IF AND ONLY IF
Today May 4th, 2009 if I can board a bus without staying at the Bus stop for one hour and without the payment of unannounced hundred percent increase in transport fare due to fuel scarcity in a Nigeria that is ranked 12th among oil producing countries and 8th among oil exporting countries.
If I can enjoy a 24 hour uninterrupted power supply once in three consecutive months, if I can travel from Lagos to Benin, two great cities in Nigeria without loosing my three months old pregnancy to potholes on our so called express roads.
If I can enter into the 13th floor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to demand for a copy of the report on FADAMA project, even at the payment of a token without being threatened to be thrown out through the window.
If I can be granted entrance into the force Headquarter of Nigeria Army and on request be given the list of Nigerian soldiers who lost their lives in Liberia war.
If my sister can be admitted on merit into a Nigerian University of her choice to read a course of her choice without thinking about the allotment of slots to power that be.
If a four year old girl can be treated freely of Malaria in a country that claims to offer free treatment for 5 year old children and below, if …if ….if … may be there will not be any need for agitation about Freedom to have answers to questions concerning Nigerians.
Section 39 of Nigeria Constitution guarantees every person the right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference BUT it does not specifically provide for a right of access to public information.
Many laws at the federal and state levels prohibit the disclosure of information under pain of sanctions (Imprisonment and fines) therefore Nigeria has official secret act, criminal code etc there is no Freedom of Information law that guarantees citizens access to information records or documents held by institutions. This situation has produced a custom of secrecy in governance.
Any democracy devoid of information will suffocate; moreover, an administration with hidden actions excludes the citizenry from contributing meaningfully in the affairs of their society. On the other way round, it allows incompetence, extravagance and fraud to reign.
Most often, public business are conducted in secret far from the eyes of the people as if it is a family affair and masses are treated as enemies of the government. The official information treated as their property, rather than what is held and maintain on behalf of the people.
All government official are obliged upon assuming office to subscribe to an oath of secrecy.. I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal any matter to any person…… in the discharge of my official duties…….or as may be permitted by the President. Nigerians remain in the dark about issues concerning them and in situation when a request is made even for academic research purposes the answer to the request comes years later when it might be useless and in most cases it is denial of information.
Informed Nigerian came up with the Freedom of Information Bill over ten years ago, the essence of the Bill provides that notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, Law or Regulation, every citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has a legally enforceable right to, and shall be given access to any record under the control of a government or public institution. Record of the National Assembly of Nigeria indicate that the Bill was sent to the immediate past President of Nigeria on March 16, 2007 for president assent, the constitution gave the President 30 days to assent to a Bill from the National Assembly or signify that he refuses assent. The former president claimed the Bill was never sent to him.
This controversy about the whereabouts of the Bill was laid to rest one year the past president left office, despite claiming not to have seen the Bill, he gave reasons on two occasions why he could not sign it into law (April 26, 2007 when he received a team of Civil Society Organizations and when he featured on a National television program on May 20, 2007). This was the Bill he denied not seeing. Accountability, Openness and Transparency are ingriedients of a Delectable Democracy.
The present President said he intends to sign the Bill into Law when it finally comes before him, my opinion does not owe water, but the first one claimed he did not see it when Senators sent the Bill, the present one is ready to sign but the Senate refused to send to him. There is an adage in my village that says, two people do not lose out on lies if the liar does not know that he is telling a lie, the listener will surely know that the person talking is deceiving him/her. Time will tell because we are never tired of waiting.
Nigerians masses are so used to suffering that when our leaders are performing their normal duties it looks as if they are doing us great favors an example is just seeing a new erected street light pole though without bulb talk less of light, people will be jubilating that government is working. Happenings around us confirm that Nigerian leaders have strange blood running in their veins. May God Bless Nigerian Women and Children with long lives to witness genuine democracy.