Sunday Okobi and Abdulkareem Azeezat
The federal government yesterday launched the ‘Change Begins With Me’ Initiative, calling on the private sector to buy into the campaign in an effort to correct the anomaly in the Nigerian system, including the business environment.
At the launch which took place in Lagos, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who unveiled the campaign, stated that with the way the value system in the country has degenerated, which has resulted in the mess in the country is today, “there is no better time to launch the initiative than now.”
He noted that the initiative has actually started long ago, but that there is need to bring it to Nigerians particularly the private sector because as long as Nigerians refuse to toe the line of integrity and honesty, the private sector will never have dedicated workforce
The minister said the partnership with the sector is a win-win situation as any money spent on the campaign, will be recoup through quality airtime on NTA and FRCN.
According to him, “I think the purpose of this initiative is that we need a national rebirth; we need to change the way we do things and imbibe in our people the culture of integrity, honesty and good morals in every facet of life.
“What we are saying is that the problem in Nigeria is not just about bribery and corruption by public officers, we are saying that everybody must have contributed in one way or the other to where we have found ourselves-the pharmacist who sells fake drugs, the bus driver who drives under the influence of alcohol, the market woman who uses false weighting equipment to sell products thereby cheating customers; the doctor who does not put his patients before the money, the public officer who is not diligent in his job, the agitators who has little or no respect for government properties.
“Everybody must change the way we look at things and that is the essence of this. We brought this to the private sector because we believe that there have more to gain from a Nigeria that is reborn from a Nigeria with sound moral values because a Nigeria with sound moral values will get worth again and will be diligent and productive, and at the end of the day, the balance sheet of the corporate company will improve, and this will go a long way in determining the growth and development of Nigeria.
He noted that a lot of people said the change must start from that president, adding that: “I had earlier said the change began with us before we invited you. Even as president-elect, Buhari publicly demonstrated this by reprimanded his staff when they broke traffic regulations, and from then on, every Nigerian has begun to respect traffic rules.
“The president shunned extravagant lifestyle when he refused that N400 million should be spent for him just to replace the vehicles in his official fleet, and he told them that since nothing was wrong with the vehicles his predecessor, bring them to me.
“Today like I told you, we all queued up at airport; at our filling stations and we have seen what that flamboyant nature of our life has done to us. I am happy to report today that arrangements have gone far to sell two of these aircraft while others will be given to the air force, but don’t forget that aircraft are not like cars that you can just put for sale and people will just buy them. “
When reminded that similar campaigns have failed in the past, Mohammed said: “I think there are two reasons why I believe this change begins with me will succeed. Firstly, the government is not asking anybody to do anything out of extraordinary, we are just appealing to our good Nigerians, whether Christianity or Islamic, to preaches honesty and integrity. Secondly, leadership is leading by example, and it is easier for us to succeed in this country because we are leading from the front. Also, it is all about passion because if you are not passionate about this, you will be able to drive it. Therefore, we seek your support.
“Even as the economy is declining, we cannot continue to loot the system, vandalise government property or avoid due diligence in governance. If the past government had started this initiative, we would not be where we are today.”
When quizzed on the allegation of plagiarism, the minister, who vehemently denied that he stole somebody’s idea, stated that “It amazing how Nigerians wants to reap where they have not sowed and it is quite disgraceful. The kind of wild allegations going on at times because you are a public officer can handicap you.
“I was nominated as a minister sometimes in October the moment I was nominated I called my team and I said the most important thing to do was to change the attitude of Nigerians, the way we do things, so I called a meeting in October 31, 2015, when I was confirmed as a federal minister, and before then, I had completed work on ‘Change Begins With Me’, unfortunately, I made it available to the media. I had completed all the radio jingles and TV commercials, even Mr. Akin Fadeyi by own admission, came to me on December 31, 2015, after I had become a minister. How can you accuse me of stealing an idea which was finished by October while he came to me December? However, he, Afe Babalola and I will meet in court.”