Nigeria’s president will punish staff for plagiarizing an Obama speech from 2008

“Now, say after me…”
“Now, say after me…”
Image: AP/Evan Vucci
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Since coming into office last year, very little has gone according to script for Nigeria’s president Buhari. The economy officially slipped into its first recession in decades at the start of the month and a currency crisis has shown no signs of abating, hitting various industries, especially aviation.

This month, in a bid to stem the tide of turning public opinion, the president launched a national reorientation campaign tagged ‘Change Begins With Me’. In his speech, Buhari urged Nigerians to ditch immoral values for more positive ones.

But it turns out parts of the speech were not entirely his. First pointed out by a local columnist, Buhari’s speech plagiarized Barack Obama’s famous victory speech in 2008. The presidency has already admitted to the plagiarism. Garba Shehu, Nigeria’s presidential spokesman, says the president has “ordered that prompt and appropriate disciplinary action be taken against those responsible for a wrongful insertion in his speech.”

BBC did a nice job of breaking it down here.

First Buhari (Watch):

“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.”

Then Obama back in 2008, from different sections of his speech (Watch):

Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, 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.”

Shehu also described the plagiarism error as a “serious oversight” committed by an “overzealous staff”. Opposition party figures have needed little encouragement to lampoon the presidency’s plagiarism error, describing it as a shame to the nation.

The plagiarism scandal further undermines the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign which has, so far, struggled to gain significant traction. With difficult economic headwinds, the campaign has been perceived as the government shirking its responsibility and blaming Nigerians for the country’s woes. The idea of the campaign itself has become a contentious issue with Nigeria’s minister of information accused of copying an idea pitched to him earlier without giving any credit.

Of course, Barack isn’t the first Obama to have a 2008 speech plagiarized in recent weeks. Several lines from first lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech were plagiarized by Melania Trump, wife of Donald, for her speech at the Republican National Convention in July.