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David Mark at 67

Posted: Apr 7, 2015 at 7:35 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Paul Mumeh


To fully bring to the fore an understanding of the man, Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark the President of the NIGERIAN Senate since 2007, it is necessary to take a historical excursion of the man who has become a recurring decimal in the socio- political landscape of Nigeria.

Born in the non-descript innocuous and obscure ancient community of Otukpo in the defunct Benue/Plateau state (Present day Benue state,) on April 8, 1948. Mark began his early education at St. Francis Catholic Practicing School, Otukpo between 1956 to 1961. He then proceeded to the Nigerian Military School, Zaria. Thereafter, he was admitted into the prestigious Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in 1970 making him one of the 3rd sector officers to graduate from the academy. (Mark is a member of the 3rd regular course of the NDA).

He had further professional military trainings in the United Kingdom, USA, and India. He later bagged a Bachelor Degree in Telecommunications Engineering between 1971 and 1976. From 1978 – 1979, he was at Command and Staff College, Jaji and between 1990 –1991, he was at the National Defense University, Washington DC and later at the Harvard University, Boston USA between 1991 and 1992.

Mark has always exhibited leadership qualities and traits that constantly stood him out as a beacon among his peers. Till date, Senator Mark is remembered for his honesty, patriotism and orderliness. Decades ago as a young Major in the Nigerian Army during the administration of former Head of state General Yakubu Gowon he headed the abandoned property, implementation committee after the 30 months old fraticidal civil war. It was to his credit that Gowon administration implemented the Reconstruction, Resettlement and Reconciliation policy otherwise referred to as the 3Rs to reintegrate the defunct Biafrans into the Nigerian society.

In 1984, providence bestowed on Mark, as he was appointed Military Governor of Niger State, where, again, he demonstrated uncommon leadership qualities in spite of daunting challenges. He left a positive footprint in the sand of time in that state. Till date he enjoys the citizenship of Niger state.

As the then Communications Minister, Mark transformed  Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) with his hyper tech engineering skill when he introduced mobile phones and digital telephone system in the country. He reorganized Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and started the city coding system. Under his meticulous watch on NITEL, the Organisation built two ultra-modern digital earth stations in Lagos and Enugu.  Unarguably, services improved and internally generated revenue increased and the Organisation became buoyant and independent without having to rely on government for subventions.

The end of Mark’s robust military career ushered him a new beginning on another turf-Politics and opportunity to serve his fatherland even better on a higher pedestal. He has contested and won elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 as a Senator representing his Benue South Senatorial zone. He remains the only Nigerian who, so far, enjoyed such good will.

From a long, tortuous and implacable position, the Nigeria’s Senate eventually assumed a model and rejuvenated status and a great deal of legislative stability under Mark’s leadership. Prior to Mark’s emergence as President of the Senate, the Red Chamber was an irritation to the vast majority of Nigerians. The Senate within this period was portrayed as an assemblage of uncooperative people as a result of lack of cohesion among members which often culminated in frequent change of leadership.

Thus by 2005, the impression had been created in the minds of most Nigerians that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a Senate President to stay beyond two years on the exalted seat. However, Mark’s emergence in June  2007 proved cynics wrong and changed all that perception as the Otukpo-born retired general turned democrat  has succeeded in registering his name in  the Guinness Book of Records as Nigeria’s longest serving President of the Senate since 1960 when Nigeria attained independence.

Upon assuming office in 2007, one of Mark’s first commitments was to phase out the era of “banana peels” which were the characteristics of the Senate prior to his emergence. Before then, “Ghana-Must-Go” syndrome   real or imagined was a popular phenomenon in both chambers of the National Assembly. But today, memory of both “Ghana-Must-Go” as well as “banana peels” has completely disappeared in the Senate as Mark has repeatedly said that the Senate under his leadership would not condone any act of bribery and corruption in the course of discharging its responsibilities. He demonstrated this when in December 2007 under late Musa Yar’Adua administration he caused to be returned to the national treasury the sum of N7Billion Naira National Assembly unspent fund.

This resolve has paid off as in the past eight years of Mark in the saddle, the Senate for the first time since 1999, free from frequent scams which cast aspersions on the integrity of the institution and consequently swept away some of his predecessors. Thus the Senate under his leadership has come to embrace the culture of decency, accountability, civic responsibility and indeed salvaged its hitherto soured image in the eyes of the public. This is bearing in mind that some of Mark’s predecessors had either been thrown out through impeachment or forced resignation as a result of “indictment”, from anticipatory approvals scandal to bribe-for-budget scams respectively. However, in today’s Mark’s Senate, issues relating to “banana peels” are better imagined than seen.

Since he assumed office, Mark has never been caught in the web of indecision or ignorance over any issue that arises on the floor of the Senate. He always has an answer to every situation no matter how complex. He has so developed himself in the task of legislation to the extent that more often than not, he provides guidance to his colleagues in a perplex situation by educating them on proper procedures that should be followed in the course of handling issues under consideration.

In terms of wisdom, Mark can best be described as a good student of King Solomon Institution. Though, the Senate comprises only 109 senators, it is by nature a difficult institution to manage. This is largely because it is not a place the Senate President can unilaterally impose his will on senators as it is the case in the executive arm where the president’s position is not subject to any contention but rather has to be obeyed because he appointed members of his cabinet. Reverse, however, is the case in the Senate where all members were equally elected and the Senate President is only the first among equals.

Instances of how Mark had used wisdom to resolve impasse of different kinds in the Senate are numerous to mention. Mark’s rich leadership style is not only admired by his fellow colleagues in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus; senators from opposition parties also adore him.

It must also be noted that it is not only within the National Assembly that Mark has provided stable and productive leadership. Through his prudence, the Senate under his leadership has at different times served as a stabilising force in the entire nation. To this end, Senate’s adoption of the doctrine of necessity on February 9, 2010, to end the impasse which heated the polity like a furnace, following the medical trip embarked upon by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to Saudi Arabia in November 2009 without handing over to his deputy, then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, will easily come to mind. Through this bold, patriotic and responsive move by the Senate, the polity which had in the preceding four months been overwhelmed by tension heaved a sigh as the vacuum in leadership was quickly filled when the doctrine of necessity conferred the power to act as president on Jonathan.

Mark’s style of leadership in the Senate has proved that Nigerians can work together to achieve national goals if only people are conscious of the responsibility that posterity has placed on their shoulders when found in places of authority. As Mark , the 12th President of the Nigerian Senate marks his 67th birthday today it is hoped that In the years ahead the nation  will still need his ready hands to help navigate the socio-economic and political climate.

Mumeh is the Chief Press Secretary to the President of the Senate.