A new development in the on-going democratic transformations experienced in Nigeria is the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act which the present government succeeded in handing over to the Nigeria citizens in 2011. Freedom of Information is the principle that organisations and governments have a duty to share or provide ready access to information they hold, to anyone who wants it, based on the public’s right to be informed (UNESCO, 2011)
We should always remember that the people of Nigeria were only deprived this right from the days of the imperialist until the present emancipation. Sacrosanct to say that it is not a priviledge! The concerns and clamour by various civil society organizations, the media, development aids and “brim-luck” agreed, earned Nigeria a place on the list of latecomers to the comity of nations with FOI laws. The greater clamour by MediaInNig™ is how freely expressed by all institutions and organizations, is the FOI Act (FOIA)?
The basic feature of any information is embedded in its flow and free flow between the subject and the object through an activity or process leading to a positive outcome. The manner or activities by FOI evangelists to propagate the gospel of Nigeria’s FOIA sure determines the spread and number of converts and apostles it will have. With the zest that FOIA was fought, it is expected that the dividends should begin to accrue to all and sundry. However, it is observed that the onus on the FOIA has only been demanded by very few who have crisp connect to the content and context.
The question then is, if we say “At last FOIA is here”, Where? Or put another way, Is the truth and content of the FOIA made only for those who can buy the printed format or those who access it electronically? Should FOIA be a tool only in the hands of the city person or also made for the corner man? Is FOIA an agenda only for the adults and males? Would there be need for a twelve year old girl-child to find succor in the FOIA when the government funds for her school’s refurbishment is nowhere to be found and her classroom still dilapidated? Does that illiterate farmer deserve a community radio platform to understand the workings of the FOIA so he could act or demand fertilizers subsidy facilities extension officer never made accessible?
Questions like those raised above are to stress that FOIA true tenets are not mainly for unhealthy political antagonism nor for mainstream media propaganda and strategic marketing but for qualitative and quantifiable political participation and democratic inclusion of all citizens of any country. MediaInNig™ believes that FOIA can only be said to have arrived when at least 70% of the Nigerian populace understand it so well to act on and by it. “Information Act sure decries deformation act” – Joshua Olufemi, 2012.
The vehicle for taking the message of the Holy book, FOIA, to all the nooks of Nigeria are in our hands, let us stretch it to the red sea and our long awaited transparency and probity in governance will spring like a new day. Schools, Mosques, Churches, Town Hall meetings, Drama, Songs, Poems, Debates, Community Radio Platform, TV forums and talk-shows, New Media are methods and tools useful in propagating the gospel of FOIA. Other nations of the world have used these and others media to free the bird singing the song of their FOIA to all their citizens.
The efforts of vanguards in the fight for FOIA should not yield mere perspiration but must eternally axe the trees of corruption and political exclusion.