Election coverage is one of the high moments in my career because it gives me opportunity to be on the field for effective political reporting on election days. When I was assigned to cover the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State, the major thoughts in my mind for weeks was how to distinguish my medium, New Telegraph, in the poll’s coverage Welcoming me to Anambra State last Thursday were various sizes of billboards and posters of the gubernatorial candidates with their godfathers in both English and Igbo languages.
Several branded vehicles of the various political parties and governorship candidates were also on the roads as part of campaign strategies for the election. The billboards and posters spoke volume that the people of the state are about to have an election to elect their governor.
The presence of heavy armed security men, especially soldiers at the border between Anambra and Delta states showed clearly that something significant was about to happen in the “Light of the Nation.” On election day, I was fully prepared for the coverage and had to set out as early as 7.am to get first hand information on the situation in town before the election commences.
The first point of call was the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC), near Aroma Junction in Awka, the state capital. I was welcomed at the entrance of the road leading to the INEC office by soldiers, who requested for my INEC tag and office identity card, which I showed them to gain access to the commission’s office. Knowing that I am going on a long journey for the election coverage, I left INEC office to go to a close-bye food vendor to fill my stomach so that I will have enough strength to carry out the day’s assignment.
As I walk back to INEC’s office after a delicious meal of rice and stew with a colleague from Abia State, we had a gunshot fired by a policeman from about 50 metres to where we stood. The sound of the shot was scary because it was directed at someone. But thank God that there was no fatality. On getting to the spot, we saw two policemen exchanging words. It was then that we gathered that a policeman was careless with his riffle and he mistakenly fired a bullet which hit the floor in front of his colleague.
Though both of them argued over the issue, the incident was something worth to praise God for as the policeman did not sustain any jury over his colleague’s carelessness. From INEC office I went to several polling units within and outside the state capital to access and evaluate the election process. Movement within the towns was very tasking because of the presence of soldiers and policemen on the roads and hardly can anyone drive for five minutes without meeting security personnel.
Following several records of people been brutalised or shot by security men in the past as a result of argument with soldiers and policemen, I conduct myself very well anytime I come across any security personnel in the course of the election coverage. I usually put up a smiling face anytime I come across the soldiers. Another interesting thing about the election was media presence in the state.
On Friday, about 700 foreign and local journalists were accredited for the election. In the course of the election, I heard the name of many print and broadcast media that I have never come across in my 14 years of active journalism. Looking at the number of accredited journalists, I was fired up to ensure that I distinguish myself in the election’s coverage. The exercise gave me the opportunity to encounter with journalists, election observers and INEC officials. I was opportuned to interact with many journalists during the long hours we spent together at the INEC’s office.
The election coverage also helped me to visit several places in Anambra State. No doubt, coverage of the November 18 governorship election in the state that prides itself as the “Light of the Nation” is an experience I will never forget easily in my career.