OPINION: On Freedom of Information Bill, By: Ishowo Oluwatosin

Dear Bisi Kristien,

This conservatism is quite funny. The reasons (excuses) given against FOI are not only lame but also insulting to our sensibility as a people.

The demand for FOI is to manage corruption, if it is capable of leading to another form of corruption, that is why it is before the state assembly to add or subtract from the proposed bill to ensure it suits the purpose of its passage.

Equally, making your fears the fear of others and taking a definite position on such an important bill reflects an Oyo empire kind of thinking, whereas we’re in the 21st century.

The exclusive right of ideas and opinion is not allocated to a singular person in the state if you care less about public perception of your position, the initial response was not necessary, you could have ignored and held on tight to your principles and philosophy, not bringing it to the public where it is subjected to scrutiny.

While I admired your position on your last piece concerning the protest and the silent attitude of PMB, the issue of FOI is a shared interest and concern by stakeholders and intellectuals in the state which you can’t monopolize and narrow it down to your feelings and perception.

What you have is an opinion, the need for FOI is a fact and if Kwara can make the difference with its passage, even then blind would know the government doesn’t share similar fear to yours. Sentiments and opinion that cloud a bill that’s intended to drive public good isn’t disappointing from you but for the second time, try to see beyond your perspective. FOI is not the same as the attack on the speaker, matters of morality and causation are not the same. The reason why we must be careful is that as intellectuals, we tend to forget that we are capable of fooling ourselves and it is easier to say some things that may be considered foolish when subjected to scrutiny, as we are well-read, we must be careful not to miss realities. These are capable of causing extended damage to our shared vision for a better state.

We must handle the abuse, libel or defamation or whatever you feel about the manner of language without compromising the need for FOI. We must learn to handle the present without compromising the future or turning important matters into intramural debates as intellectuals. The search for a policy that will assist in building a better Kwara must not be narrowed down to blame game or forcing matters that are unrelated as a single concept.

FOI is not the exclusive right of EnetSUD or media platforms in the state, it is for social good. We have no media in Kwara, at least an honest one but the integrity and goodwill of a platform like EnetSUD can’t be ignored, it can always be questioned.

On another thought, I’m happy with your response. Months ago,I registered displeasure with EnetSUD embarking on social audit without the passage of FOI, I can’t remember the kind of response I got then.

However, it has been envisaged that an incomplete process dents the personality and image of organizations, I counted it as a desperate attempt for relevance than addressing corruption in the state.

It is difficult for social audit to flow without FOI. Perhaps, they must have learnt that they were caught in the web of politics, I’m still indifferent to my previous stand and the reality is playing out today with your response and perception of EnetSUD.

My publication on 26/09/2020 titled “Missing 300 Million: Focus on Governance not Politics”, I said *”While I respect Mallam Akakaye and not a good fan of EnetSUD for embracing an incomplete social audit policy that doesn’t sit well with participatory democracy. Freedom of Information + Public Hearing = Social Audit, the state government deserves accolade for being the first introduced such in Nigeria. However, jumping the approval and domestication of FOI which is the first step can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked if their true intention is to make it sustainable and their true pursuit is transparency and accountability.”*

I equally registered my suspicion and asked What makes other CSOs devoid of merits, why is it only EnetSUD that is championing the cause of social audit when NGO(s), political representatives, media, civil servants and CSO should be inclusive? After all, the motive is to prevent mass corruption, however, that is a topic for another day.”

In the end, they are still suspicious.

ISHOWO, Isiaq Oluwatosin

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