The Federal Government yesterday denied the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari is ‘taming’ Nigerians with the Change begins with me campaign.
British newspaper The Economist in a report at the weekend entitled: “Nigeria’s war against indiscipline, Behave or be whipped” wrote that President Buhari wanted to “tame” Nigerians with the “Change Begins With Me” campaign.
But in a statement yesterday, Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lai Mohamed, said the word “tame” suggested that Nigerians were “some kind of wild animals that must be domesticated.”
“This is not true. In his speech at the launch of the campaign on September 8, the President, a globally-acknowledged leader, who believes strongly in the rule of law, left no one in doubt that moral suasion, the very antithesis of force, will be employed to achieve attitudinal change among Nigerians.
“In that speech, the President said I am therefore appealing to all Nigerians to be part of this campaign. To the best of our knowledge and, surely the knowledge of those who own the language, the words “appeal” and “enforce” are not synonymous.
In its rush to discredit the “Change Begins With Me” campaign, The Economist, a widely respected newspaper, fell below its own standards by choosing to be economical with the truth. Enforcement is not part of the strategies to be employed under the Campaign, and nowhere has it been said that the ‘moral polic’ will be unleashed, as reported by the newspaper.
“In writing the story, the paper did not even deem it necessary to speak with any official of the government, thus breaching one of the codes of journalism, which is fairness. It chose instead to quote a ‘critic’ of Mr. President in a perfunctory manner.
The statement also accused the magazine of making the same mistake that most critics of the “Change Begins With Me” campaign have been making.
He said that the details of the programme were yet to be unveiled. “The campaign, which the President said will help restore our value system and rekindle our nationalistic fervor”, is not designed to shift any responsibility to Nigerians, as many have erroneously said.
It is an all-inclusive campaign that was designed to start with the leadership. That much was explained by the President when he said the government would “drive the campaign” and that it must be strongly supported by all concerned individually. “Change Begins With Me” was designed to start from the President, then trickle down to the Vice President, ministers, other top government officials and to all citizens. “What is the campaign asking Nigerians to do? Be the change they want to see in the society. In other words, if we all want an orderly society, for example, the motorists among us must obey traffic rules, our aggrieved youth must stop destroying public property, patent medicine sellers must stop selling fake drugs, commercial vehicle drivers must stop taking alcoholic beverages before driving etc.
“There is nothing extraordinary or over-burdening in all these. We are the fundamental units of the society. If we are not willing to change our ways for the better, we cannot expect a better society.”