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A good percentage of the crowd that turn up at election campaign rallies held by political parties for the forthcoming general elections is rented; according to investigations by Punch Newspapers. Each of those contracted for the rallies are paid between N500 and N5,000.
It was learnt that the amount paid depends on the profile of the event, the distance of the venue and the calibre of people engaged. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the major opposition party, All Progressives Congress, as well as other parties has been making claims, especially on social media, that the huge crowd that turn up at their campaigns was a proof of their popularity.
It was, however, learnt that women and youth groups, as well as ‘elders’ are hired in Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Abia. In Uyo, a member of the PDP, Mr. Eric Ekanem, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “If you observe, you will see that those who attend PDP rallies and campaigns are often mobilised at the end of the event, where they are given between N200 and N2000 each.
“The amount each person receives depends on the groups they belong.” An Eket-based woman, Ms. Ikwo Edet, said she was paid N500 after the last political rally she attended in Uyo.
In Umuahia, Abia State, a source, who begged not to be named, revealed that unemployed youths, students of both secondary and tertiary institutions, tricycle and motorcycle riders, as well as traders form the category of individuals easily rented.
The source said the rent ranges from N500 to N3000, depending on the category of the individual and the importance of the political rally.
Confirming this, a tricycle driver, who identified himself as ‘One Nigeria’, said he did not belong to any political party but was ready to be hired by any party that could pay his charges. Similalarly in Enugu State, students are a major population hired for political rallies.
A student, who gave his name as Ebuka, told one of our correspondents that he had been part of a rented crowd in several rallies.
He said, “We have link men who are close to the politicians. Whenever the need arises, they usually get in touch with us. We are mobilised through these contact persons.” It was a similar case in Bayelsa State, where parties reach out to youth and women groups in the local governments area for mobilisation.
A regular participant in such rallies, Ms. Ebilami Victor, who hails from Ekeremor area of the state, said she usually took part in such activity because it was the only way to make money.
“It depends on where the campaign is taking place. If it is within the local government area, each participant is usually paid between N1500 and N2000. But if it is Yenagoa, the state capital, we are paid N3000.
“But when it is outside the state, each person is paid between N2000 and N5000,” she said. In Oyo State, there is a network through which crowds are gathered for political purposes. The ring is run by a women and men group, it was learnt.
Youths in Ondo State are also having a swell time attending political rallies organised by parties and candidates ahead of the elections.
A party member, who gave his name as Adedeji, who attended a Social Democratic Party rally in Akure, told one of our correspondents that each ‘supporter’ engaged by one of the candidates received N2, 500 to attend the rally.
Another supporter, an unemployed, who identified himself simply as Makinde, told our correspondent that he received N1000 to attend the rally.
In Cross River State,political parties have resorted to contracting the job of hiring crowd to individuals or groups within the party.
Depending on the venue of the rally, the task of mobilising at least 1000 persons spread across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state could cost between N800,000 and N1m.
In the ruling PDP, one of such mobilisers, who preferred not to be named, said his last task of hiring 300 persons to a rally at the central senatorial district cost N1m.
In the case of Edo State, many of the supporters, who are predominantly youths, are sourced from both within the state and from neighbouring states.
A source within the APC said, “You know that there is unemployment and hunger everywhere. They can get N1,500 or N2,000, for transportation or feeding. If you are politically active, you would understand that you don’t have to be a card-carrying member of a party to show your support,” he said.
However, the APC insisted that in its case, crowds at its event venues were genuine Nigerians who were tired of the cluelessness of the PDP-led administration.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Lai Mohammed, stated in an interview in Abuja that it was impossible for the party to hire a crowd for any of its events.
Similarly, the PDP said it did rent crowd or pay those who attend its rallies across the country. The National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Mr. Victor Kwon, who spoke with one of our correspondent in an interview in Abuja, described anyone making such insinuation as a political novice.