At Last, A Sigh Of Relief For David Mark | Independent Newspapers Limited
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At Last, A Sigh Of Relief For David Mark

David Mark
Posted: Jul 26, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Efforts by Daniel Onjeh, candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) to represent the people of Benue South senatorial district came to an end last week with the Court of Appeal upholding the election of former Senate President, David Mark, as the senator representing Benue South Senatorial District.
Mark, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (APC) defeated the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Daniel Onjeh, in the February 20 re-run.
He had won the March 28, 2015 senatorial election but was sacked by the court which ordered the re run. Mr. Onjeh also challenged the result of the re run.
In upholding Mr. Mark’s election last Friday, the three-member panel of judges led by Justice Obande Ogbuinya, said Mr. Onjeh’s petition lacked merit, was incompetent and status barred and therefore dismissed it.

The Benue State Legislative tribunal had earlier dismissed Daniel Onjeh’s petition for incompetence, lack of merit. The Tribunal had upheld the election of Mark as the validly elected Senator for Benue South. When the election was annulled in November last year, Mark who is described to be the longest serving senator boasted that if the election is conducted 100 times he would win. During the conduct of the rerun last February, the former senate president scored 84,192 votes, leaving a margin of 12,571 votes between him and Mr. Onjeh, who garnered 71,621 votes. A total of 29,273 votes were cancelled.
Reacting to the court’s verdict, Onjeh who commended his supporters for their support and believing in his vision declared that his struggle has ended.

He said, “The Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi has finally dismissed my petition. The case was not heard on its merit. It held that I filed one day out of time. This brings the struggle to an end. I shall issue a comprehensive statement to this regard. I thank all who kept faith with the struggle till the end.”
Onjeh, former president, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) who Independent gathered has more popularity among the youths also contested for House of Representatives election in 2011 but also failed. This time around, he was touted to win the senatorial election based on the support from political godfathers in the state but  was  defeated by Mark’s  with low margin.

The earlier result from the seven out of the nine local government areas in the zone showed Onjeh leading but when the result from  Ador and Agatu local government areas was tabulated, Mark became the winner. Suspicious that the results from the two council areas were not a true  the true reflection of the peoples verdict, Onjeh decided to challenge the March 28 senatorial election result at the Benue State Election Petition Tribunal which nullified the  result of the election. The decision of David Mark to challenge the outcome of the tribunal judgment at Court of Appealed suffered another setback as the court on November 28, 2015 nullified the entire result and ordered INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.

When the rerun election was fixed for February 20, ethnicity played out in the preparation towards the rerun election. It was alleged that George Akume, former governor of Benue State, and some Tiv leaders in APC were supporting Onjeh to spite Mark who has been at logger head with the former governor. Akume according to investigation promised to support the aspiration of Idoma people to become governor for the first time in the state after completing his second term in 2007, but reneged the promise and  instead supported Gabriel Suswam another Tiv man in 2007.

It was obvious that when David Mark’s team went to town, the slogan was support Onjeh, support further domination of Tiv in the zone.  Mark’s group further explained to the people that if the Tiv people who are in majority in the state could give overwhelming support to Onjeh to become senator in the zone, why can’t he be supported to be governor of the state which they claimed is their birthright because of their numerical advantage. That sentiment analysts believed may have been responsible for the narrow defeat of Onjeh though he appeared to be the choice of majority youths in the area that constituted about 60 percent of the voting population.

The election in the real sense was a battle between the Idomas and Tivs in the state. The people of Benue south whom Mark has served as senator since 1999 preferred to continue with him instead of Onjeh who was preferred by their Tiv brothers to ease Mark whom they accused of allocating most of the federal appointments for his people.
Some keen observers of politics in Benue South senatorial zone regarded as zone C believed that Mark’s political victory in the state would remain unchallenged judging by his contribution to the development of the area. Until recently, the Tiv in Benue who controls two senatorial districts have cried of marginalisation in federal civil service because majority of position allocated to Benue State were hijacked by Idoma people with the help of David Mark. The situation had caused bad blood between the Tiv people and Idoma neighbours. David Mark is not the only senator  produced by the zone, people like Ameh Ebute was one time senator but the people of Benue South  did not felt his impact like that of Mark.

Analysts believe that though Onjeh may have lost the attempt to represent Benue South at the red chamber this period, he had really challenged David Mark and proved that he is popular and may be a material for future election as he has age to his advantage.

Augustine Adah

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