I have followed with great interest the allegations of plagiarism made against Alhaji Lai Mohammed the Hon. Minister of Information and Culture and the rebuttals made by his office. I am constrained to write in respect of same with a view to setting the records straight having had privileged knowledge and information about the conception of the Change begins with me campaign.
I watched the launch of the “Change Begins With Me” campaign by PMB and silently chucked to myself that the Hon. Minister for Information Alhaji Lai Mohammed had finally been able to launch it. It was almost with a sense of dejavu as I listened to PMB launch what Alhaji Lai Mohammed had started to conceptualise even before his swearing in as the Honourable Minister for Information.
I was therefore shocked, surprised, bemused, most concerned and puzzled when I read online allegations and strong claims of plagiarism that the Change campaign was the brainchild of other people and that the Honourable Minister has “stolen” their idea and concept.
I recall very clearly that I met with Alhaji Lai Mohammed on the morning of the 10th of November 2015 in his hotel suite at the Hilton in Abuja. It was a day before the swearing in of the cabinet. I had called Alhaji Lai Mohammed seeking a meeting with him primarily to congratulate him on his nomination as a Minister and also because of speculation that he was going to be Minister for Information and Communication.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed was pretty confident that morning that he was going to be assigned the information portfolio but said nothing about communication. I also recall that I had the pleasure of meeting his wife and sister who were also in the suite.
After exchange of pleasantries and rubbing minds on the state of our Nation and expectations of the new cabinet, Alhaji gave me a detailed breakdown of his strategic and tactical plans to re-orientate our people to achieve the required paradigm shift and new thinking to take Nigeria to the promised land. His discussion was centered around change and how it needed to be implemented. Alhaji was very clear about the critical role social media would play and he promised that as soon as he settled down he would seek my assistance to meet with the mobile operators to explore how technology and social media will help propagate the change message and re – orientation of our values.
Truth be told I was initially skeptical as it sounded like WAI all over again but as he espoused more and more I understood very clearly what he wanted to achieve and the direction he was going. He was very emphatic and it was the first time I heard “Change begins with me”.
I committed to helping him and also undertook to rally the mobile industry to support in propagating the change message as I was part of the leadership of the Association of Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria ‘ALTON’ and a senior Executive of MTN Nigeria at the time. After the swearing – in on the 11th of November 2015, I again met with the Honorable Minister in his office on the 17th of November 2015 this time in the company of my then Boss, Michael Ikpoki, the immediate former Chief Executive officer of MTN Nigeria. It was a courtesy visit late in the evening at the Ministry of Information. The Minister reiterated the Change initiative and again sought the cooperation of the mobile industry.
Shortly after this meeting I separated from the services of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited. The Hon. Minister remained in touch and we continued to brainstorm on the Change campaign. Sometime in January 2016 I met with the Honourable Minister at his home on Isaac John street GRA Ikeja early on a Saturday morning. His son Folajimi also joined us as we did more brainstorming on how best to achieve his objectives. The Honourable Minister then requested that I prepare a submission for him on how we could deploy technology and social media to drive the change campaign with focus on the youth population.
We continued to speak and on the 22nd of February 2016 at 11.12pm, I sent a deck of slides to aid his engagement with mobile operators for the propagation of the Change begins with me Campaign.
On the 23rd of February 2016, the Hon. Minister requested via SMS that I forward the slides to two of his aides namely Segun Adeyemi and Adeleye Williams.
Electronic communications leave an indelible trace. It is therefore very surprising that anyone would suggest that the Change begins with me campaign was not the brainchild of the Honourable Minister. I state without any equivocation that Alhaji Lai Mohammed had discussed the Change begins with me campaign extensively as early as the 10th of November 2015. It is therefor impossible that the idea of the Change begins with me campaign was first proposed to the Hon. Minister at a meeting in December. Absolutely impossible.
I have no doubt that the Minister is the subject of unending unsolicited proposals as any one in a position of authority in Nigeria can testify. Best practice is to have a policy for managing unsolicited proposals.
I have elected to state the above for the records because I believe it’s the right thing to do.
Akinwale Goodluck is a Public Affairs Analyst.