been waiting for.

I had no iota of doubt in my mind that APC led by Buhari would instantly jump at it.

So we set to work, I took Akin to the Senior Special Adviser to the President(Media ), Garba Shehu…..he is a big mentor to me in the profession we practice.

He asked us to forward it in form of proposal to him which we did. Later Akin met with Mr. Femi Adesina on the same issue.

His advice took Akin to the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Lai Mohammed.

It was a fruitful meeting with the Minister requesting we changed the name to “Change Begins With Me”.

Akin went back to work re-shooting over 30 short films copies of what was sent to the Minister electronically.

E-mails come with time and dates and NEVER lie even when not acknowledged as being received.

That was sometime in December 2015 and we sent a reminder to him in June after NOT IN MY COUNTRY was officially launched in Lagos on the 3rd of May this year.

The only reason we named our concept NOT IN MY COUNTRY was because we didn’t want it associated with any particular government and their mantra.

We wanted a catchy phrase something neutral that Nigerians can own for themselves.

But as soon as the Minister had received the materials, we never ‘ heard anything again from him {Minister}.

It was a rude shock to us when on Thursday September 8 we saw the launch of what was an exact replica of what we had developed. The least we expected was for the Minister to partner or collaborate with us on this instead of leaving us in the cold.

We await his call as we call on all well meaning Nigerians to come to our rescue and #saveakinfadeyiproject.


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