I settled down to the interview in her office, then fired the first salvo. She began doing justice to my question, and it was almost like a discussion between both of us, then she stopped. ‘Did you not say you were a journalist?’ she asked. ‘Yes, I am,’ I answered, wondering why she asked. Then she raised her voice, ‘You walk into my office after chasing after me for weeks for an interview, and when I accepted, you turned up without a laptop, no voice recorder, no pen and no paper. That’s how you people misquote politicians everyday,’ she said, almost in a fit.
She was right, I had been on her for days, hoping to pick up an interview, but what she did not know was that I came prepared. I may not have come with a laptop, tape recorder, camera of even a pen and paper as she observed, but what she did not know was that the watch on my wrist was not just a time piece. It’s an eight gigabyte silicon spywatch, fitted with a voice recorder, lens for a camera and video function. Also has a USB port to connect to a PC, and most fascinating is that, it’s absolutely water proof; and that means that even in water, you can spy on someone. I just brought her a copy of my paper this afternoon, and she expressed a lot of happiness that I quoted her correctly.
This is my introductory story to my eight year stay in Anambra as a journalist. This story may have come late as August every year is to me the anniversary of my sojourn in Anambra State, but its better told late, and worse if not at all.
It was close to mid noon on that particular day, 10thAugust 2008, when a blurry eyed young man alighted from an Adam and Eve bus at Amawbia. The bus had taken off from Aba, very early in the morning. The look on his face was of disappointment on setting his foot down and surveying the surrounding with eagle eyes. ‘Was this really Awka?’ he thought to himself. Was this really the capital of the very ‘troublesome’ Anambra State that has remained in the news for the wrong reasons?’ ‘Certainly not’ he concluded. It was an ancient town, a to a large extent sleepy town in his judgment, very devoid of visible development. It couldn’t be the capital city of the home state of some of the biggest billionaires in all walks. Talk of Politics; the Ubahs have remained in the news. Talk of Good Government; Ngige was shown to have defied distractions to offer the best. Talk of Legal tussle in politics, Obi, who was as at the time of that visit the governor of the state had set a precedent by being in court for three years, just to correct an anomaly. No one is talking about the Arthur Ezes, Emeka Offors, to mention just two.
The disappointment on the youngman’s face was visible. This couldn’t be Awka. As if to read the countenance on his face, a bus pulled by and enquired; ‘are you going to Awka?’ Then confusion set in. The youngman was happy that Awka was away from this place, and would most certainly have a look, befitting of a state capital; not just any state, but Anambra State. But his unhappiness now is that the Adam and Eve driver who had collected money at Aba from him had said he was taking the passengers to Awka, just to end up at Amawbia.
Armed with a letter of transfer from Aba to Awka, from National Mirror Newspaper, the youngman regained his tempo and moved to Awka to start work as a reporter. A lonely young man, he bore an innate unhappiness of being pulled out of Aba, a town where he was beginning to find his rythm gradually, and moved to a town where no one seemed to care about him. He grew to be known among the few journalists he met to be ‘that lonely Aba journalist’. That lonely Aba journalist, is this writer, David-Chyddy Eleke.
Through my practice in Anambra, God has shown me mercy, he has also shown me his grace, and I have no reason not to shower him with praise everyday. It has been long years of passing through good and bad times. Just one year after my leaving Aba for Awka, National Mirror Newspaper, the main reason for my being in Anambra folded up after it was sold to billionaire businessman, Jimoh Ibrahim; leaving its staff in the cold.
Between then and this moment, I have had to traverse a few media houses, working most times as a freelance reporter and in few cases as a full staff. The quest for what to do also drove me into enlisting in the business of blogging. I have also through diligence come to learn well the art of journalism, and have in the course of my practice had my high and low moments too.
From doing conventional reporting, this writer has also had to engage in dangerous spy jobs for some politicians and known news websites, trailing opponents and reporting back to principals among others, all in a bid to make ends meet.
Talking about low moments in the practice, I will never forget 2012, when as a reporter for LEADERSHIP Newspaper, a news report written by me and published on the cover page of the paper saw me going underground after receiving calls from CBN and SSS officials. In the report, I had quoted the former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido as accusing Nigerians governors of being part of the reason for inflation as they pump money into the system with the hope of getting popular, so as to win elections.
This report had irked then chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi who rose against Sanusi for such comment, but I was quickly sacrificed by the company when Sanusi, who had spoken through his Deputy Governor, Financial Stability denied making the comment. Beyond the plan to sack me, which saw me resigning even before the sack came, I had had promises from the NGF if only I could provide a tape to nail sanusi. The promise slipped through my fingers as efforts to get colleagues from electronics medium who had video evidence failed.
Another low moment was my arrest by soldiers on the streets of Awka in 2011 for taking pictures of their officers leading a team of enforcers for the demolition of structures in Awka on the order of the government. Reports had gone up high of the arrest of a journalist in Awka while carrying out his legitimate duty, and it was a relief when members of NUJ, Anambra Council led by Late Comrade Toochukwu Udoji-Omelu stormed the Awka South LGA headquarters to effect my release. I remember receiving calls from all over next day when people read of my detention. Even the Committee for the Protection of Journalists(CPA) called from Dakar, Senegal to enquire about my health, while the ACN party then Threatened to sue the Anambra Government on my behalf, insisting my arrest was on their behest, maybe with the hope of making political gains from it as a result of the frosty relationship that existed between the then leader of the party, Dr Chris Ngige and the then governor, Mr Peter Obi; all to which I declined.
Working in Anambra has also afforded me high moments, meeting top politicians and looking them in the face and asking them questions; most of them I would not have met if was not working in the state. Journalism practice on the whole has sent me places too, or how else would I have been able to visit top Nigerian towns, attend trainings at no cost and spend nights on very expensive Nigerian hotels or even flown severally in diverse airlines, all of which I never paid for, nor ever bought myself a flight ticket.
All these to me are gains, but most gainful is the fact that, that lonely Aba journalist has today found company. From being joined by my very tough, strong and hard working wife, who serves as a wife , sister and mother, I have again been joined by three riotous boys, who keep dull moments out of our family everyday.
To all who have made my eighth-year stay a beautiful one, I cannot help but thank you all. Politicians, political parties, groups and organizations, professional bodies, philanthropists, higher institutions around Anambra and their media persons, and even individuals and my colleagues in the pen profession; my appreciation to you. I hope that as I start another year of this journey in Anambra, I shall not lack the cooperation of those who have cooperated with me previously, rather I shall garner more friends to ease my job. I salute Anambra and its people again.