It took over a week to decide if I wanted to write this travelogue because the things I will narrate are almost taboo in the South-Western society I was brought up in.
Having observed the 2018 Osun State election, the 2019 Kogi State election and the 2019 Nigerian General election in Ekiti state, the 2020 Edo State election and the 2020 Ondo State election, I felt experienced enough to observe the 2021 Anambra State election despite the palpable tension due to the looming threats from the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB). However, despite this, I anticipated travelling to the Eastern region of Nigeria to enjoy the cultural difference.
As I packed my luggage, I felt a sharp cramp, a familiar alarm clock that worked better than my Google Calendar. Aunt Flo’s arrival was always timely, and I dreaded looking at the calendar. My brain did a quick calculation and I realized that Aunt Flo was to arrive the day before the election, and with my experience at previous elections, I knew for certain that getting a good WASH and convenience for such nature’s call was impossible. Unlike developed countries, Nigeria is still struggling with providing adequate shade for electorates who usually stand in the sun for hours during the voting process. If people in the bid to cast their votes have to suffer this degree of inconvenience, what is to say of female electorates who, due to biological differences cannot urinate like their male counterparts? If there was no ideal provision for urination, what is to say of those who were entertaining Aunt Flo?
I knew it was a disaster, a disaster that could not prevent me from observing the elections. Nevertheless, I decided to go. Coconut head, right? I know. I went to meet my favourite friend in such dilemmas, Google! I pleaded, begged and asked for ways to tie Aunt Flo by the neck and drag her to visit earlier. Google, being a good friend, offered a lot of advice, most of which sounded too foreign or were too expensive.
For comfort, I boarded a Peace Mass Transit bus from Ibadan to Awka in Anambra, along with two other colleagues, a female and a male. Usually, I require a sugar rush, like a bottle of soft drink or canned juice for such journeys, but this time I dared not. Apart from Aunt Flo’s potential visit, this journey was longer than the five to six-hour journeys I was used to. In previous journeys, I could easily persevere when I had the urge to urinate but this was a different journey. While Google map promised us an eight-hour journey approximately, but the bad roads and horrible traffic saw us spending over 12 hours on the road. Just once, the driver stopped to allow passengers to ease themselves. I jumped out as soon as the passengers seated in front alighted with the hope to find a convenience, but I was disappointed.
We were parked on the side of a major road and oncoming vehicles could definitely see all that was going on. While the male passengers easily did their business, females were stuck. My female colleague opted to persevere till we arrived at our destination, which was still seven hours away. I did not have that kind of resolve after downing a bottle of water since the journey began. I decided to follow other females who started trekking in search of a good place to ease themselves while the driver and other male passengers started shouting for us to hurry up. Finally, we found a small access road leading into the bushes which seemed enclosed and comfortable. It was then that I felt lucky I didn’t follow Google’s advice to invite Aunt Flo earlier. How would I have changed on the journey?
After arriving at the PMT park by 6:30 am on that Tuesday, leaving Ibadan by 8:30 am and arriving at Awka by 9:30 am, I was ready to crash into my bed. Wednesday and Thursday were wonderful days. The days featured training sessions by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), as well as the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and other media organizations. It was especially wonderful because the observers were from almost every region in Nigeria and it was a wonderful cultural mix. We learnt some Igbo words and “Osigini?” meaning “what did you say?” stuck to my brain because the TV in my hotel room was equally stuck on an Igbo movie channel.
This story has been published on Campus Reporter with very minimal editing to preserve the original voice of the author.
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