In Zanzibar late last year, journalists could not easily believe that a reporter covering The General Election could have as many story ideas as 500,000 or more in ten (10) months.
It took an hour or so to convince many of the over 50 workshop participants to see sense in that. It works like it does in matters of nutrition and consequent childbearing.
See, if you want to have a healthy baby, you don’t wait until you are released from the labour ward or you are bid farewell by the midwife. You need preparation.
The whole process from conceptualisation with your partner on why you want a baby and when; to conception and to delivery, is of utmost importance.
Thus, “good eating habits,” health planning and precautions have to commence at the earliest, even before conceptualisation on the idea to bring another member, of your own making, into your “group.”
And, this is when you don’t want to have a baby and a healthy baby at that, by accident or by sheer “Grace of God.” Not even when you know of families that have seemingly healthy children – born and bred by accident.
It demands consulting, planning, record keeping, review of performance and consolidation on what you want to achieve. Those are three stages or phases – before, during and after you have a new member in your company.
It works the same way in reporting elections. You have a period before election – time for preparation that breeds into the election date.
Then you have the period after election. This is when the elected go out to do what they were seeking permission to do – implementing their promises and attendant responsibilities.
In the General Election that comes every five years, you have the last 12 to 24 months of preparation for another round of election. This is phase three that breeds into Election Day.
Voting comes after preparations for elections. Preparations come after a long period of implementation – on the part of office bearers – and assessment and evaluation by citizens (the electorate) who will be choosing new office bearers.
That the General Election comes after five years; voters know when they will exercise their right – to tick their choice. But most importantly, know or need to know when and how to assess office bearers basing on their promises and performance.
Planners know when to start preparations for the election; and frankly speaking, this is a continuous duty – from election to election. Office bearers know when to implement their promises and plan for comeback or retirement.
Given the scenario, I told reporters at the workshop that in the last 12 months to election, one could have more than 500,000 ideas on what to write on election.
It is a question of looking for anything related to election. It is about seeing everything around you as related to election. It is going back to history of election in the country and beyond; relating, comparing and contrasting.
It is about revisiting the meaning of election and its purpose; the environment where election is being done and the intended results; last General Election in the country – what it was, what it was not and how it could influence the October 2020 election.
There is more than this. Go to promises. Who promised what, when, where and what are the results. This is at ward (chancellor), constituency (MP) and national level (president). Think of new comers in the race!
Are citizens’ hopes and expectations fulfilled? In the first place, what were they and if not fulfilled, what is their way forward? What parties are in contest; their key people in the race and manifestoes?
Where are interviews with all souls; descriptions of places you have been to; evaluation and analysis of situations and events; and context? Where are the basic principles governing the nation and how are you fitting them in the election garden?
Reporting elections is about observation of the whole system especially when it is democratic, independent, free and fair; and what the terms mean with regard to what you see on the ground.
Do you see human rights, women, the youth, those with disability and minorities feeding on honey, roots and wild fruits away from the centre?
We concluded: In a year of General Election, even 500,000 ideas for news and articles for one reporter, is too small a number.