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GOVERNORS VERSUS JONATHAN: THE SUSPENSE, THE INTRIGUES

By NBF News

Politics is here once again. Even a deaf and dumb blind man can feel it in the air as politicians get set to take one another in the predictably turbulent and slippery turf. It is time for every one who claims to be a politician to stand up to be counted. The game gets more interesting as the clock ticks towards the general election barely five months away.

It is stating the obvious that across the nation, issues bordering on the 2011 general election have remained the main preoccupation of people. From one state to the other, politicians and sundry power brokers are measuring their strength and weaknesses against one another.

As is common at a time like this, every Nigerian has literally become a political commentator and analyst of some sort. And for the candidates and their supporters, the nation has relapsed into a period of tension and anxiety but as they say, 'when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.'

But in the groundswell of activities trailing the predictably tension-soaked election, one question that has remained at the front burner is-who becomes the nation's president in 2011? If events in the recent past are anything to go by, the coast is not yet clear for President Jonathan unlike in the past when the incumbents usually had a smooth ride. Last week, the governors had a marathon meeting in which they sharply disagreed on supporting Jonathan for the election. The state chief executives also could not agree on whether to support any aspirant for the race during the meeting that coincided with the one held by the PDP National Chairman, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo.

But the nation's landscape is already littered with all manner of presidential candidates cutting across various political parties. For those who understand the character of the nation's politics and fluidity of the main actors, Nigeria at the moment is in a period of 'the more you look, the less you see'. Even looking into a crystal ball, it is nearly impossible to fathom the body language of the political actors. But according to one of the key power brokers in Nigeria who does not want his name in print, not every politician who comes out in an election is in the field to win. He observed that some are moles of candidates who the odds are likely to favour. 'Who told you that some of these candidates you see are not planted by other people', he said.

But analysts argue that the game is yet in incubation until President Goodluck Jonathan declares his ambition which is likely to come after the Muslim Ramadan period. Special Adviser to the president on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba-Aji last week revealed that the former Bayelsa State governor would declare his ambition after the annual religious event.

According to him, it will amount to thoughtlessness for anybody to suggest that anybody other than Jonathan should be made president at this point in time, because being the incumbent President, he is closest to the job.

He stated that, 'the President will certainly run and he will declare after Ramadan. This is not something that he started now; he started since he moved to Abuja as Vice President. Because of this, he is holding on. But as soon as the Ramadan is over, he will declare for the presidency. There is no doubt about that. We will take a convenient date after the Sallah.

'We have made it clear that President Jonathan has inherited all the political fortunes of late President Umaru Yar'Adua. Were he to be alive, he would have been automatically entitled to a second chance. That chance is the entitlement of President Jonathan', he said. Already, the Bayelsa born former lecturer has appointed Nigeria's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr Dalhatu Tafida as Director of campaign. The medical doctor-turned politician who was in the Senate between 1999 and 2007 was the personal physician of late President Yar'Adua.

Analysts argue that politicians especially the governors are yet to hit the ground running because the former Bayelsa governor has not given the long-awaited green light.

Since the noise about the general election started, just very few of the state chief executives have summoned the courage to indicate their interest for a second term in office. Even those who have done so, have kept their ambition in check until a more auspicious time. But barring the unexpected, it is hoped that from this week, Nigerians would begin to see the full weight of politicians with regards to the 2011 poll. As soon as the former Bayelsa governor declares his intention, majority of the state chief executives are likely to follow suit.

For followers of events, the real alliance and consensus building among the contending political forces would start after the Ramadan period. The idea is that it would be a miscalculation for a governor to declare before the incumbent president as that could have far-reaching implications on the political fortunes of such a state chief executive.

There are those who argue that most governors have been reluctant to declare for re-election because of the style of politics of President Jonathan. The thinking is that threading softly will be a better strategy to deal with Jonathan who is given to keeping his actions close to his chest.

Also, many reason that the governors are hesitant to openly move into the field because they are yet to understand the modus operandi of the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega. For those in this school of thought, it will be preposterous of any state chief executive to go all out into the field without first of all being sure of the timetable of the apex electoral body.

According to reports, barring last minute adjustments, the presidential and National Assembly elections are to hold in January. All things being equal, both the governorship and House of Assembly polls will also hold the same month. The date are still tentative as the commission's lawyers are said to be looking through the draft timetable in order to come up with the full guidelines for the election. However, with the electoral law which derives some of its provision from the constitution already signed into law, the assumption is that it has immediately become operational.

But whatever happens, political observers are patiently waiting for the election. Between the governors and President Jonathan, the game is getting hotter by the day.