Though the Anambra election had come and gone, many odysseys evolved around the results, meanwhile cheers to the winners, and those who didn’t win, in total, all Anambarians are winners. As a neophyte in matters of the state, my duty was to observe and carve a name of being heroes of democracy. Through the auspices of the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalists, (PTCIJ).
But much more, Anambra in four days, a reporter’s verdict, is what I possess. Idemili-South, Idemili-North, Aguata, Onitsha, and the exaggeration of “We were there when it was hot” when shots scare you to stupor, where the first words I learned were “Gbedeọma”, “Utụtụọma”, “Ehihieọma”, and the black, red and green colours of a flag hoisted high in some places. I tell you friends, times and history would remember me, in fact, us for being there when it was hot.
Well all this prelude, -just to burst your bubble, it was never HOT, as clamoured, but technological glitches rule the day, for those who were there. Yet it was all peaceful and the people have chosen their leader. Irrespective of the number of votes cast as compared to the number of registered voters.
At this stage, it’s needless to say where I was coming from, for where I was headed, was supposed to be hostile and a bloody warzone based on what I saw, and the hyperbolical gesture of good wishers, in their tens, saying to me, “Please don’t go” like the 1960 crying shames solo.
Have you ever tried to put down experiences, so extensively that you do not know where or how to get underway? that’s my close to one week in Anambra, plus another day in Delta, thanks in no small measures to the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism, the recourses would come as always for young journos to demonstrate their own in defending true democracy.
NIGHTFALL IN ONITSHA.
It all started in Onitsha, the time was 11:24 pm when I landed in the popular market of Onitsha, through the “Lamb of God Motors” there I met a fellow observer from Ekiti state, Jerry by name, incidentally. The paths as typical of most Nigerian roads were filled with hiccups and needs total surgery, plus the eyes of many nightcrawlers don’t look too good, even though the people of Anambra are good, times like this changes men and even the most subtle.
Being in a strange place helplessly isn’t a good thing anyway, but when PTCIJ is your grit you can always be smart enough to know how to uncover your way. Mind you, there were warnings that Onitsha is not safe at night, plus the gunshots we heard while on our way, but I like such journeys too moreover, where is the safe zone in my country today?. This isn’t my first neither will it be my last so I was well equipped mentally.
Onitsha is popular for its robustness when it comes to “Shine your eyes” a little bit of losing guard could ruin your plans for weeks and months and I didn’t, neither does my partner, even though, small local motels and lots of local harlots welcomed us, “Their ring tones were, ” Fine boy make I help you carry your bag na” make una come rest for my place this night na”…by these young ladies in their numbers.
Precisely 12:04, after many tries getting to Awka, we finally reside to fate, by finally getting a small room for the night. That wasn’t different from the four walls of a prison, plus there was little we can do, which gave me my first test of sleeping in a local motel. My mind didn’t sleep, it raced past time to the next morning, leaving my flesh alone.
WINTESS GARDEN AND THE NEXT CHAPTER
We got to Wintess Garden, the next morning where we would be lodged for the next few days, it was a different picture entirely, let me say it was like the home of Cubana on the streets of (UNIZIK) though the streets were rough, the garden was the best around. And I never regretted any moment of my days there. That was where we would be trained about observing elections and how to survive during times and tide.
Those to train us were, the PTCIJ team, and in no particular order, the ever ready to listen Mr Mboho, to the popular program director Mrs Busola Ajibola nicknamed (King of Boys) let me wish you a happy birthday in advance ma, then to Jessica Odudu, these people deserve more than a paragraph from me, but because there’s always a tomorrow means we still have many things to do together.
Our fate has already been decided even before you understand the nature of what you would be doing, however being registered under PTCIJ, as an election observer, our details have already gotten to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and we were posted to different LGs’ and Poling Units. I was posted to Idemili south, the main horizon of the scariest places currently, and also housing the largest numbers of voters in Anambra.
From then on, I realized why the selection process was rigorous and unbiased, it dawn on me at instant why more than 50 students were called reduced down to 30-or so, and at the death, just 9 students were among the chosen, due to safety justifications. For this reason, no single training did I take for granted not even while being taught about the Anambra terrain.
I remembered a driver while taking me on a ride, I had asked him about Idemili-South, he said “Before you do anyhow, dem go don dig your grave for you”, that place no be am oo”. Yet Anambarians are lovely people. And I as get down, I looked back with the hope that no one is digging my grave through observations, a case when the observer becomes the observed, the reporter becomes the reported.
But a soft voice keeps telling me, don’t worry you will be alright. Maybe it’s the voice of the young Anambra lady who sold me fruit salad, where throughout my stay, I go every night, she was Chinonye, and that was my gist partner who wished we had time to take a tour around this place or the one I bought some indigenous delicacies from, Amaka. Either way, I was sure it was a female voice. I tell you there are beautiful people here too.
It was obvious I can’t go to such places, especially when Mrs Ajibola is your coordinator, her guidance earned her, “King of boys”. Even if I forget everything, I won’t forget her teaching session, she had asked us to meet two new people, not just that, we should ask them about their strength and their weakness, that was how I met Mukhtar and Nurudeen, then my meeting new people was extended by more friends, Jerry, Udoka, Nicholas, Prestige, I made friends that in due time we shall write stories and paint beautiful pictures of a time now buried in the past.
Did I forget to mention I met Mariam Hamzat again, yes after our short Memoriam in FUTA, a place I had gone for convergence of “MOROUNMUBO”? This time, we had time together even after leaving Anambra. We spent the night sashaying through the beautiful streets of Asaba, where we saw many beauties helplessly by choice? Mariam had lofty dreams buried in-between uncertainties, yet you won’t know, for this reason, I want to see her again and again.
A JOURNO’S VERDICT
Our time in Anambra didn’t mean we forget the fact that many citizens are yet to understand their true power as electorates. Nonetheless, it is understandable due to the periods we are, in that part of the world, but those who turned out were the true people of Anambra who wanted things to work in their way.
It is sad to also ascertain that, Anambra with a population of more than 6.3 million and estimate to grow by 2.84% annually, could only produce a winner with a maximum vote of 112,229, way below the percentage of accredited voters.
While we can ascribe this to the security challenges in this part of the world, we should not forget the huge disconnect between the rule, and the ruler, the people,e, and the government. Another four years would come soon, I can only hope I would be around to witness more robust people who are politically active in the decision-making process of their system.
The images we took, the night we walk through the vigorous roads of Awka, with miss Oge, the threats from Mr Mboho of exiting anyone who comes late to training, the bold actions of “King of boys” the swimming pool “Palava” the space in-between not wanting to leave each other and the pretence that it was stressful, to the many many things I can’t put down on paper, all this made my stay in Anambra-cum Delta a beautiful one.
While we give glory to the maker who narrated this voyage and use us as the practical creation, let us not forget to felicitate with the winner of the Anambra governorship election, Professor Charles Soludo, and the good people of Anambra. The world would remember us as heroes of democracy promptly rather than later.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.
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