Justice, they say, is best served when seen to be done. There are times when official protection is not good enough; and the global embarrassment the country had to endure consequent of criminal act of plagiarism perpetrated by presidential speech writers, is one of such occasions. All those involved in the act must be named and shamed publicly.
In a speech on September 8, by President Muhammadu Buhari, while launching a campaign entitled: “Change Begins With Me”, several sentences were almost identical to that of the US President Barak Obama eight years ago.
“We must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long,” President Buhari read to the horror on Nigerians.
During the race to the White House against Republican John McCain, President said: “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
The similarities, as admitted by the presidency, between a paragraph in President Obama’s 2008 speech and what the President Buhari read in paragraph nine of the 16-paragraph, during the inauguration “are too close to be passed as coincidence.” The presidency stressed: “There was a mistake by an overzealous administration staff and we regret that this has happened. A Deputy Director in the Presidency has accepted responsibility for the insertion of the contentious paragraphs even when a query to him was being typed. This serious oversight will be investigated thoroughly and appropriate punishment meted.”
Without much debate, corruption is the most singular malaise holding down the country and there is no worse type of corruption than institutional and intellectual deceit. This particular criminal act is all the more dangerous given the mantra upon which the ruling government came into power. It is also particularly disheartening that the speech in question was aimed at chatting in a fresh path of orientation for Nigerians; away from the unfortunate ebb, shamelessness, mind-boggling dishonest and indignity, the country has plunged. In the estimation of this paper, the presidential plagiarism ranks the highest. This is by no means a mean task given a retinue of missteps that have characterised the All Progressives Congress-led government in its over one year in office.
As such, the task before this government in redeeming itself and saving popular public goodwill that led to its ascension to power, is to come clean of all those involved, either by error of omission or commission. No sacred cow deserves to be spared. This act is not particularly an affront to President Muhammadu Buhari, but the nation and Nigerians anywhere they domicile.
Three weeks after the infamous act, it is amazing the names of all those responsible are not in the public. They are probably still feeding on public funds and mingling with decent people. Every Nigerian, indeed the world, deserves to know the charlatans that defecated on the national pride and dignity, making the nation looks like one huge criminal enterprise. Little wonder the then British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, referred to the country as “fantastically corrupt”. Of course, this is what is meant to be fantastic in criminal acts. In a more responsible clime, these individuals would be known to every citizen, even as they cool their legs in the jail.
To its credit, the government swiftly responded by apologising to Nigerians. But this is not enough. When criminals are treated with kid gloves, there is no better incentive for their would-be clones. Over time, the result of this kid-finger treatment is the unrelenting impunity public officials, at all levels, subject the country to; even as their counterparts in the private sector are striving to outdo them.