By Dr. Chuks Osuji
Those who are constantly watchers of political trends in Nigeria including myself are often amused with some of the political behaviours of political mediocre in the society. Because, they simply don’t understand and or do not possess the simplest analytical knack to comprehend those unfolding political intricacies.
Unfortunately, due to freedom of expression of speech as enshrined in our constitution which I strongly support because they are essential ingredients of political finess, they often abuse it thereby deceiving the generality of the ignorant masses.
Honestly, according to one Political Scientist, Samuel Watchtower, “framers of the concept of democracy could have done better if they had made a distinction between the developed and non-developed polities hence, the practice of democracy would have been simply and evenly applied and practiced. Probably, he was rightly wrong because if democracy according to Darcey is “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” it should be for all the citizens. But unfortunately, those I may apologetically describe as “uninformed democratic practitioners tend to have bastardized the concept. Thereby, giving it different definitions, such as “Government of the wealthy for the poor and by the wealthy,” or “Government of the masses by the few wealthy at the expense of the masses,” or better still, “Government by the few for the masses in the interest of the privileged few,” or more extremely, “Government of the family, by the family and for the family,”etc.
But if it is possible for the general concept of government of the people for the people, by the people, there would not have been these series of misunderstanding of the proper definition, application and practice of the concept – democracy. It is not possible because, many members of the society often misquote that Aristotle said, “Every man is a political animal.” No, this is not what he said or implied. In fact, what he did say in his thesis is that since every man is a gregarious animal which begins with a family which is the offshoot of a community and that since man is of high intelligence can begin a process of organizing citizens for the benefit of the citizenry, in this case, every man is a political animal. Even from this little perspective, many people believed that as a man, he is therefore a political animal who has the right to be effective in functional politics. No not at all.
With the above introduction, let me return to the main thrust of this piece. It is to examine the value or non-value of the size of political crowds in our society today which many people have come to place a lot of value on them. The objective of this analysis is to examine the issue of political crowds and their utility or non-utility value via ascendency to high political office. In doing this, it is hoped that it will help those who have ears to hear and those who are careless to continue to wallow in perpetual delusion because of the monetary value they derive in their belief.
As a point of entry, it will be necessary to make certain issues very clear. Rallies are too numerous. But basically, they could be classified into two main types: political and non-political rallies. However, if we see them from general perspectives, almost every rally is political or has some political connotations.
Political rallies are those assembled deliberately or spontaneously. If they are political, they must have political statements to make.
Other non-political rallies unfortunately may have remote political motives. For example, if students unions hold a rally or rallies to demand for structural changes in their school matters, such may appear not to be political, but, brother, beneath, it is because, if government fails to comply with their demands, the next thing is to take actions which may bring down the government. You see what I mean. Therefore, broadly speaking, rallies are basically creation of dysfunctional political process aimed at redressing some contractions in government. Otherwise, who has organized rallies for market women in Owerri markets to dress in black or red materials when coming to the market on certain days? That is on the micro level of the issue.
Unfortunately, some political actors have come to misunderstand the values of rallies; hence, they often claim that their rallies are the largest in history or one of the largest in the nation.
When they make such spurious claims, I laugh because; the size of a crowd is never identification of electoral success or near to it. After all, since rallies are often open, and sometimes rented, nobody in his deep political sensibility could use that to measure his electoral prospects. Few examples will suffice here.
Those who often claim that the rally they organized is perhaps the largest in Africa or even in the world, sorry, they have not seen large rallies. For example; just on the hindsight, on record, the two largest rallies in the world ever held were: first, the 1986 rally that welcomed Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan when she returned to Pakistan, where it took her motorcade of 10 hours to make it to the centre of Lahore a distance of only 12 kilometers. The crowd was estimated to be 3 million or above.
The second was the 1963 civil right rally led by Martin Luther King to press for civil right. It was estimated that the crowd which assembled at the foot of Lincoln Memorial was about 1.5 million. Of course, historically, there are many such rallies but these two are the largest.
And now the critical thing is this, does the number of persons at the rallies translate into voting block for victory? Absolutely no, not at all.
For example, in 1983, the then NPP led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe held a rally in the largest stadium in Kano. The party claimed that based on its calculations that they would win the Presidential Election of that year. They did not because they misread the crowd’s content. Yes, they could have been up to one million or above but analytically, I debunked that claim and assumption before the election. Because, the composition of the crowd at the rally included personal assistance of the big political wigs, personal drivers of the VIPs, hawkers who came to do brisk business, several onlookers who were attracted to the crowd, a large number of miscreants particularly pick-in-pockets who came to perform their trade, many party members who did not have voters cards, many who would be sick or deprived from voting on the election day and so many hangers-on who came for several other reasons unrelated to the election. By the time careful and objective reductions of those who were at the rally had been made, the actual voting persons at
the rally could not be more than five hundred thousand. But then, they came from all over the country.
One more legendary tale may help to explain the matter more vividly. There was one king who boasted that he would use millions of locusts which lived in a cave at the foot of Kilimanjaro Mountain in East Africa to destabilize a fellow king and his community. This king, Muuma had a lot of mystical powers to command and direct the behaviours of these million of locust. To punish a very powerful opponent, he dispatched millions of locust to go and destroy his opponent’s community by devouring their crops and farms. The locust left in millions. But as they flew to the target community, many of them stopped on the way to fend for themselves, thousands of others encountered heavy winds which forced them down making it difficult for thousands others to continue. In fact, by the time they got to the target community, it was just very few locusts that made the invasion trip. They were so few that they became unnoticeable to cause any havoc to the enemy community. Since they were just very few, the inhabitants pounced on them for feast. When the king heard of the colossal failure by the invading locusts, he was devastated and humiliated. This can be likened to a political rally. They simply do not indicate electoral successes because there are people who joined the crowd for different purposes.
Therefore, election aspirants or candidates should stop making noise about the size of crowds that throng their campaign site. Some are there to jeer, mock or disturb their rallies. In real functional political terms, crowds don’t win elections. What could win elections must be a factor of things including good and well designed and implemented electioneering campaigns and voter turn-out mechanisms. After all, the sound of gas from the anus does not fell a building. Politicians must stop deluding themselves with the size of crowds that attend their political rallies they are very deceptive and do not hold any electoral water worthy of a dime. This is the submission of a scholar and not a fluke.