On February 16, 2019, the presidential election, first in the series of general elections, will hold. Expectedly, electioneering campaigns are at their peak with identifiable campaign messages and manifestoes, catch-phrases and slogans to take away, as it is expected every four years in Nigeria. This time, the situation is different; apart from a few new entrants in the race, the leading political parties and their candidates have chosen to engage in frivolities, insults, inanities, accusations and counter-accusations and dragging one another through the mud, in a contest that is unarguably between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Instead of the APC to focus on telling Nigerians what has changed, whether there has been progress or retrogression in terms of positive milestones, in a bid to rekindle our faith in them, and the PDP to tell the electorates how different they could be from their previous 16-year rule, both parties have largely deviated from issues-based campaigns. Unfortunately for the Nigerian public, we are just cheerleaders in what ideally should be our affair, a project we should own.

I do not know about you, but I’m not overly excited about the way the electioneering campaigns are going on, less than three weeks to the general elections. By this, I’m not talking of the shoe-string budgets that some candidates are running on; that one is a function of the economy and that is how it should be anyway in a country without the US-type Super packs to fund campaigns, although politicians in this clime would always have money to buy votes and have their way.

The political environment is today polluted by hate speeches and name-calling; these have since overshadowed less talked about, but very germane issues threatening our corporate existence as a nation. Challenges of insecurity, worsening inflation figures, dwindling purchasing power and poverty have taken a backseat amidst mudslinging campaigns.

Besides the fact that the campaigns are not issue-based, the political elite has turned what ordinarily should be serious matters for national discourse to butts of joke and tug of war between PDP and APC as if our lives revolve around these two parties whereas there are over 70 parties, only 84 million people are eligible to vote, less than half of the population, many of who might not vote anyway.

In 2015, only 28,278,083 people voted in the presidential election out of 68,833,476 registered voters. Taking a cue from the 2015 presidential election and the abysmal voter-turnout, I do not think it is worth the trouble to shut governance, tear each other apart on social media, dissipate energy and waste so much resources on mundane matters, even when the personalities involved take us for a ride and treat social and economic narratives with levity such as last weekend’s election debate that both President Muhamadu Buhari and his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar failed to attend and justified same with untenable reasons.

Trivialising election debate, a key ingredient of electioneering campaign in a democracy, thereby making a mockery of the election process and a prime opportunity to discuss policy documents and party manifestoes is tragic. For that is what the political parties especially PDP and APC turned into a charade.

Both of them slighted the public and called the people’s bluff, after all, with or without debates, performance or not, accountability or not, many are ready to kill themselves for either of the candidates, so they (Buhari and Atiku) do not think it a matter of responsibility to work hard to prove their suitability before the electorate. That was how the much-awaited debate ended in anti-climax.

Another trivial issue diverting our attention from election campaign is Atiku’s trip to the US and the APC’s annoying reaction. For years, Atiku’s inability to go to the United States of America was a campaign issue for the APC which insisted that Atiku is a suspect and would be arrested if he dared step foot in America. Atiku took up the gauntlet, travelled to the US and returned only for Lai Muhammed, the minister of information and culture to level another allegation of Atiku’s involvement in the collapse of Bank PHB, something new out of the blues.

For God’s sake why do we need America to validate and authenticate politicians before they can qualify to lead Nigeria when America does not extent such a courtesy to us and does not even care if Nigeria exists and in which corner of the world we are?

The average American does not even know the difference between the continent of Africa and Nigeria as a country. What value did going to America add to Buhari’s leadership of Nigeria? As for Lai Muhammed’s allegations against Atiku, the question is why now? Is it to prove the point that even if America cleanses Atiku of sins of corruption, in Nigeria, he is still guilty? Recall that the same minister had earlier warned of the danger of the US’s acquiescence to give Atiku a visa which he said would amount to illegality. As for Atiku, how has going to America added more value and substance to his bid for political victory remain to be proven.

The whole gamut of seeking for America’s validation smacks of continued neo-imperialism and the earlier our leaders wean themselves of this colonial mentality, the better for our country.

Indeed, it is obvious that our political elite has nothing to offer anymore in terms of campaign promises because the previous expectations had been shattered. It is therefore not a surprise the need to divert attention from the devastating effects of daily kidnaps even on the streets of Abuja, homes and on the roads.

Armed bandits have sacked villages in Katsina, killing daily in Zamfara/ Sokoto axis, yet these are not viable campaign issues. On the other hand, distractions, contrived deniability, mobilising multitudes for campaigns and other irrelevant issues are the order of the day. Such other issues that will fade away after election like that of Onnoghen’s arraignment, to be or not to be, Obasanjo’s jabs, tradermoni and fighting dirty are the games in town.

Meanwhile, the never ending Boko Haram war remains, while living in denial of our existential realities of a society so socially stratified, that even the rich are no longer able to sleep with two eyes closed. We pretend that all is well when the country is bleeding, and the struggle for relevance and for power has left some with bloody nose, just as Rivers and Zamfara states will not present candidates for election, according to INEC and in deference to court orders.

In the final analysis, the point is, how can we get things right when we trivialise everything including governance, anti-corruption war and the processes leading to the emergence of people in political offices, people who take decisions for the progress or otherwise of the country. The result is as good as the process and your guess is as good as mine—it is a cyclical merry-go round.

zainabsule@yahoo.com, www.zainabokino.blogspot.com; 08098209791, text only.