By Ehi Ekhator
The National Chairman of the People Democratic Party (PDP) has yesterday threw a political rocket by saying “no automatic ticket for senators”
He also appealed to the Senators to continue supporting the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan because he is doing well with his plans of transforming Nigeria.
On the other hand, the senators advised the leadership of PDP to adhere to the provision in the constitution guiding the party before any disciplinary action and suspension of members.
Tukur spoke in Abuja while responding to some issues raised at a meeting with PDP senators at the National Assembly.
Although the closed door session was described as a “family meeting”, it was learnt that the senators raised many issues.
Some of the issues are:
•Keeping PDP united,
•carrying members of the National Assembly along in all decisions;
•sticking with PDP Constitution without fear or favour;
•automatic ticket for National Assembly members in 2015 to promote cohesion in the party; and
•Stopping arbitrary suspension of members.
Tukur, it was learnt, shocked the senators when he said: “One thing I can assure you is that there won’t be automatic ticket for any member seeking elective positions.
“I will ensure free and fair primaries so that the party can present the best candidates in 2015.
“If in the course of conducting primaries, someone has to dictate who gets what; that is no democracy.”
Tukur also said his insistence on due process to allow democracy to thrive led to the conflict he had with G-7 governors, some of who had defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“We won’t allow anyone to hijack the party structure to determine who gets what. I am happy that majority of the legislators are in favour of free and fair primaries,” the PDP chairman added.
He said he visited because the PDP Senate Caucus is the “first family of PDP”.
But senators reportedly decried what they described as the abuse of the party’s constitution by the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and arbitrary suspension of members.
A Senator said: “We asked the party leadership to do its best to keep PDP united because we are not happy with the way things are going.
“We advised the party leadership to avoid crisis as much as possible in line with the vision of the founding fathers of PDP.
“We also stressed the importance of adhering to the party’s constitution before suspending any member.”
Another senator added: “Tukur assured us that he would take to our advice and pass our observations to the President and the party.
“I think he came on a confidence-building mission to ensure that the PDP retains its firm control of the Senate.
“We succeeded in telling ourselves the home truth. The party leadership also left with a big relief that we are intact.”
Asked if issues of defection of PDP governors and budget benchmark were raised, the source said: “The meeting did not touch these aspects.”
The third Senator said: “Tukur came around with a body language presentation. He wanted total support for the President because of threats from the APC. We understood him better and we also told him to change his style by being democratic.”
The meeting, which lasted for more than three hours was said to have been convened at Tukur’s instance.
Tukur was said to have been alarmed by unending pockets of protests by aggrieved Senators and decided to initiate the meeting to put the party’s house in order ahead of the 2015 elections.
Senate President David Mark led the senators to the meeting. Four party officials accompanied Tukur.
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba told reporters that “the national chairman listened attentively and responded and gave us words of reassurance.”
Ndoma-Egba said the meeting discussed “domestic issues”. He gave no details.
Asked whether the planned defection of PDP senators to the APC was discussed, Ndoma-Egba said: “No it (defection) never came up and I can say categorically that at this point in time no Senator has indicated that he is going anywhere. So, the issue never came up.
“We discussed the provisions of the Constitution and emphasised democracy. Our party is called Peoples Democratic Party and we reminded ourselves that we must be democratic at all times.”
Tukur said :”You’ve heard already from the leader. We did not talk about people who want to go or want to stay or defection. No. I came here because this is the first time I am coming to meet my family. They are my members.”
Asked whether he came because the Abubakar Baraje-led New PDP was at the National Assembly recently, Tukur replied: “Of course not. This is PDP and they are part of PDP.”
On whether the meeting discussed the impact of defection of five PDP governors to APC, he retorted: “Have they? They have not gone yet.”
A source saida Senator from Anambra State was also said to have told the chairman that members of the party in the state were betrayed during the governorship election.
The lawmaker was said to have told Tukur that if the party knew that it was not interested in the Anambra election, its loyalists should have been informed.
The source said Tukur did not respond.
A senator from Taraba State was said to have told the chairman that the PDP should declare its stand on the crisis rocking the state government.
He noted that the Taraba Senator did not mince words in telling the party leadership that time was running out for the party in the state.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President, Paul Mumeh, said Mark, in his opening remarks, admitted that the party is facing some challenges but promised that the PDP was capable of addressing the issues like a family matter.