It is no longer news that the recent election of the new President of the Nigerian Senate has generated a lot of controversy both within and outside Nigeria. Most of the reaction has been that of utter disbelief, disillusionment, disappointment and despair from those of us who are not partisan or part of the Government or at least not part of the decision making bodies of our democratic government.
It is rather unfortunate, considering the furore over the last flawed elections, and the call by some of us that instead of crying over spilt milk and calling for inane actions and useless exercises such as conducting new elections and installing Interim Governments, we should move forward and consolidate our democratic experiment further, with the hope that many of our failures and shortcomings will be resolved with time.
Just when you thought it is safe to come out of the woods and support our politicians, especially after a very flawed election full of massive riggings, mayhem and death, there comes our daft, clueless, insensitive political class who called themselves Senators, electing a dubious, to put it mildly, Senate President.
Why do we always insist on self-destruction, we Nigerians? We were looking forward to a fresh governance after eight years of Obasanjo’s administration (which I sincerely believe has done its best for Nigeria, and laid some very good solid foundation for future development and progress), hardly had we calmed down and allowed to take our collective breath, that Senator David Mark was foisted on us as Senate President, and effectively, the Number 3 Citizen of the country, who, God forbid, may even become the President if anything should happen to President Yar’Adua and his Vice President Jonathan.
Senator David Mark, a self-reformed democrat, a former military officer who allegedly made a fortune stealing public funds has emerged as Nigeria’s upper legislative body’s leader. It does not look good, does it? Hear these:
Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, former Dean of Law, University of Benin, and a renowned legal expert, described the emergence of David Mark as the Senate President as a tragedy. ”Mark has a bad record; he was the one who threatened to deport non-indigenes when he was the governor of Niger State. As Minister of Communications, he said telephones were not meant for the poor. It is an eternal shame to him that virtually everybody now has a phone. It is a great tragedy that a man who has no compassion for the common man has emerged as Senate President. He is a member of the establishment that wrecked the country; there is a great difference between him and his predecessor, Senator Ken Nnamani.”
And former Senator Joseph Waku had this to say, “David Mark is an embodiment of corruption in the National Assembly”. How can such a man who said, while he was the Federal Minister for Communications, that “telephones are not meant for poor people” have the interest of the common man in mind in the performance of his duties such as protecting the common Nigerian, alleviating our suffering and put us on the road to progress? By this saying alone, David Mark, whether due to arrogance, insensitivity, slip of tongue or power-drunkenness, demonstrated what I have always said about Nigerian leaders; our leaders hate us. They only have disdain and utter contempt for the people they lead, and therefore, they are not worthy of being leaders. They are in power to be served and not to serve the people. And unfortunately, we continue to oblige them.
I could not agree more with Professor Sagay. Senator David Mark is said to be super corrupt. From all indications, he is heavily compromised. Saharareporters reported that “David Mark owned a private jet and a multi-million dollar golf course in Ireland. (I have myself heard that rumour for a few years now and believe me, as we know in Nigeria; such rumours often turn out to be true) What gave a major clue into David Mark’s corrupt lifestyle was a bitter divorce filed by his fourth wife, 57 year old Victoria Preye Mark, a Rivers State indigene to whom David Mark was married in 1979. The couple had four kids all of whom were British citizens. The four kids attended schools in Switzerland and the UK before their parents’ divorce which commenced on July 17 2000. Victoria’s divorce claims provided the best yet exposé on David Mark’s corrupt past, in 2000 Victoria successfully got a Family Division court in London to freeze an account owned by David Mark to the tune of 6 million pounds. Obviously the monies in the account were proceeds of corruption from his days as currency courier for the Babangida’s family”. (Saharareporters.com)
David Mark was the Military Governor of Niger State (Babangida’s home state) during Babangida’s regime and we know that the looting of the treasury in those days was a free for all. David Mark, it was said, had a field day; hence as a military officer, whose salary we know very well, was able to enrich himself. He was then rewarded further as the Minister for Communications, charged with developing the telephone system in the country. His few years in charge were disastrous, not to say the least. That was the period that NITEL’s fortunes nosedived and subsequently became more or less moribund. Not a single new phone line was laid despite massive investments. You can’t even get through to your family and friends on the telephone within the country not to talk of from outside. No new ideas were brought in, but a lot of money was spent. We all know where that money went as rumoured: a world-class golf course in Ireland. The man loved golf so much; he bought an entire golf course in a foreign country with our money. That is his own idea of contributing to the development of his country. And today, he is a three-time Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to rub salt on the sore, the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What a reward for underachievement, mediocrity, corruption and mismanagement?
Even his own people, the Idomas of Benue State have virtually disowned him. “Senator Mark is a chop-chop politician. His years as military governor and Minister of Communication were disasters to the Idoma people. Out of sympathy, we made him Senator in 1999 to attract development to us but he went to lobby for contracts for himself, and supported third term for selfish aims. That is why we want to recall Mark,” Enalegwu Oche, President, Idoma National Forum, said in Makurdi recently.
I would not want to condemn him because of his support for the botched and doomed Third Term Agenda. The man obviously knows which side his bread is buttered, but I wonder what new ideas, innovation, good governance and transparent dealings this heavily compromised man can bring to bear on the governance of this country. Absolutely nothing. When he was Governor, he was stealing; when he was a Minister in arguably the most corrupt government Nigeria ever had, he was dipping his bloody hands in the treasury; when he became a senator in 1999, he was still chasing after contracts and supporting lost causes. What exactly would he do as Senate President, with billions of Naira at his disposal? Do you think that this kind of man will support measures to effectively tackle corruption in our country? Your guess is as good as mine.
And is he a true democrat as he made himself out to be? No. He was reported to have insisted that the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1997 presidential elections, Chief M K O Abiola, was not born to rule. Incidentally and ironically, David Mark was later to align himself with the pro-democracy exiles calling for Abacha to go, but only after Abacha had sacked him from the Army, because Abacha saw him as a Babangida Boy, and hence was a threat to him. So easy to become a democrat these days, isn’t it? Ironically, the word from his former mentor, General Babangida’s camp is that they have all but disowned him, alleging that David Mark was one of the brains behind the annulment of June 12 elections. It is a falling out of thieves.
Even now, Mark’s re-election as a senator in April is being challenged before a tribunal, with his opponents alleging massive vote-rigging in his senatorial district of Central Benue State. “David Mark may call himself a senator these days, but I’m not so sure he can lay claim to being a true democrat,” wrote columnist Muhammad Al-Ghazali in the Daily Trust newspaper.>>
And by the way, shouldn’t the new Senate President and other Senate and House of Representatives officers, and indeed all Senators and representatives also declare their assets before assuming office like other top officials? Are governors and civil servants the only set of people that the EFCC and ICPC investigate?
The election or selection of Senator (I hold this title in disdain) David Mark as our Number Three Citizen is really no step forward and ten steps backward in the fight against corruption. It is a reward for corruption, mediocrity and bad governance. It is an aberration of democratic norms. It is inapposite to his predecessor, Senator Ken Nnamani, a fine and upright gentleman, who stood firm against the forces of corruption and the Third Term Agenda. Maybe there’s not a lot we can do about this aberration now, but we must make it known that Nigerians are opposed to it.
To make matters worse, fifty senators, claiming to belong to a new forum in the Senate, recently alleged that there were on-going plots by forces outside the Senate, to smear the new Senate President, David Mark, destabilise the Senate and cause a change of leadership. And hear one of them; Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the former President’s daughter; “Nobody is perfect, and we need to support him to achieve the best for this country”. That’s very rich, coming from them. Trying to force a bitter pill down our throats again.