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As Controversies Trail Change Begins With Me Campaign

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The ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, September 8, 2016, has attracted mixed reactions from Nigerians. BODE GBADEBO writes on the controversies that may blight the government’s noble idea.

Few days to the official launch of the National Reorientation Campaign tagged ‘Change Begins With Me’ by President Buhari, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Garba Abari, had taken out time to explain the concept to journalists.

The duo said the campaign became imperative in a bid to entrench the values of accountability, integrity and inculcate positive attitudinal change in Nigerians by the current ‘change’ government.

They added that the campaign was aimed at educating and enlightening Nigerians to appreciate these values, which they noted, are critical to achieving national development.

According to them, the campaign was expected to trigger positive change that will boost Nigeria’s image, enable the country gain acceptability and command respect among the comity of nations.

“About three to five years back now, the role models in the society were people of doubtful character. Money was worshipped; nobody cared where and how one got the money; these are the misplaced values that we are tackling now,’’ the minister said.

Mohammed noted that the campaign will involve every Nigerian and address the shortcomings of every profession and job.

“We believe that what is wrong with Nigeria is not limited to the elite, the political class and the civil service; if we want that change, therefore, it must address all the issues and target every strata of the society,’’ he said.

He however quickly pointed out that the campaign was not a replica of the ‘War Against Indiscipline’ otherwise known as WAI, which the Buhari-led military junta initiated in 1983, adding that the new ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign would achieve the same goal with WAI using a different means other than coercion and brutality witnessed under WAI.

With the precursor press briefing, one will easily buy into the new idea as the necessary tool needed to effect institutional changes in the country in order to engender transparency, accountability, efficient service delivery, security, among others.

But when the D-Day to officially unveil the campaign came, President Buhari left no one in doubt about what the campaign actually entails.

Not a few Nigerians were shocked that change must actually begin with them before they could experience a change from their leaders. While many who are sympathetic to the Buhari-led government applauded the new campaign, saying change should begin with citizens first as demanded by the President.

“I am therefore appealing to all Nigerians to be part of this campaign. Our citizens must realize that the change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms are not theoretic exercise. If you have not seen the change in you, you cannot see it in others or even the larger society. In other words, before you ask ‘where is the change they promised us’, you must first ask how far have I changed my ways ‘what have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society’,” Buhari said.

Before admonishing Nigerians that change should begin with them, the President earlier said that: “This campaign is part of the determination of our party to seek to carry all Nigerians along on the journey to a better and greater society that we all can be proud of.” And some Nigerians opined that Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which rode to power on the altar of ‘change’ mantra only promised citizens institutional ‘change’ and not attitudinal ‘change’.

Reacting to the “Change Begins With Me” campaign, a popular Nigerian columnist, social media activist and lecturer at the Kennesaw State University in Georgia, United States, Farook Kperogi, described the APC-led government as some kind of scam, which has engaged Nigerians in confidence tricks.

“The new ‘Change Begins with Me’ campaign has provided the most definitive evidentiary proof yet that the Buhari government is one giant bait-and-switch scam. Bait-and-switch scams are kinds of confidence tricks where unsuspecting customers are lured into (or “baited” to) an attractive, often too-good-to-be-true, offers. Once the customers’ interest is sufficiently piqued, sustained, and won over, the terms of the offer change (or “switch”).

“Buhari and APC baited Nigerians with a promise to “change” the country. After Nigerians swallowed the bait and voted them into power, Buhari and APC have “switched” and now say the “change” begins with everyday Nigerians who voted them into power, not they who promised it. That’s straight-up dupery,” Kperogi wrote on his Facebook page.

But the fact remains that, there cannot be change in a country’s institutions without its people, who form the institutions, changing first and the argument now is who change first – the leaders or the followers?

“You cannot ask an ordinary and poor Nigerian to change his ways first in the face of the ostentatious and corrupt lifestyles of a public official either appointed or elected. It’s strange,” a respondent told LEADERSHIP.

Besides the morality question or otherwise of the campaign, another controversy, which is capable of undermining its success, has also reared its head a couple of days after it was sold to Nigerians.

Allegation of intellectual property theft has dogged the campaign as the Minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed, is being accused of adapting the ‘Change Begins With Me’ concept from another public service campaign, ‘Not In My Country’ after its authors had initially sold the idea to the minister late 2015 and he declined interest.

Mohammed, who is yet to respond to the allegation, has to come out clean of this allegation lest the whole essence of “Change Begins With Me” national re-orientation campaign be destroyed by what it sets out to tackle – corruption.

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