Following the launch of President Muhammadu Buhari’s national orientation programme, tagged Change Begins With Me, two writers accused Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed of plagiarising their idea which they said was originally tagged, Not In My Country.
Two writers, Akin Fadeyi and Omor Bazuaye, have accused the minister of stealing an idea they shared with him, and presenting it to the country as his.
Bazuaye 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.
In response to these weighty allegations, Brian Ebden, a marketing communications consultant who worked on the concept development with the minister has responded with a statement dated Saturday September 10, 2016.
The statement, e-mailed to The Trent from the office of Lai Mohammed is titled, Change Begins With Me’ Is Solely the Idea of the Minister of Information And Culture, says that the minister conceived and discussed the idea of a national orientation plan soon after he was nominated for minister in October 2015.
Mr. Ebden says he has “irrefutable evidence in the form of emails” that prove that Mr. Mohammed is the originator of the concept, ‘Change Begins with You’. He said that he worked together with Centrespread, an advertising agency in Nigeria in developing the concept.
“I read with utter shock and disbelief the reported claim by some people that the minister of information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stole their concept of ‘CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME’,” the statement said. “This is nothing but sheer lies and blackmail.”
“The facts are that as a marketing communications consultant, I, together with the advertising agency Centerspread, were contacted a week after Alhaji Lai Mohammed was nominated as minister by the president to attend a brainstorming workshop on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at the White House Hotel in Ikeja.
“At this briefing, Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s first statement was that once he has taken office, he wishes to launch a change campaign entitled, “Change begins with me.” It was Centerspread and my task to develop
the communications campaign and strategy, following an in-depth briefing which we received at this session.
“I have irrefutable evidence in the form of emails that two days later (October 10, 2015), I sent the entire strategy document to Alhaji Lai Mohammed detailing the first stage of the communications plan. In this email (and I am more than happy to send it to anyone who so wishes), it is entitled (in capital letters, CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME),” the statement said.
The Trent sent a request to speak with Mr. Ebden to the information minister’s office. An assistant promised to give us his phone number. We are yet to receive it.
“Nothing was plagiarised because none of those making the ridiculous claim admitted meeting Alhaji Lai Mohammed on any proposal before he was nominated and sworn into office. Yet, it is on record, as I stated in the statement that the whole ‘Change Begins With Me’ concept was formulated and concluded long before the minister was sworn into office in November, 2015,” Mr. Ebden says.
“The irrefutable evidence to attest to all these facts are available and only confirms this position. The facts speak for themselves and, in my opinion, all those who are making these specious claim need to urgently apologise to the minister.”
The statement goes further to say:
“By October 30, 2015, the entire 1st generation creative work was sent to Alhaji Lai Mohammed which included the first created logo, artwork, jingles and TVC concepts.
A month later, both agencies attended a presentation session at Radio House in Abuja where two campaigns were presented to a contingent of more than 100 people of the ministry of information and culture which included NTA, FRCN and NOA and again it was clearly and unambiguously stated that the campaign was ‘Change begins with me’.
“Over the ensuing weeks following this initial presentation, the honourable minister repeatedly mentioned the impending campaign by its name and it was duly reported in the media.
“Further still, on Sunday, January 24, 2016 at the Southern Sun Hotel in Ikoyi, the minister presented the campaign to all major artists and personalities who included King Sunny Ade, Pasuma, MI, Don Jazzy, P Square, Mo Abudu and many others.
“This again was public knowledge and can be verified HERE.
“Having said this, what is conspicuous by its absence is any form of complaint or utterance by anyone whatsoever to the plethora of public information espoused directly by the Honourable Minister to argue that
the concept of ‘Change begins with me’ belongs to him or her.
“However, they waited for the campaign to be launched officially by the president before making spuriously claims that the minister plagiarised their so-called concept and appropriated their supposed intellectual property.”