Mark of all Seasons @ 70
The story of the immediate past President of the Senate, Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, his military and political careers, albeit his steady rise to the top cannot be written completely in one book. This is just an attempt, a line in the intermediate chapter of the still unfolding narrative of Mark’s highly eventful sojourn on earth.
History is replete with such narratives of great men and women who in spite of their backgrounds made it to the very top of their chosen professions or careers. We are familiar with the cliché, “from grass to grace”, of people rising above the circumstances of their births to become great personalities in the society. Senator Mark unarguably belongs to this class. He rose from a hitherto obscure Otukpo rural community in the present day Benue state to the zenith of his profession.
As a soldier, he belonged to the elite class and was indeed very successful, rising to the rank of a General before he left the crispy “khaki” uniform for the “Agbada”. As a politician, he made his mark to the admiration of both friends and foes. Till date, he remains the only Nigerian living or dead who has contested senatorial election six times and won in the same corresponding number.
Mark was Nigerian Senate President for the sixth and seventh Senates (2007-2011 and 2011 -2015) of the Fourth Republic, when he demonstrated considerable maturity in leading his colleagues and managing national issues creditably. He was dubbed “Mr. Stability” for stabilizing the senate and the National Assembly that was hitherto a theatre of musical chairs. The stability in the National Assembly was to later help in stabilizing the polity at the time of the uncertainty surrounding the true state of Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s health.
In the Senate today, Mark is the most ranking member and has garnered a whole lot of experience not just as a member of the red chamber but as President of the Senate Emeritus. Undoubtedly, the quality of debate on motions and bills will always benefit from the insights and experience of Mark to sustain good governance. No doubt, he represents a reference icon on both local and international issues that may confront the upper legislative chamber nay National Assembly from time to time. Although, he maintains a dignified silence in the chamber for now, he nonetheless offers useful advice to his colleagues, especially the leadership from time to time.
Born on the 8th day of April, 1948 in Otukpo, Otukpo Local Government of Benue State of Nigeria. He started his early education at St. Francis Catholic Practising School, Otukpo from 19561961. He later proceeded to the prestigious Nigerian Military School (NMS) Zaria from 1962-1966 thereby setting the tone for his ambition for a military career. He graduated from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) Regular Course 3 and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1970.
In 1984, Lt-Colonel Mark was appointed Military Governor of Niger State. As Minister of Communications in 1988, he revolutionalized the communications sector in Nigeria by introducing mobile phones and digital telephone system in the country. He was successfully elected as the Senator for Benue South Senatorial District in 1999. Senator Mark was returned by his people in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. In June, 2007, fortune smiled on Mark when he was elected the President of the Nigerian Senate.
During his tenure, a new phrase was added to Nigeria’s political lexicon on Tuesday, 9th February, 2010 when Senator Mark and his colleagues tested extant laws of the land in order to forge a bailout for Nigeria’s continuous existence as one nation through the invocation of the Doctrine of Necessity. That singular action ended the political logjam that had gripped the nation prior to the emergence of a new leadership. On several occasions, Mark’s interventions and wise counsel have rescued the nation from the precipice.
In 2012, he was on hand to save the nation from the catastrophic oil subsidy riots. It was also Mark and his colleagues who resolved the rift between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and their Polytechnics counterparts to return to classes after one year of industrial dispute. Similarly, Mark as then President of the Senate waded into the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) strike action and succeeded in getting the medical doctors back to work during the outbreak of the endemic Ebola virus disease. Under Senator Mark, the National Assembly in December 2008, returned the sum of N7billion unspent fund to the national treasury.
Under his leadership, the Legislature broke the 50-year old jinx by successfully amending the 1999 Constitution. Also, under him, the National Assembly among others passed into law the Anti-gay Bill, otherwise called Same Sex Marriage law against all pressures from the Western world.
His Benue South constituents stand to benefit even more of the dividends of democracy with such a highly experienced politician making their case easier at every point. At the moment, he is pushing for a clear position from the federal government on the persistent clashes between the Benue people and Fulani herdsmen. He believes that the crisis which continues to erupt requires the intervention of the federal government to find a permanent solution. For him, nothing less than accepting the modern global trend of building ranches would solve the problem. It will require a man of his status to make the case for the completion of the several federal projects still on-going in the zone including but not limited to the Oweto/ Loko bridge project, Federal University of Health Sciences in Otukpo, the Otobi multipurpose Dam and several others in the area.
As Senator Mark turns 70 today (Sunday April 8, 2018) he needs not to be reminded of the inevitability to continue to uphold the sanctity of service to God and humanity.