by Abayomi G. Omotayo
It is no news that the newly sworn in Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo ‘borrowed’ a few words from Presidents Clinton and Obama while giving his speech during the inauguration. What is surprising to me is the furore that greeted the speech. The irony stares us starkly in the face when one considers the fact that Africa is home to rich and inspiring proverbs meant among other things, to teach us how to act and react in situations. It is said that ‘esin iwaju ni teyin n wo sare’ meaning the horse at the back looks to the horse in front to guide its galloping steps. Nigeria is referred to as the giant of Africa, which means President Buhari is also the number one President in Africa. A while ago, President Buhari decided to ‘borrow’ a few lines from President Obama during the launch of the ‘Change Begins with Me’ campaign. Should it, therefore, be surprising that President Nana Akufo-Addo towed the same line? He simply looked up to the proverbial horse in front of him.
The Europeans and Americans indulge in too many trivialities that they make a big issue out of borrowing and sharing, they need to be reminded that there is love in sharing. It should, therefore, be the joy and pleasure of Clinton and Obama that the elders in Africa find their speeches worthy of borrowing. It is the wisdom of the elders in bold and bright display in these two instances. It is foolishness to take a longer route when there is a well paved, better and shorter route to the same destination. Imagine the time and efforts saved from borrowing these speeches than daring to be original, thoughtful and producing riveting speeches just like that of the late sage Obafemi Awolowo and Kwame Nkrumah. The socio-economic challenges in Africa are enormous such that there is no time to waste in writing speeches when we can leverage on already written speeches. In this Information Technology age, there is no excuse for time wasting, therefore, all these outcries against plagiarised speeches by our presidents are irrelevant.
I blame Bill Gates. He is the reason why our presidents are being ridiculed. He was not satisfied with Windows operating system that he had to invent the Microsoft Word. It is easier to ‘copy and paste’ than to write and edit so why take the hard route of originality? Even though it is professional and honourable but can we question the wisdom of the elders when they decide to copy and paste? Do that at your own peril. Is it not wisdom to rest the brain for weightier matters of governance than to start tasking it because of an ordinary speech? Google should also share in the blame too. For Bill Gates and Google, this is a clear case of aiding and abetting which is as strong as the original case of shameful stealing (sorry, I meant borrowing) of speeches.
Next time, the world should give us a break in Africa anytime another leader plagiarises as this seems to be the fad now. I am appealing to the rest of the world to show at least a little empathy in the light of the daunting challenges confronting us and the great aspirations burning within us as a continent. The last thing we care about is the originality of a speech. For example, in Nigeria, my beloved country, the giant of Africa, we greatly aspire to become a manufacturing giant by producing pencils starting from 2018 and not to mention that we have not started producing toothpicks. This is still a future aspiration that will come perhaps after the pencil milestone. The great cassava bread commercialization project is still in the works and not forgetting to mention that we are tinkering with the idea of our youths dressing masquerades in order to create jobs and become a tourist giant. These few examples should give the rest of the world a clue that we are aspirational and we set our sights on greater things in this continent. We do not need to be bothered by tiny issues arising from ‘copy and paste’ actions of Presidents and presidential aides.
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The author tweets: @AbayomiGOmotayo