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President Muhammadu Buhari on
Friday said the speechwriter responsible for plagiarising the United States
President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech will face disciplinary action.

The Senior Special Assistant to the
President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement said that
the similarities between certain paragraphs in Buhari and Obama’s speeches were
too similar to be coincidental.

The statement read in part,
“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.

Shehu blamed the action on some
overzealous workers and apologised on their behalf.

He also said that a deputy director
in the presidency had accepted responsibility for the action but added that the
oversight would be investigated and the appropriate punishment would be meted out
to the official.

Shehu urged Nigerians to look beyond
the error and not allow the gaffe to distract them from the core message of
change.

He added, “There was a mistake by
an overzealous worker and we regret that this has happened. 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.”

This development arose when
President Buhari’s “Change Begins With Me” campaign was severely criticised
following a discovery that some of the quotes used in his message matched those
used by the United States President Barack Obama in his 2008 election victory
speech.

This action came a week after the
associates of a Lagos-based media consultant, Akin Fadeyi, the creator of “Not
In My Country,” accused the Buhari administration of stealing his concept to
launch the “Change Begins with Me” campaign.

The associates said Fadeyi, a
creative artist and former head of communications at Airtel Nigeria, met with
the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in December 2015 to
intimate him of “Not In My Country,” an episodic narrative that deploys humour
to underscore societal ills and appeal to Nigerians to shun sharp practices.

They said Mohammed declined
interest in the concept, only to turn it around to adapt it for the “Change
Begins with Me” campaign.

But Mohammed denied the
allegations, saying he started the “Change Begins With Me” before he was
appointed minister.

Buhari had on September 8, 2016
said at the launch of the campaign that before Nigerians could see the changes
he promised before the 2015 election, they must first change their attitude by
shunning corruption and other social vices.

He had also said that change was
not about economic or social progress, but about the citizens’ personal
behaviour.

“Our citizens must realise that the
change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms
are not a theoretic exercise. If you have not seen the change in you, you
cannot see it in others or even the larger society,” he had said.

He also said, “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 this problem has taught us is
that we cannot have a thriving army of rent seekers and vested interest, while
the majority suffers.”

However, some lines in Buhari’s
message were found to be similar to those said by Obama on November 4, 2008 at
a rally in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, after winning the race for the White
House.

He had said, “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.”

Describing President Buhari’s act
as plagiarism and a “terrible mistake,” a writer and columnist with ThisDay, Adeola
Akinremi, said the last thing the President could do on a day he launched the
“Change begins with me” campaign was to deceive Nigerians with words that were
not his own.

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