Lai Mohammed: Was 'Change Begins With Me' actually stolen?

President Muhammadu Buhari launches “Change Begins With Me’’ campaign in Abuja on September 8, 2016

There'll be eggs on many faces if the government's latest behavioral change campaign was actually stolen

The possibility that the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari with so much fanfare last week, may just be a stolen copy, is worrying and sobering all at once.

No ‘change’ administration should be engaging in acts it preaches against. You also don’t want to be embroiled in a plagiarism controversy with your goodwill fast ebbing away.

Two media consultants, Akin Fadeyi and Omor Bazuaye have laid claims to the concept, but Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed is having none of it.

Bazuaye said: “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.”


Similarly, Fadeyi who is a creative artist and former head of communications at Airtel Nigeria, said he held discussions with the Information Minister at his Isaac John Street, Ikeja, Lagos, home, where he made his pitch.

ALSO READ: "Change begins with you," – President tells Nigerians

Online newspaper, Premium Times, quotes an unnamed Associate of Fadeyi as saying: “They (Fadeyi’s company) submitted the final version of their proposal to him after ending each episode with ‘Change Begins with Me’ as he directed. Mohammed immediately said it was a brilliant idea because it achieved ‘the power of one minute.’”

According to the story, three episodes were produced by Fadeyi and submitted to Mohammed in January 2016 for his perusal.

The unnamed Associate continued: “The Minister just suddenly disappeared since then and made it very difficult for Mr. Fadeyi to reach him for updates about the proposal. Months later, he started publicity about ‘Change Begins with Me’ launch without signing any contract with owners.

"The Minister just sort of made a little change here, a little change there, and ran to town with the concept.”


But Mohammed has said he stole no one’s concept, asserting that he began work on the campaign as soon as he was nominated Minister—long before he met Fadeyi.

“The Change Begins With Me campaign is entirely my creation and nobody including Akin Fadeyi can claim I borrowed his or her idea or accuse me of plagiarism", Mohammed shot back in an interview with The Nation.

“I will forward to you irrefutable proof that I started  working on the Change Begins With Me concept a few days after my nomination as a minister and by the 12th of October 2015. A day after I appeared before the Senate for confirmation, Mr. Brian Ebden, the Communication Marketing Consultant working with me sent me an email which you will receive(dated the same October 12) referring to the completed work on the Change Begins With Me campaign.

“I will send to your email address confirmatory and irrefutable proof that by the 31st of October 2015 all radio jingles and TV commercials had been completed.

Mohammed added: “Akin Fadeyi was sent to me by a former Editor of ThisDay only in December 2015 or January 2016.

“You will also receive evidence that I met with top leading Nigerian musicians and producers like Tiwa Savage, Sunny Ade, KWAM 2, Don Jazzy, PSquare and many others at the Southern Sun Hotel in December 2015 seeking their cooperation in the Change Begins With Me Campaign.


“How then can anyone suggest from the above evidence that I stole Akin Fadeyi or anybody’s idea in respect of this campaign?

“It will interest you that as of today, there are two other people claiming that I stole their ideas in respect of this project.

“While it is true that I received over 20 proposals across the country, including from eminent TV giants like Jimmy Johnson (alias Okoro), I told each and every one of them that I had already concluded work on the project.

“It is to the credit of Mr. Jimmy Johnson that despite being one of the first to approach me with his proposal, he was one of the first to congratulate me on the successful launch of the campaign. He is alive; you can corroborate my story with him”.

Through his spokesperson, Williams Adeyeye, Mohammed also made it clear he’s ready to slug it out in court with anyone alleging he stole the concept.

“We started working on ‘Change Begins with Me’ before the Honourable minister was nominated and we’ve been working with the agency that produced the campaign.

“So let him (Fadeyi) go to wherever he likes then we’ll meet and go and sort it out there,” he added.

Ebden, the advertising consultant who worked with Mohammed on the project, said Fadeyi and his Associates are just up to some mischief.

“This is nothing but sheer lies and blackmail,” Ebden said in a statement.

The ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign has been greeted with mixed reactions from a cross section of Nigerians. The controversy over whether the concept was stolen or not, certainly won’t aid its appeal or acceptance. Certainly one controversy the Presidency could have done without.

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