Akintunde Oyebode: The Verbal Kint in all of us (YNaija Frontpage)

Like most government documents, the Sure and Steady Ready Report reads like a propaganda document, like an artist blowing his trumpet before learning the notes.

I remember that day vividly. It was the 1995 Academy Awards. I was alone, in my room, standing and applauding. Kevin Spacey was at the podium to receive The Best Supporting Actor award for his performance as Verbal Kint in the Usual Suspects. He deserved no less, that performance launched Kevin Spacey to the world; but the real winner of the award was absent. The main who made this all happen was the mythical alter ego of Verbal Kint, the unforgettable Keyser Soze.

The Usual Suspects ranks among the top ten movies I’ve ever watched. It is the story of a con-artist with cerebral palsy facing interrogation after surviving a fire and mass murder on a ship in Los Angeles. He tells a riveting and convoluted story centered on a famous and possibly mythical character named Keyser Soze. He is eventually released by his interrogators and granted immunity after telling a very believable story. After he is released, his interrogators realize the story they were told was made up, most of it culled from a bulletin board in the interrogation room.

In July, I read Ebuka Obi-Uchendu’s article that mentioned the wide variation between the Federal and State census figures for Lagos State, and our inability to give an exact number of people that died from the Dana Air crash. I was reminded of this article yesterday when I read Feyi Fawehinmi’s post that showed the percentage distribution of Nigeria’s population was completely unchanged when the 1991 and 2006 census figures were compared. This implies that Nigeria is suggesting the distribution of our population growth is evenly distributed across all geo-political zones despite the differences in birth rates and the obvious migration of people. This is symptomatic of nation that makes up its story as events unfold.

The Jonathan administration is the first Nigerian government to publish a progress report of its stewardship. What struck me reading the document was the absence of specific goals of each ministry. Apart from the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources, most of the reports seemed to be a collection of highlights the reader is unable to align with specific policies. It is befuddling that the Ministry of Education can submit a progress report without indicating the goals of the ministry, and how these align with the UNDP’s Human Development Indicators. For example, the UNDP states the expected years of schooling (for children under 7 years) is 11.2 for countries with medium human development. The average for Nigeria has not moved from 8.9 years since 2005. It is a similar story for the Ministry of Health. The life expectancy for Nigeria is less than 50 years, again in the bottom 20% of all countries; yet the ministry’s report does not mention a target, or a plan to achieve consistent improvement.

Like most government documents, the Sure and Steady Ready Report reads like a propaganda document, like an artist blowing his trumpet before learning the notes. There are commendable excerpts designed to amuse the reader. In his submission, the quite comical Labaran Maku wrote: “Because of the ministry’s consistent campaign, the religious war between Muslims and Christians, which the group (Boko Haram)sought to provoke, has been averted, as Nigerian both Muslims and Christians have come to see the group for what it really is.”  I do not know if it is appropriate to laugh or shed a tear that a sentence attributed to Nigeria’s minister of Information begins with “because” but that is the result of telling a story and thinking about it at the same time.

We must not allow the government a chance to pull a Verbal Kint stunt on us. Our culture must evolve to one that constantly questions flaws in government reporting, otherwise we will be left with the short end of the stick. If you want to comment on the Sure and Steady Report, please visit www.eienigeria.org to leave your comments.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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