Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has come under fire from critics after admitting part of his recent “Change Begins With Me” speech was copied from US President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech.
Buhari announced the social initiative earlier this month urging Nigerians to stop bribing and littering in a programme that continues his “war against indiscipline” launched while serving as military ruler in the 1980’s.
“We must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long,” Buhari said at a ceremony held in the nation’s capital of Abuja.
The presidency was forced to issue a statement late Friday night acknowledging that the line was lifted from Obama.
“It was observed that the similarities between a paragraph in President Obama’s 2008 victory speech…are too close to be passed as coincidence,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement, adding that an “overzealous” speech writer will face “appropriate sanction”.
Critics questioned whether Buhari was reading his speeches before delivering them, and worried that the flub was tarnishing Nigeria’s image abroad as international leaders prepare to meet in New York this week for the UN General Assembly.
“The president and his aides just have to do better,” opposition party member Adeyanju Deji said in a Twitter post. “We plead guys, stop embarrassing our great nation.”
This isn’t the first time that Buhari’s team has borrowed from American campaigns.
Another one of the president’s lines has been “make Nigeria great again” a copy of “make America great again”, the slogan used by US presidential candidate Donald Trump and before him by Ronald Reagan.