FLASHBACK: Atiku appoints ‘serial plagiarist’ as SA on Public Communications

IN a press statement released in Abuja, on Sunday, by Paul Ibe, Media Adviser to Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate announced his appointment of four new aides. One of them, Phrank Shaibu, The ICIR recalls, was at the centre of a plagiarism scandal six years ago.

Shaibu, a public communications consultant and former Special adviser to Kogi State governor, Ibrahim Idris, on Public Communication and Strategy, was appointed by Atiku as Special Assistant on Public Communications.

The other newly appointed aides included Ahmed Adamu, Aliyu Bin Abbas, and Funmi Lamuye, who were respectively appointed as Special Assistant on Youth and Strategy, Special Assistant on Youth Support Groups, and Special Assistant (South-West).

In 2012, Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor of Journalism and Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University and author of “Politics of Grammar”, a weekly column in the Daily Trust newspaper, tagged Shaibu as a “shameless, serial plagiarist” of his grammar column. He alleged that he had been “willfully and barefacedly plagiarizing” his grammar column for months on Facebook, ChannelsTV, and Radio Kogi.

Kperogi’s account

In his article published on September 23, 2012, Kperogi narrated that he had, by chance, gained access to a closed Facebook group created by Shaibu with over 1000 members, which he titled “Mind Your Grammar”. His membership request, triggered by his conversation months earlier with one of the members, was approved on September 13 by Abdul Mahmud, a lawyer and one of the group administrators.

According to the journalism lecturer, while on the group, he discovered Shaibu “copied entire passages—sometimes whole articles— word for word” from his grammar column, put them on the group and equally took credit for the intellectual properties — some members addressing him for instance as a “professor of English”.

He wrote: “Once I became a member of the group, I voraciously read the postings on the group’s page and found that every single contribution that Phrank Shaibu made to the group was plagiarized from my grammar column. His responses to questions from group members were lifted from my articles, sometimes even when the responses were irrelevant to the questions asked. And he was praised to high heavens by his admirers, most of whom were young girls.”

After reporting his observation to other members of the group, Kperogi said he was kicked out from the platform and blocked on Facebook by Shaibu. Mahmud received a similar treatment when he posted on his wall to intimate his friends of his findings. The Facebook group was also deleted shortly after the allegation was made public.

“Phrank called me a week ago and admitted to his plagiarism, apologized profusely (I recorded all his phone conversations with me, which I will tender in court), promised to pay me compensatory damages, and to issue a public apology for his infractions,” Kperogi said. “But he shamelessly reneged on all his promises. Instead, he kept playing childish pranks on me. The man, certainly, is not contrite.”

In a second article published a week after, the US-based professor provided screenshots and quotes of excerpts of his work plagiarised by Shaibu on the deleted group, adding also links to his column publications from which they were copied.

That the paragraphs uploaded were copied from his column without acknowledgement, and with only occasional minimal changes in word choice, has been confirmed by The ICIR.

Kperogi: The above screenshot was was plagiarized from my September 2, 2012 article titled “The English Nigerian Children Speak.”
Kperogi: The screenshot above is plagiarized from my article titled “Top Cutest and Strangest Nigerian English Idioms” first published on June 20, 2010 in the People’s Daily and on my blog. It was republished in my Sunday Trust “Politics of Grammar” column on June 19, 2011.
Kperogi: The above screenshot was plagiarized from my April 22, 2012 article titled, “Q and A on Idioms, Nigerian Expressions, and Punctuations.”

In an interview he granted in May 2013, Kperogi said his intention to charge Shaibu to court was stalled because he could not get the latter’s fixed address to which a letter could be delivered. “My lawyer called him directly to ask for his address and he refused to give it,” he disclosed. “People who know him closely told us he has no fixed address.”

Shaibu: Allegations are just unguided remarks, half-truths

In his three-paragraph response published on September 25, 2012, Shaibu said he would not be provoked by the allegations, which he described as “unkind comments”, “unguided remarks”, “unbridled insults” and “half-truths”.

“Already, l have consulted many knowledgeable persons on the issue of the purported plagiarism and their views show a sharp contrast with the wild assumptions of ‘Prof’ Farooq,” he said.

“Any logical mind would easily appreciate that from the contents of Farooq’s unbridled insults, it is obvious that his grudge against me is not on the issue of alleged plagiarism. l have also discussed with my lawyers and their position is that l should not waste tons of newsprint in creating unnecessary relevance for Farooq given that it is most appropriate to meet him in court in line with his expressed desire to sue.”

He further alleged that the allegations were merely antics by Kperogi to draw readership to his column and blog, and said he would rather focus his attention on purposeful engagements to advance humanity. “For emphasis. most of the remarks by Farooq about me are shocking and nothing but figments of his skewed imagination,” he added.


Both parties contacted… six years after

Six years after the scandal first broke out, The ICIR made moves to get updates from both individuals. Kperogi, in response to an e-mail sent to him on Monday, said he could not proceed with his legal action because his lawyer could not locate Shaibu and the suit would have required his physical presence in Nigeria, which wasn’t a convenient option.

He also clarified why some of the screenshots he uploaded appeared to have been captured from a Facebook group called “Kogi Political Forum” and not “Mind Your Grammar”. He explained that he had in error erased screenshots he personally took of the plagiarised materials from his computer not knowing the group would be deleted.



    “Fortunately, he also shared the plagiarized materials on the ‘Kogi Political Forum’ Facebook group,” he said.

    “Fans of my grammar column who first called my attention to his serial plagiarism of my articles on his ‘Mind Your Grammar’ Facebook group also pointed me to his posts on the “Kogi Political Forum.” It was these same fans who screenshot the posts he shared on the ‘Kogi Political Forum’ group and sent to me. Apparently, he habitually shared the plagiarized materials simultaneously in both groups.”

    Kperogi concluded in his e-mail that it is a “tragic misjudgment if indeed Atiku Abubakar offered someone like that the job of a Public Communication SA.”

    Efforts to reach Shaibu have been unsuccessful as messages sent to him through his active social media account have yet to be replied. According to his Facebook page, Shaibu is the Chief Operating Officer of Media Stitch Ltd and is a former Resident Consultant of Public Communication and Strategy to the Delta State Governor.

    'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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