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, inaucous 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 proceeded to the NIGERIA Military School, Zaria.
Thereafter, he was admitted into the prestigious NIGERIA Defence 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).
It is on record that between 1999 and 2005, the Senate changed leadership five times, a situation that was viewed by many as a mockery of democracy. More so that every state in the South-east to which the presidency of the chamber was zoned at the time had a taste of the office before moving to the North-central in 2007.
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.
Not only did Mark sustain his position without any threat as President of the Senate throughout his first term of four years in the office between 2007 and 2011, he was also unanimously returned upon his re-election in 2011, a development that was unprecedented in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. It is not only that Mark has sustained himself in the office upon his second coming, he has also not come under any threat of removal from his colleagues who hold him in high esteem. He equally extend more than equal respects to his colleagues. He calls them “ My bosses”.
This reciprocal respect goes a long way to affirm Mark’s uncommon sense of leadership in the Senate and the satisfaction it brings to members. But the question needs be asked at this juncture on how Mark has succeeded in warming his way into the minds of fellow senators and simultaneously fostering stability. The answer to this question is not far fetched.
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.
Paul Mumeh is the Chief Press Secretary to the President of the Senate.