So, we touched down safely (thank you Lord), and first thing I noticed was a lot of construction work going on at the airport, very interesting. Who’s in charge of fixing up airports, the federal or state governments? I asked because I don’t know. Met up with @_yemia, @rmajayi, and @dfasoro who I was meeting for the first time. We loaded ourselves into our car, and went off to The Excalibur, our home for the next few days. Was a pleasant surprise to see @nigerianblogger, and to meet @jidealuko and Afolabi; they were both fabulous, were very helpful, and made our stay very comfortable (cc @_yemia). Got in to find that apart from my back acting like someone had set fire to it, my ‘friend’ was around so I had a bath, popped a few painkillers, and went to sleep.
About painkillers, @rmajayi and I went out to get them (she was feeling poorly as well), and two things stood out; police presence was scary. Kai! They were like everywhere, and since I don’t kid myself about the police being my friend I was uncomfortable. Especially since they were shouting and making noise on the road, for no reason! SMH! It was kind of good we went out though, because we spoke to different people, a lady selling lime, another one selling apples, the one roasting corn I think, quite a few of them. All of them wanted Oshiomole back, but not everyone wanted to vote. One lady said she was afraid, said, ‘dem fit fight’. Honestly, I didn’t doubt her, not with the security report we had access to before we got into Benin.
The evening, the morning….
Saturday. I was up by 7am, shout out to @Channels_TV for their live coverage of the elections . Noticed a few things about the place; the room was nice, was a suite actually, and it was really nice. Problem? Internet was crappy. More like they had no internet service at all. Good thing we had dongles and everything, our trip would have been in vain! I was still battling pain in my back so I could only sit for a few hours at a time, and I had to pop pain killers every few hours *sigh*
Based on our brief, some of us monitored conversations online, while the rest of us went out to do the monitoring in person. Below are four points I took away from ll the monitoring:
- If you have to share any information online that isn’t originally yours, please time stamp it, otherwise you end up doing more harm than good. So you don’t come on Twitter at noon, see an incident your friend tweeted about 8am, and then start retweeting furiously. Especially in a crisis, it only serves to hype tensions and spread terror; it’s even worse if you’re sharing the information after the problem has been solved/crisis has been quelled. @Channels_TV was guilty of doing that severally, and at some point I had to tweet at them.
- Sift through whatever information you accept. People will do anything to get a retweet, or a random follower, even if it means peddling absolute falsehood. It is your responsibility to verify before you accept. There was a particular incident during the elections where someone was tweeting from their bedroom in a city miles away from where the election was happening and tagging them ‘eyewitness reports’. Don’t fall into the hands of mischievous people.
- People want to know. @rmajayi and I met a group of guys at one of the polling units holding the ReVoDa handbook. If you didn’t know, ReVoDa is an app that turns every one into a citizen reporter during elections. Powered via SMS and only functional with valid PU details, you can send a message about what’s happening at your polling center. One of them wasn’t sure what the app could do but we explained and he said he’d download it and use after he voted. That felt good, like we had just ‘converted him’.
- Put your actions where your belief is. I believe the elections of 2015 will be different in the sense that not only will there be more eligible voters than there are now, but people more than ever are aware of the power their votes have, and are motivated more than ever to wield that power. Doesn’t matter if they’re voting for a candidate because he built a water fountain, it’s their choice.
Tired as we were, we took some pictures when we all got back, especially with @nigerianblogger who got arrested with @governoryves earlier in the day; full story is here. By the way, looks like ‘Oshiobaba’ is going to win!