The Chicken before the Egg, By Hannatu Musawa

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer to this age old conundrum had baffled scientists and riddle lovers for centuries. The challenge has always come from the fact that a chicken can only come from an egg, but an egg, on the other hand, has to be laid by a chicken, and that chicken had to have come from an egg…you see what I mean?

Well, sometime ago, a group of scientists cracked the ‘SHELL’ of this riddle by ‘FRYING, BOILING AND UNSCRAMBLING’ (pun intended) the mystery to give a fully ‘POACHED’ answer to one of the world’s oldest riddles. Their answer was… (drum roll)… the chicken came first before the egg!

In a bid to find out more about how animals make eggshell, the scientists researched the process in microscopic detail by programming the ingredients that they thought chickens use to make egg shells. By the time the results came up, it revealed the presence of a particular protein in a chicken’s ovaries, unidentified by the researchers, which acts as the tireless builder on an eggshell. Without this protein, the eggs would not exist. This, in their opinion, meant the bird must have come first.

Which came first questions, such as that of the chicken or the egg may not seem such an important one to ask or find a solution to. Especially in our society where the majority are living under such poverty that the only fact most Nigerians care to know about chickens and eggs is how to attain and eat them. But like most occurrences in life, almost everything happens as a consequence of something else and sometimes certain outcomes can only be guaranteed by the function of a certain criterion. Much like the fact discovered by the scientists that an eggshell cannot be created without a certain protein produced in a chicken; it is a fact that in order to conduct a free, fair and people representative election in Nigeria, certain measures must be put in place by INEC.

Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission, said it has detected and removed multiple registrants from the Ekiti and Osun States voters registers, ahead of the governorship elections in the states. If that is the case, although it may be late for the Ekiti and Osun elections coming up in June and August respectively, there may be an absolute need for INEC to conduct a credible nationwide voter’s registration exercise.

Even with the statement of Professor Jega, that “the consolidation and de-duplication of the biometric register of voters have been completed and the voters register now has integrity that surpasses the register with which 2011 elections were conducted,” quite a few of us would beg to differ.

By making this statement to say, “The voters register now has integrity that surpasses the register with which 2011 elections were conducted”, which gives a veiled admission that the voters register wasn’t credible, it would follow that using that same voter’s register to be used in the 2015 elections won’t be credible either.

Fifteen years since the birth of our fourth republic, it is no secret that our democracy is but a shambles in Nigeria. And as we charge towards ‘Nigeria 2015’, the crucial questions we need to ask ourselves before any discussion of a credible election are, what is the worth of democracy to us and what framework do we hope to pursue in order to progress it? The answers to these are basic and will not take a team of scientists centuries to decipher, as with the chicken and egg conundrum. With a lifetime of military rule, repression and poverty, the worth of democracy to a Nigerian is priceless and the framework needed to progress it lies with the conduct of an election that allows every eligible voter in Nigeria to pass their sovereign verdict on each person that seeks public office. But can that truly be possible given this repetitive lack of preparation from INEC.

The prospect of an authentic process, amidst the present arrangement looks very slim and unlikely. It is one thing to promise credible elections and another to conduct it.

Any credible election must be predicated on several fundamentals, with the most important being an authentic voter’s register that will represent genuine voters. By Professor Jega’s own admission now, the current voter’s register is allegedly tainted. By law, the commission is obligated to compile, maintain and update, on a continuous basis, a National Register of Voters, which shall include names of all persons entitled to vote in all elections.

With talk that the general election may hold early 2015 despite all these inadequacies and more, the prospect of a free and fair election is looking like a nonstarter. If, by law, the election has to be conducted at least 150 days before the May 29th handover date, then by all means we should strive to meet that deadline. But in the event we are unable to, then we have to consider amending the law so that the handover date can be moved to a time that will accommodate the preparations that are needed to conduct a credible process. If the commission is committed to an earlier election date, it would mean that there would only be three to four months to register eligible voters, prepare a credible Voters Register, print ballot papers, secure ballot boxes, disseminate the proper information so that the Nigerian public know the precise number of polling booths to be used and the number of voters registered in each ward and do every other thing that has to be done. And unless we are 199% committed to doing this, then it is unlikely that we will be ready for very early 2015 elections. The importance of a credible election has honestly got to outweigh a desire to meet up with some handover date deadline.

It has become urban legend that a majority of those presently in political office did not fairly win their elections. If this is true then we must know that we cannot grow beyond the point that we are stuck now if we do not have the power to elect competent leaders to care for us, lead us and help us and sack them when they don’t. The type of subversion and violation of process we saw in past elections is most definitely unacceptable this time around. Nigerians cannot depend on the hoary and corrupt stencil of conducting elections that was used in the past and if it means that the May 29th date set for the swearing in has to be moved further ahead in order to ensure a credible process, then so it should be.

But to advance moving the election closer to this end of time when we may not be ready somehow doesn’t seem right. It exhibits an apparent apathy to the formidable and apocalyptic issues facing the preparations for the elections. The 2015 election is incredibly valuable to the future of Nigeria; it may be the turning point we have been waiting for. Everything possible must be done to get it right.

Eggshells are very strong yet very smooth and lightweight; I guess it’s due to the ingredients inside chickens that make eggs. Since it has been found that the egg is the result of the combination of specific ingredients in the chicken, this notion serves as another example of the importance for INEC to combine the compulsory prerequisites of an election if they are to be strong, smooth and credible.

An election is like an egg; it can be fragile and can turn out to be a ‘GOOD-EGG OR BAD-EGG’ (pun intended), based only on the ingredients the chicken or INEC use to produce it.

Never again will I underestimate a chicken, its ability to produce something as fascinating as an egg and the significance of the chicken and egg poser and neither should INEC. I hope that I am not ‘EGGSAGERATING’ or being offensive by ‘EGGSPLAINING’ about INEC in the same way I would a chicken, but I also hope that INEC does not ‘CHICKEN-OUT’ come 2015, but instead ‘EGGSERTS’ itself to hatch an ‘EGGSTREMELY’, ‘EGGSTRAORDINARILY’ and ‘EGGSCEPTIONALLY’ credible electoral ‘EGGSCERCISE’…

If it was to happen, it would be an ‘EGGSCEEDINGLY EGGSCITING EGGSTRAVAGANZA’.
(ALL PUNS INTENDED!)

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