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Stubborn journalists and recalcitrant policemen

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In Oghara, Delta State, election could not keep them away from farms

A motley crowd of policemen. There are about 20 of them at the gate, angry, with eyes crimson red. The whole place is rowdy. Who do these policemen? Me I no no, oh! The policemen eyes are just red kakaraka.

Could they have been offended? Their allowee never come? The policemen, I mean. It isn’t clear, but many of them slept outside and battled with mosquitoes.

Many of them bathed in the open camp and you could feel them rushing to clean their bodies.

Ewoo… those mosquitoes at the Anambra State Government Secretariat kept them busy all through the night. They were bigger than usual. The more you killed them, the more they increased in number. Their buzzing sounds wafted like broken China.

They are angry and it is boldly written in their faces.

“Stop,” a policeman barks. 

“Wia you dey go?” Another policeman asks in halting English.
  
“Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office,” the journalist, who is the managing director of a newspaper based in Eastern part of the country, replies him. He is with a female colleague, Rose.
 
“To do what?” The second policeman asks.
  
“I’m a journalist, I want to get my media tag so that I can cover the election,” he answers, trying to walk into the office.
  
“You better get back,” the first policeman insists. “My friend, get back there, if you don’t, I will shoot you.”
  
“Shoot me? Why? Shoot me now; you think I will be scared,” the journalist feigns bravado.

“Please, mister, don’t make me shoot you,” the second policeman threatens.

A tiny speck of light floats in the air, as one of the policemen corks his gun.

A crazy memory!

A paralyzing weight of helplessness takes over as Rose complies.

Dreamlike.

She finds herself walking away from her colleague, leaving him to continue his interaction with the policemen.
 
“Okay, go inside now,” he says, sarcastically.
   
The journalist recedes. His face turns pale. He tries to make a call.

“Ehen, you want to take our picture? If you try it, you will see the red side of my eyes,” the angry policeman breathes out, angrily.

Another journalist walks in, unprepared for any embarrassment. He has covered election before and nothing seems different from the previous experience. His eyes flutter, as he is prevented from entering the INEC office.

“Eh, you… ehen, you, who do you want to see?” the policeman, whose skin colour is as dark as the uniform he is putting on, shouts.

The new journalist pauses.
  
“I know you want to cover the election, but who do you want to see?”
  
“Mr. Leo,” he says.

“Who is Leo?”

“Leo, head, voter education and publicity.”
  
“Stay there!” Another policeman shouts. “Call him.”

Now try to imagine a stubborn journalist and recalcitrant policemen locked in a duel? Confusion Break Bone as the Weird One, Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, will call it…

Oga Leo and his sharing formula
LEO Nkedife, head, voter education and publicity walks in. Still not sure of which media house to accredit.

Calls are going round among colleagues and they share ugly notes on how the tags are rationed like bread in a starving socialist enclave.

“I have just 180 media tags and over 300 journalists applied for accreditation, what do we do now?” 

“Ehen, you’re from which newspaper?”

“National Light. How many of you are covering these elections?” Nkedife asks.

“Eighteen,” the reporter says.

“You will get 10, that’s all we are giving to your paper.”

“And you?”

“I’m from The Guardian.”

How many of you?

“We are four?”

“You will get two.”

“Galaxy TV, you’re eight, we will only give you four.”

“Ehen… NTA… ok…”

Njo afia (bad market) blues
BUSINESSES — especially small businesses like restaurants, grocery stores and retail outlets —feel the sting of election. It is the economic implication that matters to everybody including, the Nsukka-born Mrs. Blessing Eze, who sells food at the front of INEC office.

Mama Chioma, as she calls herself, had relocated from where she had a shop in Nodu Okpuno, by NUJ Secretariat, to the INEC office in Anambra State Government Secretariat.

Almost on a daily basis, she had sold foodstuff to starving policemen and soldiers.
  
Her words: “This election has meant that business would still be dull for another one week.”

  
For mama Uzoma, Mrs. Ijeoma Okeke, “it has affected us. We moved in here to sell things, but now nothing is happening. Everywhere is dull. We planned to stay here for some more days, and then move on, but now, we would be forced to still hang-out here.”
  
Some other women who sell food in the precinct of the electoral commission are full of regrets that they will have to remain in the place for one more week. Though they have made money from the presidential election, the turn of the place fortune to a ghost town.

“How much can they all buy?” asks Okeke.
  
Ifeoma, a student of Science and Laboratory Technology (SLT) in one of the institutions in the state, was angry that Saturdays “have suddenly become a bad market.”  
  
She says, “apart from these military and paramilitary men here, everywhere is dry. How much can they all buy?”

On Saturday morning, only a few policemen are seen in front of the commission’s building.
   
By afternoon, when tension had died down, INEC office was empty with only a few staff and security agents around.

At Unizik Junction, the few beer parlours, which opened to satisfy the taste of their customers made good gains.
  
Mama Ebele, a popular trader by the foot of the pedestrian bridge was all out to make sale. She came out to make her money.
  
She tells The Guardian, “I was sleeping when my customers called me to come and open my shop. Though the patronage I had was not as any business person should have expected during holiday period, I had the desired patronage.”
  
Another trader says, “I pray for such opportunities, because only very few people come out to do business, and we that come out make our money.”

Buy one, get one free
IT was not good business in the popular red light district of Awka called Abakaliki Street or Club Zone.

It is the vortex of night crawling in the capital city’s old neighbourhood, where suburban flight and declining economic fortunes, coupled with overwhelmed crime forced people out in the early days.
  
With Big Baller, Cofi, Las Vegas, Domain, Queen Suite, Fun Surge, Stamford and other sit-outs, the street is very popular.
  
The high and low hobnob here. Don’t be surprised to see big men on Panama and Fez cap to hide their faces. They unwind in a no-hold-barred manner.

The street has a mix of the elite and the educationally backward. A lot of Unizik girls hang-out here. You may not know, who is one. A few of them are currently at home after a forced ASUU strike kept them out of ivory towers.
  
So, don’t expect that all the girls around are from the school.
  
Maybe some strolled in to make last-minute money.

The first day I got to Awka, I saw many of them mount guard. But by Friday, the busy street had become empty.

Now, my baptism of fire. The time was almost 10:00pm and the place looked like it was just waking up from slumber. A lot of ladies looked like drug addicts, skin weathered by crack, with their bodies squeezed into body-hugging dresses.  
  
The music was pretty good, with the DJ offering up a mixture of local hip-hop and the standard rotation of nightclub hits. 
   
Suddenly, a car came winding down the narrow road, and rolled up to a halt in front of a popular club on the street. Three girls alighted from the vehicle and quickly went to a nearby container. That’s their mobile chalet.
    
Ijeoma, who appeared a brooding sort, practically howled with anger when I tried to get close to the container.

“Oginni?”

“Just trying to say hello.”

“Today is not the day of hello. We are doing bonanza. Buy one get one free. Don’t be an onlooker, enjoy yourself.”

As I moved forward to Cofi, my eyes spotted three girls on a table, guzzling drink for the night to wear on.
    
“Oga market no dey,” says one of the girls, Caroline, in halting English. “Nobody fit give us better money.”
  
Another girl, Felicia, said, “this election has made business dull. All our clients have gone to their villages to vote.”
  
She continued, “the same thing will happen this week.”
  
A driver, Jerome, also called papa Kosiso, believed, “it is terrible. No business.”
 
He said, “everything is a disaster today. I’m just out. I have not made anything. Look at me, I’ve not had more than five passengers today.”


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