Legendary Nigerian environmental journalist and nominee for the 2012 CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards, Tunde Akingbade, shares his experience during the programme, where he was eventually decorated with the Highly Commended Environmental Journalist Award.
After the announcement of finalists in the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the year Awards 2012, the organisers of the competition asked me to send a Microsoft version of my story: Eko Atlantic City – Rumbles in the sea which won me the nomination. The story was published in The Guardian on Sunday on November 6, which the judges picked all over Africa had read. The trip to Lusaka began on July 17 from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. I arrived O’ Tamba International Airport five and a half hours later in the early hours of July 18 and waited for the six hours to connect another South African Airways aircraft to Lusaka, Zambia.
Ms Vannessa Hellholf, the coordinator of our travels from Multichoice met me and my colleagues at a particular exclusive club/restaurant at the airport. Little did we know that all the finalists were gathered there for the onward journey – in the same plane to Zambia. It was when we got to Zambia that we discovered that all of us billed to participate in the programme were actually together. We were welcomed that evening with a dinner where the programme for the event was tabled. We also met the CNN/Multichoice organisers at the Intercontinental Hotel a five-star hotel in Lusaka. I soon found out that the hotel runs many environment programmes in its organisation including waste water management. Very early the following morning, we embarked on tour around the city of Lusaka to be able to know strategic places and historical sites.
In the afternoon, we headed to Mtendere Community, Lusaka where an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Hope Worldwide Zambia (HNNZ) has been educational development of orphans-with the support of the Coca Cola Africa Foundation in Zambia HWWZ has been helping orphans of Zambia’s HIV epidemic which are about 1 million for the past seven years, the NGO cares for the orphans and vulnerable children of the HIC/AID pandemic through a child-centred family focused community-based approach. It was a highly emotional experience for me as we journeyed through the life of children in the community.
According to figures from Coca Cola Africa Foundation’s President, Mr. William Asiko both HWWZ and the foundation served the needs of over 120,000 children across eight countries in Africa including Nigeria. In Zambia, they carry out their activities through the support of Ministries of Education Health, and Home Affairs in urban communities in Kalingalinga, Mtendere Chairama and Kanyama.
We were welcomed with pomp and pageantry by the Mtendere community including some women who are mothers of the orphans. These women were also taught how to make a living through their crafts which were also put for sale. Dr. Sharad Saparad Sapara, UNICEF Representative in Uganda was at event and he spoke on why UNICEF is helping children worldwide. Mr. Mivanbu Wanendeya, Vice-President and Head of Commutations for Ericsson Sub-Saharan African, was also president at another prorgramme which focused on business management in Africa and NGO work. It was moderated by Isha Sesay, CNN’s broadcaster from Atlanta, Georgia.
We also watched the drama from the kid’s theater as well as choreographed dance drama by the adults.
The following day, we were taken to Chiminuka Lodge and park about 40 kilometers away from Lusaka where there was a dialogue on the media practice as well as governance. The main speaker on governance was Mr. Martin Kalungu-Banda, author of the bestselling book – Leading like Madiba; Leadership lessons from Nelson Mandela. There were other great speakers like Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, President Nigerian Guild of Editors; Mr. Kim Norgaard, CNN International; Joyce Mhaville, MD, ITV, Tanzania; and Fred M’MEMBE, Editor in Chief of The Post, Zambia.
After the session, we went on a tour of the 10,000 hectares park at the Chaminuka Lodge.
The Chaminuka Lodge is some distance away from Lusaka, the Capital city of Zambia. The Chaminuka Lodge has a nature reserve that has more than 72 species. It is the first private wild life park in Zambia. We were informed the previous night to wake up early in the morning so that we would embark on the trip to Chiminuka Village Park. We travelled from Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka through well-paved road until we got to an intersection near the Kenneth Kaunda international Airport. We now moved through an unpaved road through the woods and crossing some narrow bridges until we got to Chiminuka, a village which overlooks the Lake Chitoka. One of the fascinating attractions was some of the school children who rushed out from the two schools from the cluster of three villages which have about 700 people who live and work in the area to catch a glimpse of our vehicle. We stood on the spot unaware of what we hand in the wings for us that day at this beautiful park created by Andrew and Danae Sardanis who came to live in the village since 1978. Standing on 10,000 acres of wood land and Savannah, the park has an attitude of 3, 600 feet. The climate is sub-tropical but it could get cold sometimes. We gathered that the coolest weather is always between June and July. We visited in July and it was a little bit veto. After a conference which entailed discussions on media practice, we mounted an upon-top 4- wheel drive safari vehicle with a ranger who guided the trip.
First we arrived at the Lion’s den. They were having their meal. We saw the head of the animal they had just dismembered into their stomach I took pictures of the den and made a sound. It was as if the lioness understood what I wanted. She wagged her tail, looked at me for a moment and snapper her postures. Nearby was the hyena. Very restless animal, he hyena disappeared into the wood and within few minutes from slave trade, I found myself exploring Zambia’s house of history of colonization, struggle for independence and political hiccups in post-colonial Africa in Lusaka.
We were taken to a small five-bedroom, modest bungalow where the former President Kaunda lived. There was a bed in each of the rooms.
“One these were the places where they were making babies,” remarked one of the visiting journalists.
There was a wardrobe in one of the rooms. The ex-president kept his dresses in the wardrobe and his guitar. The guitar was still there. The ex-president, a former choirmaster at Church of Central Africa Congregation, was described as “an avid ballroom dancer.” There was an ironing table and a pressing iron which his wife, Betty Kaunda, used to iron dresses in a corner. Nearby was her kitchen. It reminded me of how the Americans preserve the heritage of their presidents at the White House in Washington DC.
There were historic pictures on the wall. One of them was the visit of Queen Elizabeth II of UK and Duke of Edinburgh, Mark Philips to Zambia and the meeting with the Kaundas.
When the former President was in power, the people of Lusaka carried out arson and blocked the road that year to show their anger for neo colonialism following harsh economic measure imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and removal of food subsidies by Kaunda in the 1980s there were riots and disorder in Lusaka. The President’s Land Rover was burnt by irate mob. The Land Rover was on display at a very strategic spot at the compound where he lived before 1964 in Lusaka. The award ceremony was glamorous and there were several media gurus from all over the world, captains of industry and multinational corporations. With me at the event was the immediate past Africa President, Y’s Man Femi Oduntan who also flew in from Nigeria. There was also Miss Chipo, Y’s Youth from Zambia and her sister. They had come to give me the moral support. The Y’s Men International of which I am a member in an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations. There were top executives of the CNN/Multichoice and it was indeed a parade of stars. The awards were later awarded to winners in each category. Thereafter there were celebrations, dinner and dance which were indeed memorable.