The Benue South senatorial district rerun election is around the corner. With the nullification of the election of the former Senate President, David Mark, he is set to test his popularity once again, but his opponent in the rerun election is not making matters easy for the former number three man, writes EMMA ALOZIE
Senator David Mark has set all known political records in the Nigerian Senate since the advent of democracy since 1999. He is the longest serving member of the Senate, 16 uninterrupted years and still counting until the recent Appeal Court ruling that nullified his election. He served as senate president and chairman of the National Assembly for eight straight years; a position his predecessors could not achieve.
He has by virtue of his long service become a legislative institution and how he was able to sidestep the proverbial banana peels that undid his predecessors was also a huge plus to him. These rare attributes perhaps explain why it came as a rude shock to many, when the Court of Appeal ruled to nullify his election; calling for a rerun.
The Appeal Court sitting in Markudi based its decision to annul the election on the fact that the election result sheet, which declared Mark victorious, was dated March 28, same day the election was held. In the opinion of the learned judges, it could not have been possible for election result conducted on that day to be collated same day.
However, while Mark’s opponents received the news of the nullification of that election with joy and jubilation, Mark has maintained some stoic calmness, boasting that even if the election were to be conducted 100 times in Benue South Senatorial District, he would still come out victorious.
“I won the election clean and clear. If we go back to the polls 100 times, I will still win convincingly. Whatever the situation may be, one thing I know is that my people are solidly behind me. They also appreciate the fact that I have done more than enough to lift up Idoma nation to a position of eminence in the contemporary political history of Nigeria,” he said.
And his boasts seem to be backed by the feelings of the people on ground. There are two dominant ethnic groups in Benue; the Tivs and the Idomas. The Tivs who are in the majority occupy Zones A and B while the Idomas occupy Zone C. Right from the creation of Benue State, the Tivs with their numerical superiority have dominated the political space, relegating the Idoma nation to always playing the second fiddle.
This is the background to the story why the odds are stacked in favour of the reelection of David Mark. There are some factors that may work for Mark and work against the candidate of the All Progressives Congress; Daniel Onjeh.
The Tiv/Idoma dichotomy
It is indubitable that David Mark is the leader of Idoma people. A curious inquiry in Otukpo, the capital of Idoma nation reveals that they are prepared to go all out to protect Mark against what they describe as ‘Tive Agenda.’ A former Ado local government chairman, who spoke in confidence, said the Idoma neighbours-the Tivs were bent on bringing down the towering image of Mark and the Idomas have vowed to resist that at all costs. “Why is that when Mark’s election was nullified, our neighbours, the Tivs jubilated? The electoral problem of Mark is being instigated by the Tivs just to spite Mark.
“I hear some people say Mark has not done anything for Idoma people. I agree. But what has Senator George Akume done for Tiv people and yet they keep on voting for him. He is their political leader as Mark is our political leader. No matter how many times you conduct that election, we will vote for Mark,” he assured.
This is almost the thinking of many Idomas on the street. To them, the Tivs want Mark humiliated because Mark is the only political leader of Idoma extraction who has stood up against the Tiv domination. To the Tivs, eight years of Mark’s Senate leadership elevated the Idoma’s at the federal level and gave them more prominence far and above them who are more in number. So to many Tiv political pundits, Mark has to pay for making the Tivs play the second fiddle at the federal level.
Also, with the help the Buhari effect rendered to Onjeh during the bandwagon movement all but gone, many analysts believe that in a standalone election, Onjeh is no match to Mark. “Even the little votes Onjeh got in the last election were because of the Buhari effect. You know the two elections held on the same day. He is not known here. If another illustrious son of Idoma land is challenging Senator Mark, we would have been jittery. This young man is not known here. He is a Tiv stooge and we will show him how that he cannot be used to humiliate a towering Idoma figure like Mark,” the ex-local governor chairman said.
Gov Ortom’s factor
Another factor that may still be working in favour of Senator Mark is the early rating of Governor Samuel Ortom, an APC governor. Just within six months of Ortom’s administration, many Benue people are looking back and asking whether it was a wise decision to jettison the PDP. In six months, the governor has borrowed some N55.55 bn and his opponents say, there is nothing on ground to show that such kind of money has passed through the state. Simply put, many voters are taking a critical look at the APC and what it is bringing to the table. And in Benue, it is not so far so good. Governor Ortom, curiously has fallen short of the expectations of those who voted for him and this has explained why the party may not likely do well in future elections in the state. Benue voters are not particularly happy with Governor Ortom and therefore have extended their grievances to the party; APC.
For those who rejoiced when the court annulled Mark’s election, it might have been too early. Feelers from where the election will take place have not indicated that Mark won’t be returning to the Senate.