On Having a New English Review Article Plagiarized in the Nigerian Leadership

by Shai Afsai (August 2013)


It recently came to my attention that a New English Review article I wrote, “Igbo Jews of Nigeria Strive to Study and Practice,” which was published in the July issue (going online on July 4, 2013) accompanied by three photographs I took, was plagiarized in the Nigerian Leadership.

The writing and photographs about my visit to Nigeria’s capital in order to meet with some of its Igbo Jews reappeared word for word and picture for picture in the Leadership under the headline “Igbo-Jews Of Nigeria Study And Practise Judaism” — but with no mention of their previous publication in NER, and with a byline declaring the work to be “BY IGHO OYOYO, Abuja.” 

The plagiarized article, along with one photograph, was also posted to the Leadership’s website that same day (July 17, 2013).  From there, the plagiarized article was picked up and posted to other websites, such as AllAfrica.

What do you do when the Leadership plagiarizes one of your articles? The first step one could take — and which I took— might be to write to the Leadership’s editors, pointing out what’s happened and asking for an explanation, a correction, and a remedying of the matter.

But what do you do when the Leadership’s editors fail to respond to multiple emails? I decided to contact the Nigeria Union of Journalists, whose functions, according to its website, include “Ensuring strict adherence to the journalism’s code of Ethics.”

That the Nigeria Union of Journalists already had some familiarity with Igho Oyoyo was indicated by a January 1, 2013 Leadership article headlined “NUJ Petitions FCT Police Over Assault On Leadership Reporter”:

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT Council, has petitioned the FCT Commissioner of Police, Mr. Aderenle Shinaba over the brutalisation of a reporter with the Leadership Newspapers, Mr. Igho Oyoyo, by men and officers of the command . . . Recall that Oyoyo was on Saturday assaulted by over 20 policemen . . . during the PDP ward primaries, held at Old Parade Ground, Area 10, Garki. 

The January Leadership article doesn’t clarify if the officers and men who brutalized Igho Oyoyo were driven to do so by their anger over a previously discovered instance of his plagiarism.

My emails to the Nigeria Union of Journalists, however, also went unanswered. What do you do next, after not hearing back from the Leadership’s editors or the Nigeria Union of Journalists? I decided to alert NER’s Rebecca Bynum and to write an article entitled “On Having a New English Review Article Plagiarized by the Nigerian Leadership.” And if it appears as though I’ve been repeating Igho Oyoyo’s name a lot here — well, Igho Oyoyo seems to enjoy having his name attached to my work, and in this instance I’m willing to oblige him.

When this plagiarism problem came to my attention, one of my first thoughts was of Jim Dixon. Readers of Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim (1954) may recall that in the early pages of the novel, Dixon is excited at the prospect of having his article on Western European shipbuilding techniques in the fifteenth century appear in a new historical review being started up by one Dr. L. S. Caton. As the novel progresses, however, Dixon is unable to elicit a definitive publication date from Caton and there are worrying indications Caton may be a rather shady academic. In the end, Dixon discovers that Caton has taken the shipbuilding article, closely paraphrased or outright translated it into Italian, and published it in the journal of an Italian historical society under the name of L. S. Caton. 

(Note to the Leadership’s editors: See what I did there? I accurately attributed Lucky Jim to its author, Kingsley Amis. I didn’t slightly alter the novel’s title to something like Fortunate Jim and then attribute its authorship to Igho Oyoyo.)

In Lucky Jim, Dixon decides that Caton’s plagiarism doesn’t really matter and lets it go.

Fiction resolves itself that way. What happened here is that Rebecca Bynum persistently pursued a correction and an apology from the Leadership for the article’s plagiarism. That resulted in its republication on the Leadership’s website on July 26, along with an accompanying note:

This article: “Igbo Jews in Nigeria Study and Practice of Judaism” by ShaiAfsai was erroneously published in the name of Igho Oyoyo in our July 17 edition.  We regret this error and assure Mr ShaiAfsai and New English Review of our utmost respect for their intellectual property rights.

This correction also appeared in the print version of the paper on July 26th.

 

Shai Afsai’s “Igbo Jews of Nigeria Strive to Study and Practice” was published in the July 2013 issue of NER.  It was reprinted with permission in the Leadership as “Igbo-Jews Of Nigeria Study And Practise Judaism” on July 17, 2013.

 

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