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DECODING DAVID MARK

Confronted by a long, grueling, nerve wrecking challenge to his Senate seat by Mr. Young Alhaji of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Mr. Mark…

Confronted by a long, grueling, nerve wrecking challenge to his Senate seat by Mr. Young Alhaji of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Mr. Mark ensconced himself into a shell that gave him cover from the political, legal and media barbs that were coming at him from all directions. He emerges only during Senate sessions, even then with his Mask in place and conducts the proceedings of the Senate; and withdrew right back into his shell. By the time the legal battle was over on March 1 2009, and Mark was declared winner by the courts, he had won over the majority of his colleagues to his side by allowing the ‘manna’ to go round in a way that one senator sheepishly described as transparent.

That the verdict drew the ire and disapproval of not a few Nigerians, and prompted all sorts of theories about how the courts saved the Senate President merely added to the mythical invincibility of the man.  With his contentious electoral victory now history (never mind which side of History), the Senate President has finally emerged as one of the wiliest politicians in recent times; there is even a joke now going round: that a general contracting firm from Aba has approached David Mark to allow it patent his formula for survival as Senate President, in anticipation of the next time the South East would produce a Senate President. Bad joke for both sides, under the circumstances.

But last week two things happened that even the formidable David Mark would find difficult to waive away. First, one of Mark’s closest allays in the Senate, Smart Adeyemi was reported to have gone to visit the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri in her office. While there he was quoted by the Daily Sun edition of Wednesday May 25, as saying that the National Assembly is corrupt and the EFCC should probe its members. Senator Adeyemi’s denial  a day later is immaterial at this point, because the denial did not include a demand for retraction from the newspaper; and for good measure the newspaper, while reporting Adeyemi’s denial, repeated its previous story with the confidence of one very sure of their facts. For now therefore, the only reasonable assumption is that Adeyemi must have said something very close to what he was reported to have said. After all, for those who know him, such emotional outburst, for good or for bad, are not alien to his nature.

Before him there was the case of Senator Nuhu Aliyu from Niger state who made equally damaging allegations against the Senate. Specifically Aliyu, a retired deputy inspector-general of police had said, sometime in January 2008 (again while David Mark was Senate President) that the Senate was “full of 419 senator s”. And Now History is repeating itself; in the case of Nuhu Aliyu the Senate appointed its own members to investigate the allegations; now Mark is going through similar motions with respect to Adeyemi’s allegations by appointing an Ad hoc committee to investigate Adeyemi’s reported statements. That does not make an iota of sense at all. Does the Senate President really have such low opinion about Nigerians’ ability to know when someone is playing with their intelligence? This is one flippancy too many. By the way what exactly will the Kanti Bello-led committee investigate; Adeyemi or his controversial statement? Does David mark thinks Nigerians are so gullible as to expect the Senate to return a verdict of guilt against itself? Honestly, Nigerians have taken a lot of rubbish from their leaders; but it’s getting to a point where the assault on our sensibilities is no longer tolerable even by our docile standards.

Does the Senate President know that one of the worst kept secretes in the country is the way members of the NASS attach financial value to virtually every legislative duty they are oblige to carry out? It is alleged that potential ministers and other important public office nominees are required to pay their way before being cleared by the Senate; and that the NASS members openly remorselessly jerk up budgets proposals for MDAs for their own selfish interests. Somebody even said that NASS  members have their representatives in the Accountant-General’s office that keep them informed of all  cash releases made so that the relevant Senate and House Committees can follow-up and collect their share.

The significance of these developments ought to be very clear to David Mark who is by means a fool; both of these weighty allegations from the Senators happened during his tenure as Senate President and neither shell nor mask can shield him from that personal responsibility. It makes little or no difference that Nuhu Aliyu later apologized, or that Adeyemi is now denying what he was reported to have said. Even without those self confessions from those senators, the Nigerian public has come to view the NASS members as oppressors rather than liberators. That cannot be something any decent man or woman can be proud of, least of all those that wish to be seen as the representatives of the people. But as things stand, that is the ‘continuous assessment’ score of David Mark as Senate President.

The second event in the week that promises to provide a rare insight into the real David Mark was the visit Tuesday of a rather nebulous organization called Northern Elders Assembly (NEA) to the Senate President. The mission of the NEA to the NASS was to protest what they perceived as the moves by President Goodluck Jonathan to defy the zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by contesting the presidency in 2011. Laudable effort, from the point of view of ethnic or tribal politics. The trouble is that those who present themselves as leaders or representatives of the people of the North have always chased power with a single-minded determination that defy explanation; but when they do get it, which is usually nine times out of ten, they misuse it. Or even worse abuse it.

Still that is no reason why they should not fight for it; as Nigerians it is their privilege, and if they are card-carrying members of the PDP like David Mark, it is their right. Anyway the matter of zoning is an issue that requires separate and deeper examination. But with respect to the NEA visit to the Senate President, the opportunity it presents is this: consciously or unconsciously, they are cracking the shell of David Mark; as a high-ranking member of the PDP where he stands on the issue of zoning matters a lot.

So where does David Mark stand? He didn’t say. But at least he gave a hint. Here is a quote from what he told the Assembled Elders: “As elders we must be nationalistic and open minded in our views and actions so that we can correct the younger generation from deviating”.  Elsewhere in his speech Mark found a way to slot in a very curious view on Federal Character: “Federal Character is good but it should not be at the expense of merit…”

Exactly what do you mean by all this meandering Mr. Mark? You either support zoning or you don’t. In case the Senate President forgets; himself, President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo owe their positions precisely to zoning; if they want do away with it, they should be honest enough, and courageous enough to say so in plain English. In politics, shifting the goalpost midway into the game is not unheard of. And if they truly feel zoning is not “nationalistic or open minded” why is it taking the party forever to appoint a new chairman? Why, for that matter, are they restricting the position to the South East?

This is where I believe David Mark must raise his game; his code has been busted and he is now standing one step away from failure and one step away from success. If he is serious about correcting “the younger generation” he must start by being open, truthful, sincere and believable. He has played the good, slippery politician long enough, and honestly, we have had enough of it.


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