Monday, April 23, 2007

Nigeria Elections #8

Well finally the votes were "counted" and the new President gave a press conference. We crowded into a tiny room where if you passed out you would not fall over. Such was the crush of media. All remained peaceful and traffic was flowing again. In Nigeria all traffic is banned on voting days with the streets deserted.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nigeria Elections #7

Not much to report this Sunday.Results are trickling in but no one believes them. When we went to the new ops centre they eventually let us in but I noted that most of the screens were blank and there were no reps of the parties or other observers. We were invited to dinner with Dr Brigilia Bam who is the chief of the SA IEC team. We were now operating on diplomatic level and twenty of us sat down to dinner in a Lebanese restaurant. So at last I got a few of my taxes back. Amongst the diplomatic corps was a chap sitting opposite me who was in the invasion of Lesotho. He went to great lengths explaining what a success the operation was. There were some very interesting speeches from these countrymen of mine about the places they had been and how they had got there. It really is another world this diplomatic corps with many of them being activists or in exile or imprisoned at some stage of their lives. Also interesting to hear how their kids were not interested in being stationed in these far flung places but were happy to hang out in Germany America etc. There is a story waiting to be told just on the new generation of kids of the new SA diplomats and high commisions. We could only get away after the birthday cake was cut (Dr Bam) so here I sit at two in the morning feeding the days story back to Jhb for airing tomorrow morning.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Nigeria Elections #6

All quiet on the West African front so far. The INECHQ (Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission) where we hang around for hours waiting for press briefings was almost blown up this morning. Some guys in a petrol tanker stuck a rock on the accelerator, loaded gass bottles with detonaters into the cab and pointed this lethal weapon at the building. They were thwarted by a lamp pole and the fire from the cab failed to spread. Nice one... We then went in search of a polling station which was meant to open at ten. We found another squatter camp and waited nearly three hours for the officials to arrive. Once again I was hit on by the locals who insisted I tell the world that the whole procedure was meaningless as the votes cast meant nothing and all figures were simply manipulated to suit the ruling party. Most people have given up with the government and will just struggle on regardless. Once again I retire to the business lounge a few doors down from my room on the 8th floor. Here you will find anyone from Arabs to French men and woman. Most sitting behind their lap tops usually chatting via skype so you can join in on their half of the conversation back home to loved ones. Rather bizarre actually as each is in their own little world connected to the great either in the sky. I have toa dmit I have fallen in love with this Powerbook G4 and an Apple is something else. Here one can have free unlimitted coffee capuchino expresso biscuits and fruitjuice. Tonight I tried the room service menu(again) and had fish with the local rice called jollef rice which is just a spicy rice. Outside the temp mustbe about 29c even though the sun went down ages ago.Lets hope Nigeria has a peaceful night and the vote counting goes OK.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nigeria Elections #5

Final countdown to the presidential elections tomorrow. The populace has resigned itself to the fact that they (elections) will go ahead. New ballot papers have been printed outside the country (SA?) to avoid fraud. Another holiday has been declared today and tomorrow although for most people life carries on as usual. The police and security services will be out in force so it remains to be seen how any violence will be contained. At our regular press conference this morning with the election bosses the heavyweights arrived... CNN and Al Jeereza with their large cameras and in the case of AJ their large egos. Tattooed Arab cameraman with bad attitude and bandana to match. Arrives late and expects to push in the bunfight. I have lost respect for this sheik bank rolled news station that has unlimited budgets. All the networks are using the same gear to transmit as us viz the Bgan satellite link. Picture is then compressed using various software and transferred back to the base server. Local TV is very laid back and badly shot but has a reality quality to it unlike the slick brief sound bites favored by western media. Interviews are unhurried and all get their say in good time. Lots of shaky hand held shots and distorted sound with varying levels

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nigeria Elections #4

Only one more day to the presidential elections. All
quiet so far but no doubt the losing parties will make
trouble come next week. After the usual politcal speak
at the official election HQ we went to the ruling
party spokesperson who became hugley irate at some of
the questions posed by the media. At least the media
here is pretty robust with plenty of print and TV
channels albeit a little ropy. We then left
"millionaires av" and went into a nearby township. After
filming a few shots some gangster type approached me
saying I could not take "snaps" without permission of
the chief. He said "hey white man what are you doing
here" I told him to speak to my black boss which soon
kept him quiet.We duly located the chief and he sang
the praises of the ruling party. Not sure why I felt a
feeling of de javu (Spelling not my best point) We
then got an interview with a guy moaning profusely
about the government and the sordid conditions they
live in. Open sewers and no basic water or light. The
kids then latched onto me and where ever I pointed the
camera they would gather and grin. So I organized to
have a shot taken of me with them as you can see. Once
you get to know them they really are friendly people
with the little they have. In town there are these
giant modern corporate buildings of the oil companies
and a twenty minute drive lands you in the slum of
slums. There have been announcements that huge new gas
and oil reserves will be exploited soon. So it appears
the usual...the rich get richer and the poor stay
poor.. One guy told me the reason why Nigerians turn
to corruption etc is because of high levels of
frustration. The churches are of course huge here and
seem to get along with the Mosques. Although there is
a huge one right near our hotel I do not hear the call
to prayers. Pollution and the non existance of
recycling are also problems here, I filmed the
election officials casually dummping massses of
election training manuals on the pavement dump outside
their HQ. People then just burn everything. The city
(Abuja) has really bad air with constant haze and one
person I spoke to considered their city to have clean
air. I guess it is all relative. This is a country of
generators and air cons. The power goes off a few
times a day but no one notices and you simply wait
about thirty seconds for the hotels genies to take
over. Massive generators belch out more fumes outside
any building of vague importance. remember fuel is
cheap by our standards (R3 per liter) What amazes me
is the amount of businnessmen wearing dark suits.With
temperatures in the thirties and high humidity they
are obviously used to the clammy heat. Of course many
also wear the traditional flowing garments. Was given
a book today by an activist we interviewed. It has the
chilling title of "Political Assassinations in
Nigeria" Lists the hundreds that have been killed here
and are still being killed for political reasons. Then
one turns on the TV and the massacre in Virginia is
repeated infinitum. The questions of Americas gun
culture and the violent movies on TV are barely
mentioned. Their main concern is the threat to tighten
gun laws. I digress but am currently in a violent
society where the police commissioner has just
anniuced that they will shoot to kill if anyone takes
them on. On that happy note I will beam this missive
off into the wet night sky of Abuja as a storm hovers
over the city.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nigeria Elections #3

Todays screen grab is a lady pounding yams in the city centre right next to the election main office. We spend hours here waiting for the officials to come out of hiding as this whole election goes crazy. They also had live catfish on offer. This morning I saw a man on the roadside holding a live rabbit by the legs for sale. Our taxi driver assured us it was being sold for a pet. Apparently they eat dogs here and some restaurants sell them. I have not seen any dogs anywhere in the city or country. We continue to chase press conferences and sit in confined rooms fighting for camera positions.There is little protocol here and one soon learns to push and shove but still everyone is generally good natured and there is much laughing and continues greetings and shaking of hands and saying welcome on any and every occasion. I went to a scary place to find some cheap headphones. Little rabbit warren passages with these bright kids stripping computers printers etc and fixing circuit boards. You can buy any pirate software you want at good prices. Fortunately I was with an ex Durbanite now living here who has been hired as our researcher. He is ex Hilton boy complete with dreadlocks and this very English accent. His nameis Kariba and he is a complete scream. As usual I am feeding the days story back into the tepid night sky as the clock heads towards midnight. This Bgan satellite device was designed for me as you have to point the thing until you get three green lights displaying. For us colour disadvantaged people there is also a beeper that rises in pitch with the correct angle. Just to have the unit is R 3000 per day plus time on the satellite. Supposed to be 256kps but because of weak signal about half that. Bit of a con really as one has to pay for time connected and not data transmitted..

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nigeria Elections #2

In true African style everyone is super patient and simply
waits or comes back the next day. I went in search of some sandals
and went to this scrufffy shop hoping for a local
bargain. They only had imported Italian shoes and
inflated prices. Eventually found some local stuff on
the street. Having a number of technical problems
especially with the PD 170 camera and its time code. Might
have to ditch it and share the remaining Panasonic P2 camera.
Shocked to see the locals queing for KFC type food. In
a few years they will all be obese at this rate. So
far still healthy and no bugs have got to me. Only
drink boiled or bottled water and mostly cooked food
and fruit. Have seen a few mozzies and been bittten
but hope for the best.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nigeria Elections #1

This device I am holding is called a Began and connects via satelite to the internet. Useful gadget when in a remote area.

Things are looking up with the arrival of another editor cameraman plus two more applemacs plus two satelite internet connection goodies . Biggest hassle so far has been feeding the video footage which takes hours on the hotel internet system. Swiming every day in this tepid pool water which is like a bath. Observing the foreigeners getting off with the locals. Otherwise pretty routine. Shoot until lunch then edit and feed. Room service costing a fortune. The Sheraton hotel in Abuja is massive and one get get lost here. About an old Holiday Inn status but huge.Tomorrow we will cover the court case of the main opposition. Much like the Zuma saga methinks. Still can't complain apart from the heat as all are friendly to us.