Adeola Akinremi is a journalist and features editor of THISDAY. An SEO expert and a campaigner.
Plagiarism is not a trivial matter.
President Muhammadu Buhari made a terrible mistake last Thursday. He plagiarized President Barack Obama’s Speech to launch “change begins with me.”So you didn’t notice that our president lifted from Obama’s 2008 victory speech and passed it off as if the words were his own?
The argument will rage, but the moral problem of plagiarism on a day Mr. President launched a campaign to demand honesty and integrity from the people is what we should concern ourselves with.
I’m not a wailing wailer and I don’t like the downfall of any man but I also don’t like to be deceived.
The very last thing you should do when you’re launching a campaign like this is to be dishonest with the people.
As Buhari talked down on Nigerians during the launch of the campaign spearheaded by no other person, other than the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, known for his trash-talk, particularly for the opposition, I started following the speech line-by-line.
I was alarmed to make the discovery. It was a scandal that escaped the attention of our newspapers. It is one of two things: either people don’t pay particular attention to Buhari’s words or we are a nation of anything goes.
Only in July, Melania Trump, the wife of the Republican White House hopeful, Donald Trump, was caught in the web of plagiarism after she spoke at the Republican National Convention. She plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech. It was a big headline on television screen and national newspapers. Indeed it was a “global” headline.
Yes, a prime part of Buhari’s speech to the nation last Thursday to launch a campaign encouraging new culture of transparency, attitudinal change and hard work among Nigerians was plagiarized from America’s President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech.
Buhari’s speech during the launch of the “change begins with me”, a new national orientation campaign, contained largely the same sentiment and arrangement of words that President Obama used in his 2008 victory speech after he was elected the first American black president.
The president lifted a whole paragraph from Obama’s speech and passed it off as his own when he 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 the current problem has taught us is that we cannot have a thriving army of rent seekers and vested interests, while the majority suffers.”
President Obama used the precise words at a rally in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, United States, after winning the race for the White House in November 2008.
Eight years ago, Obama said: “In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. 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.”
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.
Now, this is what I think must have happened, an incompetent speech writer handed the speech to Buhari with no fact checking method by the president’s men that should have saved the president from this embarrassment.
I know this that with the vast opportunity provided by the internet, it’s so tempting to plagiarize, but the same internet provides opportunity to discover plagiarists.
It’s particularly troubling that the president has no inspiring words of his own other than to steal from someone.
And this, it is pathetic that this “change” conversation is taking new dimension from what we expected.
In the midst of its failure, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is asking Nigerians to change their ways, blaming everything why the country is not working on Nigerians’ attitudes.
The blame game is moving away from Goodluck Jonathan years, the only defense for failure that APC has so far used.
Interestingly, the world is watching Buhari and the story of his plagiarism may have crossed the Atlantic without him knowing. Americans don’t joke with such issue. They name and shame plagiarists.
Next week, when Buhari take his turn to address the 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Americans will scrutinize his words and check his facts.
Before that time, it is my submission that Buhari needs to apologize to Nigerians for plagiarizing on a day he launched “change begins with me.” Will Buhari apologize?