At the nation’s helm of affairs where he could easily be identified with his trademark Idoma red and black handwoven cap, the name, David Mark, rang a bell for two decades. But this towering political figure appears to be ‘missing in action’ since he ended histenure as Senate President in 2015, Daily Trust reports.
Before his sojourn at the National Assembly where he held sway as senate president for two consecutive terms of eight years after being a ranking senator for another cumulative eight years and his remaining four exiting years, bringing the number of years he spent at the red chambers to 20, nothing much had been heard from Mark while on exile abroad.
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Mark had been retired from the Nigerian Army in 1993 as Brigadier General by the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha. Subsequently, he fled the country on self exile to England. He returned later after the death of his ‘hunter’ (Abacha) in 1998.
He retired as an outstanding military officer but did not become a politician immediately he left the Army.
But things later changed when David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, as he was fondly referred to by his admirers, returned from exile on September 5, 1998, to a tumultuous reception by his Idoma people who instantly made him their leader.
Immediately, he was wooed to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to contest election into the Senate which he won and subsequently represented the Benue South Senatorial District for five terms after his first election of April 1999, until his exit from the Senate in 2019.
During his third tenure, Mark went through a keenly contested election on the floor of the Senate and defeated a former governor of his home state, George Akume, to clinch the exalted position of Senate President which he retained for eight years. He was the first senate president in the history of the country to break the impeachment or resignation jinx that did not allow his predecessors to fully complete a circle.
Recall that his ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ which paved way for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to act instead of his boss, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, won him a place in the hearts of many Nigerians for his display of wisdom to stabilize the country at a very turbulent time.
Similarly, the political history of Idoma land also attested to the fact that Mark served as a guide not just then but most importantly as a compass to the present unknown future because he had broken a record to hold sway as the foremost leader from the zone for quite a long number of years.
His position as the number three man meant much not only to his Otukpo people but also his party as well as many Nigerians who felt the impact of his presidency as a patriotic duty to his fatherland and indeed a blessing.
No doubt, Mark’s footprints have remained indelible on the sands of time, especially from the days ex-military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida appointed him Minister of Communications and afterwards, governor of Niger State as a colonel in the Nigerian Army.
While serving his political appointment in the military, Mark, believed to be the youngest member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), the highest decision-making body in the country then, was very influential among his colleagues.
At all junctures of his life, the Idoma illustrious son held an exalted office, especially that of the number three citizen of the country which accorded him the privileged of a long retinue of convoy made of important personality each time he visited his Otukpo home town.
In those days, the ancient town became a notable tourist delight so much that economic activities received boosts and elevated the status of many indigenes of the town.
Another impressive event that had shaped Otukpo’s sporting life in those days was the regular golf tournament instituted in the area by Mark which usually attracted the world to Idoma land in every December with an event tagged: “Mark D’ Ball.”
Similarly, Mark’s radio station – Joy FM – located in Otukpo created employment which took jobless youths out of the streets. It also inspired the socio-economic development of the people. The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) campus in Otukpo which Mark influenced to the area as well as the spacious golf field and activities brought immense economic benefits to Otukpo metropolis and its environ.
The several overhead motorized boreholes cited at different locations in Otukpo, the employment opportunities for youths in various government organs as well as the recently established Federal University of Medical Sciences, Otukpo have also increased his heroic feat.
But Mark seems to be missing from the nation’s sociopolitical and economic firmament since he left the Senate. He is only visible at his party’s functions in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
One of his close aides, Dr Elijah Adakole, told our correspondent in Makurdi that his principal had assumed the role of an elder statesman.
Mark, the aide said, had resorted to playing the elder’s role after losing bid to clinch the PDP ticket in the party’s primary election held in Rivers State in July 2018.
He described Mark as an ardent member of the PDP who stands by every of the party’s decision to make positive advancements in the country.
“For now, he (Mark) is doing nothing. He has retired from active politics. He now guides the young ones who are into politics and come to him for advice. That is what he is up to now. He is just resting,” he said.
“He shuttles between Otukpo and Abuja. He comes to Otukpo regularly to attend wedding or burial ceremonies. He engages in a lot of sports and mentors youths. Virtually, every day, he goes for his golfing. He also goes to church as an ardent Catholic. He attends marriages and burials at his Otukpo home town.
“He is a member of the PDP Board of Trustees. So, he attends the party’s meetings. We appreciate him for all the roles played over the years and he is now resting. ”
On whether Mark would relaunch himself into the political scene in 2023, Adakole said that his principal had not indicated interest in the presidency which he eyed in 2019. He added that 2023 is still far.
“But should he decide to come out, we have a network of support to back him,” Adakole said.
“He has become the conscience of the nation. He talks when he is supposed to talk. He isn’t as visible as before but talks when he should. If politicians consult him on any matter, he is ever ready to render his advice and that is what he has been doing.”