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Presidential/Nass election: When Benue journalists kept vigil for 4 days

INEC situation room in Makurdi, where newsmen waited four days for election results

Journalists in Benue State, like in most parts of the country, kept vigil waiting for the presidential and national assembly elections, to roll in.

 

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At last, the anxious journalists could heave a sigh of relief following the declaration of Benue North East Senatorial District election results at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Kastina-Ala in Benue State.

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That declaration on Tuesday night marked the end of all results announcement by INEC in the state as far as the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections were concerned.

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When Benue journalists kept vigil for 4 days

But, for newsmen in the state, the proper field work to capture last week’s elections began on Thursday through Friday with coverage at the commission’s headquarters in Makurdi on the level of its preparedness and vigilance at CBN, INEC local government headquarters to see how all sensitive materials were being moved and delivered to respective destinations.

Also, newsmen were moving round various locations across the 23 local government areas of the state to capture the mood of politicians, electorates and contestants.

Apart from the traditional role of newsmen in ensuring that their various outfits woe are feed with adequate information, security agencies and anti-graft agencies too found an ally in the media to enable them track offenders of the law, especially vote-buying and acts of violence.

By Saturday, as early as 6:00am, newsmen accredited by INEC to cover the elections were spread across the state to monitor the exercise at polling units even in the remotes villages.

For media houses with head or regional offices in the state, it was easier to designate their reporters who held forth at local governments or each senatorial district while correspondents of national newspapers moved swiftly in their 18-seater bus to cover few local government areas in at least two senatorial districts of the state.

The correspondents mostly depended on contacts of their colleagues who covered other distances where they could not reach to generate their reports from those areas upon confirmation from relevant quarters where the need arose so as to dish out balanced stories.

Fortunately, the media in Benue experienced little or no cases of insecurity in the just concluded polls as the exercise was generally peaceful unlike in 2015 when several parts witnessed violence which also led to loss of lives.

The newsmen nonetheless remained on duty from the commencement of the exercise until the results were counted at polling units from where reports of the early leaders were derived for subsequent publication.

It was, however, a tiring day for journalists who kept their ears on ground for any breaking news all through the night even as results kept trickling in and they filed the reports to such extent that many hardly slept for two hours before it was Sunday.

Then, from the field, newsmen moved to INEC headquarters in Makurdi where the Situation Room was opened to them, election observers, party agents and security operatives among others for official results declarations as they came in from the various local government areas.

In Benue State, the first result which came in from Ado Local Government Area was released at 4:00pm on Sunday after reporters had waited for many hours since morning with many breaking at intervals in search of meals.

While the wait continued at INEC, some “big” politicians intermittently breezed into the premises to acquaint the commission with their grievances during which journalists swooped on them to find out what those complaints were.

Interestingly, the politicians who had trooped in made the journalists day by their responses to issues which characterised the elections, their worries, joy, pains and exaggerations among others.

The Sunday wait continuing at the Situation Room, rolled into Monday at about 3:40am when the house was adjourned. By 8:00am, another set of results from local areas had turned up for release. And so, by piece meal, the results were churned out as the wait became more frustrating with hours in between declarations from the different local government areas until nearly 2:00am on Tuesday, the final presidential result from Vandekiya Local Government was presented and winner declared.

But, there was yet another wait for the National Assembly results. Ordinarily, these were to be presented in the various senatorial district headquarters of Otukpo, Kastina-Ala and Makurdi except for matters arising which needed to be nibbed in the bud by INEC so as to avert confusion.

To this end, result for Benue North West Senatorial District was delayed while newsmen shuttled different locations to also attend press briefings by concerned stakeholders on the matter at the same time, kept tab with INEC which before the end of that day, precisely, 3:45pm, made the result pronouncement.

Earlier, the winners of Benue South Senatorial District election was declared leaving that of Benue North East which was later presented by INEC in Kastina-Ala.

It was only then, after four days, that newsmen in the state heaved a sigh of relief from the stress, suspense and of course, the excitement too.

 

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