Afe Babalola, a senior advocate of Nigeria, has penned a ‘strong worded’ letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, in which he claimed that the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign was not an initiative of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
The campaign, which was launched in September, by the minister, has come under intense scrutiny, with several critics reacting negatively to it.
First and foremost, they spotted that the speech given by the president was lifted from a victory speech delivered by US President Barack Obama in 2008.
Afterward, Akin Fadeyi, a businessman, alleged that he conceived the idea under the theme: ‘Not in My Country’, and even pitched it to Mohammed but he was sidelined along the way.
Mr. Mohammed, in disavowal to the allegation, threatened to file legal action against him alongside a national newspaper.
READ ALSO: Dear Lai, Change Does NOT Begin With Me
However, in a letter written to the President and made available to TheCable, Babalola dared Mohammed to go ahead with his threat, adding that his client has enough evidence to prove his claims.
THE LETTER IN FULL
29th September, 2016
President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Aso Rock Villa,
ALLEGED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT OF AKIN FADEYI’S “NOT IN MY COUNTRY” ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN BY THE “CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME” PROJECT-
We have the instruction of Akin Fadeyi to write you this letter. Our client, Akin Fadeyi is the creator of the anti-corruption media campaign project “Not in My Country”. The ‘Not In My Country’ project has been the subject of a heated media exchange over allegations of copyright infringement and counter-allegations of blackmail between some actors and other concerned citizens who were privy to the ‘Not in My Country’ anti-corruption campaign project and the Hon. Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. By this letter, we seek to state our client’s position for the first time in a public space, on the many issues thrown up by the media fray. It is our hope that upon reading this letter, Your Excellency will come to appreciate our client’s status as a partner in the pious goals of this administration and the need to thoroughly investigate the issues surrounding the media report.
For the records, our client chose to remain silent for three crucial reasons. First, our client is a private business man genuinely concerned with advancing our Nigerian society by innovative thinking and development projects, not a politician with any vested interests.
Second, as shown below, the ‘Not in My Country’ anti-corruption campaign project is a product of our client’s lifelong vision to do something towards ridding our society of the cankerworm of decadence. On this point alone, our client has the same goals as the present administration in tackling corruption effectively at the grassroots.
Third, our client will not sacrifice this noblest of goals on the altar of claiming his personal individual rights, especially not in a way capable of being bastardized or confused with propaganda, among other distractions. That is not to say our client will not defend his work and hard-earned intellectual property rights in a court of competent jurisdiction at the appropriate time. Indeed, our client awaits Alhaji Lai Mohammed to make good his threats to sue him, in preparation for which he has instructed our law firm to commence the preparation of processes in answer to any summons filed against him. Without a doubt, when our client responds to any processes filed, his actions and motives will be clear and unmistakable.
BRIEF HISTORY OF OUR CLIENT’S 1-MINUTE DRAMA SKIT ‘NOT IN MY COUNTRY’ ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN PROJECT
Your Excellency, our client is an enterprising young man with over a decade experience in initiating, coordinating and executing national (re)orientation and other development projects in Nigeria. Specifically, our client conceived and initiated the ‘Not in My Country’ anti-corruption campaign project as far back as the year 2007 at the University of Lagos. In a Letter granting his request to use the University premises for ‘a three minutes clip demo tape on Saturday, September 29, 2007’, the Principal Assistant Registrar acknowledged that the “…project is on national re-orientation campaign aimed at changing the attitudes of youths for the better especially in the area of examination malpractices and moral integrity” (Please find attached Letter dated September 26, 2007).
From those days of little beginnings, our client kept working hard at his vision for this project- an effective anti-corruption media campaign which the Nigerian public would easily connect with and ultimately respond to. Thus, our client has records of having presented some of his drama skits to officials of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in 2007. In 2008, our client took the project to Messrs Joseph Adeyeye, Casmir Igbokwe and Steve Ayorinde, the current Honorable Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lagos, who was then Editor of the Punch. Since then, our client kept developing this project into the media campaign to eradicate corruption over time- using the 1-minute drama skit model- which our client has perfected in his ‘Not in My Country’ project.
OUR CLIENT’S MEETING WITH THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE
It was this fully developed 1-minute drama skit model our client presented in a proposal to the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed on the 30th of December, 2015. The point of the proposal, which was the sole purpose of that meeting, was to enlist the cooperation of the Hon. Minister to facilitate the broadcast of our client’s already prepared skits on the nation’s largest free- to- air network (Nigerian Television Authority). Our client showed three 1-minute skits to the Minister and his team. Indeed, the Hon. Minister was so impressed with the project that he commended our client for having effectively harnessed the ‘power of drama and time (one minute)’ and agreed in principle to partner with him on this project.
However, the Hon. Minister indicated that he was yet ruminating on a ‘Change Begins with Me’ idea of his own which he wanted our client to reflect in the ‘Not in my Country’ project. Thus, it was agreed at that meeting that our client should go back to location and re-shoot the drama skits to reflect the Hon. Minister’s ‘Change Begins with Me’ as the pay-off line in the ‘Not in My Country’ videos.
Our client set to work immediately with his crew at his own cost. Upon completion of the video reshoot, our client sent the minister text messages intimating him that the job was done. Our client later met with the Hon. Minister at the Southern Sun Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, where the minister was meeting with some musical artists. The minister gave our client his email contact and asked that the reworked videos be sent to him via email. Accordingly, our client sent the files to the Minister’s email (email@example.com) with a Cover Letter dated 3rd February, 2016. Receipt of the letter was duly acknowledged.
SUBSEQUENT CONDUCT OF THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE
Having received our client’s drama materials, the Hon. Minister held on to them without communicating with our client any further. All attempts to reach and meet with him again were evidently rebuffed by the Hon. Minister. Undaunted, our client reverted to the original skits first presented to the Hon. Minister and produced many more skits of the Not in My Country drama. This was launched publicly to wide media coverage on the 3rd of May, 2016 in a well-attended event at Leadway/Protea Hotel, Maryland, Ikeja. The countless media coverage of news stories, opinions and columns are available in print and electronic media for all to see. Thereafter, our client embarked on an aggressive nationwide stakeholder engagement. Despite the Minister’s silence after receiving the work, our client sent him a reminder letter, newspaper cuttings of his launch and a comprehensive copy of his Not in My Country project on the 9th of June 2016. Till date, the Hon. Minister has not replied any of these correspondences.
When on the 8th of September, 2016 the Hon Minister launched a drama skit model of the Change Begins with Me campaign, certain persons who were privy to our client’s project and others who witnessed his protracted exchanges with the Minister have made statements and accusations. Rather, contrary to all the Hon. Minister has said about him, our client has neither released nor commissioned anyone to release any comment on this matter before now. For the avoidance of doubt, let the following be known to the government, the Hon Minister and the Nigerian public as our client’s stand on this issue:
- our client has read every reaction, some spontaneous, some self serving and some others patriotic since Alhaji Lai Mohammed launched his ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign;
- our client has read some concerned public reaction to the campaign questioning the originality of some of its components and accusing the Hon Minister of re-adapting the drama concept of our client’s project to his change campaign;
iii. our client has read the Hon. Minister’s sponsored and orchestrated media attacks on his person and associates, tagging him as someone “seeking shortcut to success”, a blackmailer etc;
- in all of this, our client has urged his group of very patriotic young Nigerians and his hardworking crew not to say a word in response. Our client has equally consistently refrained from uttering any rejoinder to the Minister’s publications and correspondences. Naturally, our client wishes to state his side of the story, but does not want to be mistaken for a sponsored detractor of this government;
- our client has read the comments of all those who believe the Minister’s account simply because they are not aware of every shred of evidence that shows all that transpired between the parties till the Minister launched this Change Begins with Me campaign on September 8, 2016;
- our client is away in the United States to further the traction his Not In My Country project has gained and enhance it further through strategic and sustainable ingredients from a global dimension pursuant to negotiations that began long before the advent of this administration;
Without taking a stance on the issue and without prejudice to a more robust response to the Hon Minister’s threatened suit, we believe that the law and reason will vindicate our client’s narrative over and above any contrary incredible narrative.
OUR CLIENT’S REQUEST
At the opposite end of our client’s private rights in the media reports, is a very crucial project of the Federal Government of Nigeria by which the government seeks to encourage individual change in the citizenry in the hopes of a holistic national change. Such a project is not one that ought to kick-off dogged with debate and controversy. Already, an important orientation project is being overwhelmed by negative reports and backlash. We consequently urge Your Excellency to initiate a thorough investigation of the respective positions of the parties in the ultimate interest of the all-important war on corruption.
We also wish to reiterate to Your Excellency that in the event that Alhaji Lai Muhammed makes good his threat to go to court, which our client urges him to do, our client reserves his right to come all out to put up his defence, and that whatever steps our client takes in defending his right should not be interpreted as fighting the government. Our client has no intention of taking up any dispute with the government in appreciation of its laudable anti-corruption campaign. Whenever our client is called upon to defend himself and his work before a court of justice, he will do so to the full extent allowed by law as the matter is strictly between Akin Fadeyi and Alhaji Lai Muhammed.
Your Excellency, please accept the assurances of our highest regards.