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2019 campaigns: Story behind ‘mammoth’ crowds

The photos and videos are all over the internet, sparking nasty rivalries between members of the two biggest political parties in Nigeria, the ruling APC,…

The photos and videos are all over the internet, sparking nasty rivalries between members of the two biggest political parties in Nigeria, the ruling APC, and opposition PDP. Tagged ‘mammoth crowds’, and rightfully so, they have assumed the role of the main points of boast for the bitter rivals as we trundle closer to the 2019 general elections. But what’s the real story behind these epic rallies?


With 22 days to the general elections, leading presidential candidates have embarked on rigorous campaigns. Less than two months ago, the political scene was not busy, even with the dozens of presidential candidates. Ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which are supposed to lead the campaign frenzy had enough troubles in their homes in the aftermath of their primaries.

Midway, some of the remaining 89 registered parties benefitted from cross-carpeting and set the tone for campaigns. For now, there are 74 presidential candidates and many of them have devised different methods of campaigns. While some of them limit theirs to social media, there are some who are visible on billboards and posters in major towns and villages.

However, in the last few days, the campaigns of APC and PDP have become a sight to behold, considering the massive crowd candidates Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar are drawing. The posters, billboards, sound systems, still and video cameras in use are high-end, while in most instances the candidates and their campaign teams wear the traditional clothes of the people of states visited.

Another clear departure from the past, is that while Buhari and Atiku move around under their party’s presidential campaign councils, their wives have formed separate teams to canvass votes for their husbands.

Aisha Buhari, as Chairperson, with wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as Co-chair have a team comprising over 700 people, including  high-profile politicians, women, youths and popular artistes. On the other hand, all the four wives of Atiku Abubakar have also formed separate campaign teams for their husband.

Across the states, here’s how things look like, for now:

Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar waves at supporters during the party’s presidential campaign in Kaduna State, on Thursday Photo: AMO

Akwa Ibom

That was where President Buhari flagged-off his presidential campaign, and the first time he visited the state since becoming president. Justifying the reason for taking the campaign launch to Uyo, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State said it is always better for a politician to test the depth of his popularity in places that opponents think he’s not.

The mammoth crowd that witnessed Buhari’s visit at the 30,000-capacity Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo was unprecedented. It was reported that over 20 chartered aircraft landed at the airport, while hundreds of cars and buses ferried party loyalists from all the 36 states of the federation. Ambulances were also on standby. Cultural troupes from the 31 local government areas performed and chanted solidarity songs. Hawkers of souvenirs, food and other items also had a field day. .

Mr. Eseme Eyibio, Spokesperson for the APC and Nsima Ekere’s Gubernatorial Campaign Organisation, said the crowd seen at the party’s rallies were there at their own volition. “We didn’t pay anybody anything; they love the APC,” he said.



The Rwang Pam Stadium was last week filled to capacity when President Buhari visited Plateau State for his campaign rally. The 15,700 sitting capacity stadium with a pitch size of 100metres by 70metres, was crowded by supporters who said they had come simply for a glimpse of the president. Thousands stood outside the walls, with many sitting on fences while others stood and watched from the top floors of nearby storey buildings.

Ibrahim Yahaya, a tailor around Ali Kazaure in Jos, said he closed his shop for the day just to see the president. He said he was satisfied with the policies of the APC but had gone to the stadium to purely get a glimpse of the president.

So overwhelmed was the stadium that President Buhari could not even deliver his speech while Governor Simon Lalong described the event as “The mother of all rallies.”

Also, the Polo field where the PDP held its campaign a week prior to that of the APC in honour of Atiku was equally massive, where supporters of the PDP said they were there to show solidarity with the party. Amos Victor told Daily Trust Saturday that he was at the field out of his own volition.

PDP Publicity Secretary, John Akans, said the people came because of the manifesto of the PDP. “We don’t need to tell people we are organising rally, people will just come. We have volunteers who will provide busses for those who cannot afford to come at the ward level and there are stakeholders who also provide these busses,” he said.



The coming of Atiku to Dutse, capital of Jigawa State, had pulled an unprecedented crowd during his presidential campaign tour held at the Dutse Eid prayer ground. The PDP presidential hopeful, who expressed his happiness looking at the number of people that turned up for the event, said he was optimistic of victory.

Atiku’s visit coincided with the flag-off of Governor Muhammad Badaru’s campaign in Hadejia. Being the state of PDP chieftain Sule Lamido, the rally drew thousands of people.

Muttaka Ahmed, who was mobilized for the event from Kafin Hausa LGA, told Daily Trust Saturday that the leaders of the party at his ward “mobilized” them for the event in Dutse. He added that for each bus, a sum of 12,000 was budgeted. He said N6,000 was for hiring the bus, while the remaining N6,000 was shared among passengers. He said they got an average of N500, while some get as low as N200. He added that he’s not a member of PDP, but attended the event because of the allowance.

President Muhammadu Buhari during the APC presidential and gubernatorial campaign rally in Sokoto State, recently Photo: State House


The campaign train of Atiku had witnessed massive turnout of party faithful and supporters who thronged the Pantami Stadium in Gombe Metropolis for the rally. The supporters were mobilized from across the six states of the North-East sub-region, who converged at the stadium to witness the zonal inaugural rally of the PDP presidential candidate.

It was observed that the number of people that turnout for the rally but couldn’t get access to the stadium had outnumbered those inside the 12,000-seat capacity stadium. The Secretary of PDP in Gombe State, Alhaji Buba Shanu, said the turnout of people at the event was a testimony that the PDP was still powerful in the state and the North-East zone.

“Apart from our performance over the last 16 years in the state, we gathered large number of people because we were able to enlighten them on the opportunities that await us if Atiku wins the election,” he said.

Another supporter of Atiku, Jamilu Lawan, said: “I was at the rally because Buhari has failed the country, and to show my solidarity with Atiku, who I believe has the capacity to deliver.”



Bauchi witnessed a mammoth crowd that welcomed President Buhari during his campaign launch in the North-East. People lined up along the major road leading to the 15,000-capacity Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium located in Bauchi metropolis. Human and vehicular traffic moved at a snail speed on the roads leading to the venue. Security agents had a hectic time controlling the crowd at the centre of the stadium because of people who surged close to the podium, particularly when the president came on to address the people.

An APC supporter, who identified himself as Mahmoud, said he went to the stadium because of President Buhari. “Nobody gave me anything or prompted me to go. As long as it is Buhari, I can trek or pay anything to go anywhere,” he said.



In Kogi, Atiku was first to flag-off his campaign in the state with a mammoth crowd in attendance. Held at the 25,000-capacity Lokoja Confluence Stadium, it had a greater percentage of the venue filled with party supporters and enthusiasts. However, some parts of the stadium were empty.

In the same vein, Buhari equally held his rally at the same venue which also attracted a mammoth crowd. Our correspondent observed that the 25,000 sitting capacity stadium was virtually filled to capacity, while the track and field spaces, as well as the stadium surroundings, were equally flooded with party faithful, and supporters of the president.

A stalwart of the APC, and Chief Press Secretary to the Kogi State Governor, Onogwu Muhammed, said the massive turnout of the people was a clear indication of people’s love and support for the APC.

But the PDP in Kogi State had urged President Buhari and the ruling party  not to be deceived by virtue of the crowd recorded at the rally in Lokoja, saying those who attended were paid money. In a statement by its Director of Research and Documentation, Dickson Achadu, the party accused Governor Yahaya Bello and the APC-led government of wasting a billion naira of taxpayers’ money to attract people to the rally.



In Edo State, only the APC campaign train visited. The campaign which to place at the Garick Memorial School, attracted a massive crowd from all over the state. Being the home state of the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, it was gathered that most of the crowd were party supporters who were mobilized to the event by party’s chieftain.

A party chieftain, Jimoh Abudu  said the event was successful as the crowd was unprecedented than  any other political gathering in the state.

However, one Jude Edos who was at the venue, said not all the people at the event were supporters of the APC. He said he was there to see president Buhari, who some people said was not healthy.



The presidential rally of the PDP which took place in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, last year was graced by many supporters from all the states in the North-Central region. The supporters, it was learnt, were mobilised from Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau states.

The PDP publicity secretary in the state, Mr Tunde Ashaolu, said party members and supporters funded themselves to the rally.

Kwara, being the home state of Senate President Bukola Saraki, witnessed a large turnout of PDP supporters for the rally. Another factor that made some people to attend the Ilorin rally was because of the musicians who were invited to entertain the people.

Metropolitan Square, in Ilorin, was the venue. Originally planned to accommodate 30,000 people, it took up to 50,000 with some people standing. However, there are some people who feel that when compared to other rallies, that of Ilorin was low-key.



Both Buhari and Atiku had at different times held their rallies in Niger State ahead of the February election.

Atiku was the first to flag off his campaign at the Polo Ground in Minna metropolis on Wednesday, January 9. It witnessed a large turnout of supporters who trooped out as early as 9am. However, the crowd thinned out gradually when the standard bearer failed to turned up at t11 am, the time slated for the programme.

Despair heightened when the candidate did not appear hours later, triggering mass exodus from the rally venue. As at the time the former vice president arrived the Minna Polo ground in company of Senate President, Bukola Saraki and other party’s top notch, at about 3:00pm, most of the supporters, especially those who came from distant locations, had left.

Like the former vice president, Buhari could not also make it to the Trade Fair Ground venue of the rally on time. The delay in the commencement of the rally was as a result of the commissioning of Baro Inland Port which was also slated for the same day, 20th January.

By the time Buhari arrived, at about 2:00pm, the crowd which waited patiently for hours, had reduced. He was scheduled for a campaign rally in Jos, Plateau State, so he did not spend up to 30 minutes at the Minna programme. Daily Trust Saturday observed that many supporters, especially youths, were denied access to the venue by security operatives.

Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar during the party’s North- West zonal rally and flag-off of the 2019 presidential campaign in Sokoto recently Photo: AMO


President Buhari was received in Kaduna by a massive crowd of party supporters, who thronged the Ahmadu Bello Stadium. The president spoke in Hausa during the flag-off of the governorship and presidential campaign, and said Kaduna was his home and remained one of his strongholds.

A visibly-excited Governor Nasir El- Rufai said he was happy with the way Kaduna people showed love for Buhari.

But on Thursday, Atiku who was also in Kaduna, said  the APC, and President Buhari had failed Nigerians. He spoke at the APC presidential rally, and said the APC administration lied to Nigerians in 2015. “They promised to provide security, but the question is do we have security in the country today?”

Atiku’s campaign also recorded a massive turnout, who were also excited.


Sokoto, Kebbi, Anambra, Enugu

President Buhari was on Wednesday in Sokoto, and Kebbi, and then went to Anambra and Enugu states.

Commercial activities were paralysed in Sokoto for the presidential campaign rally. Daily Trust Saturday observed some of the supporters jumping over the wire fence of Giginya Stadium in Sokoto.

The president was received at Sultan Abubakar III International Airport by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the APC Presidential Campaign Coordinator in charge of the North-west, Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, among others.

The president was also in Anambra and Enugu states, where he was warmly received.

Atiku was also welcomed by a mammoth crowd when he launched his campaign in Sokoto, with the same situation in many parts of the South.

The massive crowds which have been thronging the rally venues of both candidates have even the most seasoned political pundits resolving that the 2019 presidential elections will be as some foreign analysts predicted, as having the probability of being a ‘close call’. How close a call, and in whose favour, remains to be seen come February 16, at the polls. But in the meantime, both candidates continue to attract mammoth crowds.


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