Senators protesting the hijack of PDP delegates by governors yesterday resolved to make a demand of two automatic return tickets per state as a condition for resuming normal work, Daily Trust learnt.
The Senate suspended sitting for the second day yesterday, as senators in the People’s Democratic Party insisted on boycott of deliberations until President Jonathan intervened to secure their re-election candidacies.
During the PDP ward congresses at the weekend, state governors took control of delegates who constitute much of the electoral college for the party’s primaries holding later in the month.
Most of the second-term governors in the party are angling to come to the Senate, which means they are trying to displace the sitting senators from their constituencies.
Moreover, in other constituencies the governors mostly prefer candidates other than the serving senators.
With the delegates firmly in the governors’ hands, the PDP senators have all but lost their re-election battles even before the primaries.
On Tuesday, the Senate sat for only 30 minutes after resuming from a week-long recess, because senators were angry with a “failed” promise by President Jonathan to guarantee them return tickets.
The anger was yet to abate yesterday, so the Senate stepped down all items listed on the order paper and adjourned till next week Tuesday.
Senate President David Mark announced that the Senate could not sit as a result of scheduled meeting of the PDP caucus immediately after the session.
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (PDP, Cross Rivers) moved a motion for adjournment and was seconded by Deputy Minority Leader Ahmed Rufai Sani (APC, Zamfara).
During the meeting held behind closed doors, sources said the PDP senators resolved to continue their protest until Jonathan and the party’s leadership ensured “justice and fairness” in the emergence of candidates for next year’s general elections.
“We have already put our cards on the table. We have resolved that at least two serving senators must be given automatic tickets, the governors should be given the third ticket for their respective states,” a senator told Daily Trust, asking not to be named.
“I think we are getting close to resolving the crisis. We have been told that the president would lead a meeting of the National Working Committee of the PDP to discuss with us today (last night).”
Speaking to journalists after the PDP senators meeting, Ndoma-Egba said: “I am aware that the PDP caucus met on Tuesday and Wednesday on fundamental issues affecting democracy in Nigeria arising from ward congress of our party last Saturday. The issue needs to be addressed very urgently by relevant PDP stakeholders for the interest of our democracy.”
Daily Trust learnt that the senators’ anger stemmed from breach of assurances they reportedly received that they would get return tickets if they remained in the PDP, in the wake of the gale of defections to the All Progressives Congress (APC) early in the year.
PDP senators were said to have been promised the right of first refusal if they did not jilt the ruling party.
This was partly why only 11 senators formally defected eventually, despite an initial list of 22 senators who signified interest in dumping the PDP, Daily Trust learnt.
On Tuesday, when the Senate reconvened for the first time after Saturday’s ward congresses, PDP senators mostly wore long faces, having being effectively edged out by the governors.
The session was adjourned after only 30 minutes for an emergency caucus meeting.
Sources said the senators vowed to continue boycott of legislative businesses unless President Jonathan secured their return tickets.
Some of the senators even threatened to show solidarity with House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who defected to the APC last week.
‘Slaves to executive’
However, the sudden adjournment of the Senate did not go down well with senators of the opposition APC, who said their PDP colleagues should not jettison national interest for political ambitions.
Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who spoke to journalists, said, “The PDP senators are now victims of their party’s impunity in a democracy. Now they are complaining. If we have our way, we will come here tomorrow and sit. It is not about personal interest, it is about the interest of the party. It should be about our people.”
He added: “Now they have seen injustice, they are fighting. We have seen injustice for more than two and half years. We wanted to fight; our colleagues did not allow us to fight.
“Why must it be that it is when it affects us that we act? People should have standards. Now that they have seen that a lot of them are no longer welcome back in their homes, now that they have realised that they have made themselves slaves to the executive.”
Ojudu said what happened to the PDP senators was “the consequences of their actions over the years.”
He said APC senators would meet to take a stand on the suspension of Senate proceedings on account of personal political grievances of their PDP colleagues.
“They don’t have to come in and adjourn like that. Some of us came from our constituencies in faraway places so that we could sit for this week. But here we are, we are not allowed to sit,” Ojudu said.
Daily Trust gathered that the PDP senators will meet with President Jonathan and party officials at the Presidential Villa at 10pm last night.