Ahead of this weekend’s Presidential and National Assembly elections, political analysts have opined that the crowd that always throng venues of campaign rallies by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is not the reflection of electoral outcome.
Unlike the candidates, stalwarts and supporters of APC and PDP who project their victory on large turnout at their campaign rallies, analysts are of the view that the multitude of people that followed them is a manifestation of poverty, hence they attend the rallies for financial gains thereby leading to voter inducement.
It is an indisputable fact that Nigerians are living in abject poverty and penury as according to a report by Brookings Institution in June 25, 2018, Nigeria has taken over as the nation with the highest number of extremely poor people.
Brookings Institution stated that Nigeria has 200 million people living in poverty and the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increases by six people every minute.
“At the end of May 2018, our trajectories show that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six
people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall”, the report says.
This report rightly buttressed the assertion of the analysts that the countless number of people that showed up at their campaign rallies are not there merely for support but they are usually hired for a
token since many of them do not even have permanent voter cards which qualify them to vote.
Samso Itodo, Leader of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, YIAGA and Convener of the ‘ Not too Young to Run’
movement argued that the hired crowd at APC and PDP campaign rallies does not translate to votes as it was evident in the 2015 general election where the crowd at campaign venues did not reflect the voting pattern.
Itodo reasoned that, “we know for sure that when politicians are preparing for campaign, they have budget for mobilising crowd and what you are seen, the crowd is been hired. It was reported that a governor in the South East said they had to hire about 2000 people to welcome President Buhari.
“But it is quite disturbing because first, let’s look at what is the objective of those rallies? It is just simply to campaign and have people – voters and party members engaged with leaders. It is always not a two-way engagement.
“It is just show of strength between the two parties – to show that they have the crowd and they have these people behind them. But it doesn’t in anyway translate to votes and it is very important that we put that out. It doesn’t translate to votes, that you have 20,000 people in a stadium does not means those 20, 000 people are actually going to cast their vote for you. That is one.
“Two, how many of those people actually have their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs)? How many of these people are of voting age? If you check very well, I don’t think some of them do. But again, that a party has crowd at rally does not in any way translate to votes and it is very worrying because what objective does it serve? if it is not serving personal interest of the politicians and just to show their strength.
“It is also a strategy to intimidate the opposition as well as intimidate the public. In 2015, we saw there were crowds in different campaigns of different political parties but we saw the voting pattern. In Governorship election, we saw that as well. So, it is
funfair as far as I am concerned, it lacks substance, and to a large extent, that is while you can not underestimate the power of debate because of what it does. It provides the opportunity for intensive engagement with people that ask questions.
“What we have now is voter inducement and you can see some of these crowds because they are hired and they are willing to avail themselves for these campaign rallies so that they can be paid. Don’t forget there is poverty in the land and when people are poor, the elites work on that poverty and what you see happening is just a manifestation of
that because if we have people who have jobs and are busy, will they abandon their jobs just because you are going into a campaign where the figure who is actually campaigning does nothing but spoke for 15 minutes and nobody has to engage him.
“But for the parties it may be an avenue for them to also meet with their party members. However, they are been paid money to attend those rallies and it is voter inducement whichever way we want to look at.
Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development shared this view when she contended that, “crowd does not translate into victory. Yes in some states these parties have supporters but also
note that people are mobilised and pay to participate in most of these rallies.
“Our emphasis should be to map states which have been the stronghold of the parties since 1999, analyse what may have changed and project victories based on that”.
Abdulnajeeb Sa’ad, Coordinator, National Movement for Good Governance also agreed with the notion that poverty is the propelling force for
the millions of people that attend APC and PDP rallies and not show of support but business venture, stressing that this is dangerous to Nigeria’s democratic journey.
“In the real sense, because of the poverty level in the country, mobilisation is not a difficult issue because if you give people any token of amount they will follow you. The real issue is that none of the two parties are addressing the real issues affecting Nigerians.
“So from the rational perspective, all these things we know whether they translate to victory are not the solution to our national problems. The masses have been victimised by bad leadership in the past under these political parties.
“It is very dangerous to our democracy because the politicians have been muzzled out by economic sources politicians limit to themselves and their political cronies. So, that is what is breeding insecurity in different forms.
“It is a timed bomb we are sitting on. The opposition needs to galvanised themselves because they are not united and they cannot yield any result like that. They should form a coalition that will provide credible alternative”, Sa’ad maintained.
Beyond the analysts assertions, both APC and PDP had accused each other of hiring or renting crowd at campaign rallies to falsely show support base in areas they are obviously not on ground.
Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State had alleged that the large crowd that attended the campaign flag off and rally of the PDP
Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar in Sokoto was rented from Niger Republic.
El-Rufai said, “The thieves have ganged-up against President Muhammadu Buhari. Yesterday, they were in Sokoto and they rented a crowd from Niger Republic just to show people that they have supporters because Sokoto people refused to come out”.
Shortly after that, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, PPCO accused the Buhari Presidency and the APC of secretly drawing over N478 million from the coffers of the Niger Delta Development
Commission, NDDC to rent a crowd and offset bills in President Muhammadu Buhari’s e re-election campaign flag off and rally in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State.
Kola Ologbondiyan, PPCO Spokesperson alleged that “the N478 million NDDC fund which was originally budgeted for development projects in
the Niger Delta was diverted to renting and transportation of crowd from other parts of the country to the rally to create an impression of popularity for President Buhari in the region.
“Further information at our party’s disposal, shows that the said N478 million is part of the wholesome sum of N1.2 billion allegedly siphoned in tranches from the NDDC treasury by the cabal at the Buhari
Presidency and APC leaders, who have been stealing money from various government agencies to finance President Buhari’s campaign”.
Similarly, Rochas Okorocha, Chairman of APC Governors forum and Imo State Governor in his speech at the recently held APC Presidential
campaign rally in the State revealed that those booing him at the venue of the rally were, “hired crowd” by the Hope Uzodinma faction of
APC in Imo.
With their over-crowded rallies, APC and PDP have overshadowed 71 out of the 73 political parties that featured candidates for presidential elections who clearly lack the financial muscles to organise rallies,
thus plunging Nigeria into a two party system democracy despite having 91 registered political parties.
Most of these Presidential Candidates who have superlative policies and the technical know-how more than President Buhari of APC and former Vice President Atiku of PDP as demonstrated at the recent presidential debate which both did not attend, are however, not carrying out rallies that have become the political norm in Nigerian politics.
Unfortunately, none of the presidential candidates of other political parties have held any major campaign activity or visit state by state as being done by their APC and PDP counterparts four days to the official close of campaigns creating a scenario that made APC and PDP the ‘contenders’ and other ‘pretenders’.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC time table for the 2019 general elections, campaigns for Presidential and National Assembly elections which commenced November 18 last year closes February 14 in line with section 91(1) of the 2010 Electoral Act( as amended) that, “prohibits advertisements or broadcasts of campaigns 24 hours prior to the day of election”.