In the past few weeks or so, we are being daily entertained by the two major political parties in the country, the APC and the PDP, with their comical games of “my crowd is bigger than yours”, as they compete with each other over who would mobilize more crowds at their political campaign rallies, even if a significant number of people at these rallies were rented, or imported from some neighbouring countries.
Everywhere you go, you see “enthusiastic” crowds, decked in assorted T-shirts, face-caps, wrappers, flowing gowns, etc., boldly inscribed with the portraits of the candidate they come to receive. They chant, sing, clap, dance and display the symbol of the political party they have come to support.
When you watch your television screen, you see countless sea of heads at one political rally or the other. You go to different social media platforms, you see video clips of uncountable number of people at the rallies.
You begin to wonder and to ask, how come that these large number of people attended these political rallies, clapping and dancing? How come that things have so suddenly changed that we now see them dancing and clapping for these same people they previously had been cursing, claiming to have shortchanged them, to have rendered their lives worthless?
At the same time, you begin to wonder and to ask, how did each of these political parties manage to mobilize these huge crowds, these “mammoth crowds”, these sea of heads, to the campaign venues, and kept them waiting for endless hours, sometimes up till 6.00 pm, when the political juggernauts would arrive?
Then, you remember that a lot of people in this country are hungry, that many people in Nigeria have no jobs, no means of livelihood, and are ready to do anything you ask then to do at the bait of Naira and Kobo.
You then put on your thinking cap to calculate that when you put one and one together, they will give you two. That was not abstract mathematics, but political mathematics.
You have the yam, and you have the knife. So, if you come with a promise of as low as N200 at the end of the rally and dangle some T-shirts and caps, you will have thousands of people falling on top of themselves, jumping into some waiting vehicles to take them to any political campaign rally, and they will remain at that venue till the end of the exercise, even if it will extend till 8.00 pm, otherwise, nobody will get paid.
They will be singing, clapping and dancing, in to order to justify whatever they are going to be paid.
Tomorrow, if another political party comes around to make the same promises and extend the same offers, they will equally follow them and do exactly the same things they had done for the other political party, shouting their party slogan.
You then realize that these so-called “mammoth crowds” have no political base, no real attachment. They equally have no preferred political party, or preferred candidate. They are mere political hirelings, committed to only those who hired them at a particular time, those who need their presence in a political rally at any particular point in time.
Majority of those among these “mammoth crowds” may not have registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and therefore do not possess permanent voter card (PVC), and consequently, have no electoral value.
But their services are necessary and important to each of these political parties. The “mammoth crowds” serve as part of psychological warfare. They used them to intimidate their political opponents, to boost their own ego, and to deceive the viewing public, to tell the other political party, and indeed, the entire electorate, that they control the area, and that the other party had no chance at all.
The APC goes to Adamawa, the home state of their main political opponent, Atiku Abubakar, and the entire stadium is filled to the brim. They showcase it on television, to let the world know that Atiku Abubakar has no home support. Any other person watching it concludes that that political party has mass support, and is on the winning side.
But when later in the evening, supporters of Atiku Abubakar go to the same stadium with tankers load of water and begin to “wash out the feet of the people who brought them bad luck”, and to set fire on hundreds of brooms, they will not show them on television.
Sometimes, they dub pictures from political rallies held elsewhere, where large crowds attended, and tag them as their own political rally, and post them to the internet, or show them on television. They equally use the new technology to take photographs from different angles of the campaign arena, blow it up, and showcase it as the “mammoth crowd”.
Overall, we have never seen “mammoth crowds” win any election. They only serve as soothing balm, entertainment, or comic relief. Very often, these “mammoth crowds” could be deceitful, or gave people false some sense of hope. What we know that wins election is your PVC. Keep it handy.