Mark: An esteemed politician at 65
Senate President, Senator David Mark, an ex-General, erstwhile military governor and one-time Communications Minister clocked 65 years on April 8, 2013. On this day, encomiums and panegyrics in countless number were poured on him by prominent Nigerians for his role in the advancement of democracy.
It was indeed a day of celebration for a man, who completely removed his military regalia and put on the toga of a democracy crusader, when he decided to go into partisan politics in 1999. His movement from the ring of people with military psyche, who only believe in the use of force and coercion to achieve whatever they want in the running of government, to an unalloyed democrat has been quite astonishing to many.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), the great author, hunter, naturalist and explorer, who was the 26th American President between 1901 and 1909, “the most successful politician is he who says what the people are thinking most often in the loudest voice”.
Mark, no matter how some may see him as a person, can best be described as a successful politician with his immense contribution to the stabilization of the country's democracy, coupled with his numerous humanitarian gestures towards his people in Benue South, which may have been the reason why they have continued to give him their mandate since 1999.
Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, described him as a true patriot and a stabilizing voice in Nigeria's democracy.
According to Abatemi-Usman in a goodwill message, the leadership style of the soldier turned politician since his emergence as the Senate President in 2007, has greatly helped in ensuring stability in the Senate, thereby beating the “Ghost of Senate's Banana Peels” that hitherto disturbed the upper Chamber of the National Assembly.
The Senator representing Kogi Central Senatorial District further noted that the maturity, bravery and sagacity, usually displayed by Mark in handling every challenge and burning issue of national importance before the Senate were quite commendable and laudable.
The message reads in part: “Happy birthday to an officer, a gentleman, a leader, a true patriot, the author of 'Doctrine Of Necessity', a stabilizing voice in our democracy, my mentor, my boss, the longest-serving Senate President. I rejoice with you on the occasion of your 65th birthday. Your sterling leadership qualities have provided an essential stabilizing force in the Red Chamber. We, your colleagues, and the nation at large admire and respect your wisdom, fairness and dedication to duty. On behalf of my family and the good people of Kogi Central Senatorial District, I wish you many more years of fruitful service, good health and the blessings of the Almighty.”
In a special tribute to the Senate President, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba said: “Amazing. The Swashbuckling young Major I met in June 1978 on the eve of my departure to Bauchi for the compulsory NYSC is 65 years. I recall your instant generosity to me at that first meeting when you promptly surrendered your hotel accommodation to me that 'I should have at least one night of enjoyment since my suffering was going to start the next day'. That generosity has remained a feature of our relationship which resumed when I joined you in the Senate in 2003. From Minister to Military Governor under the Military dispensation of General Ibrahim Babangida in which you were a pillar and a very active player to dramatically become a democracy activist in the subsequent Abacha regime, earning you political exile and great personal pain. Your transformation has a parallel with the transformation of Saul to Paul. Your conversion to democracy has been total. While you shed the adventurism of the politico-Military, you brought in the discipline of the professional Military to your current political life bringing consistency and predictability to your environment.”
Ndoma-Egba continued: “As a Senator you organized your colleagues; as an unprecedented two-term Senate President you have not only stabilized the Senate and therefore the polity especially at a critical time you have also given the Senate character. You have become one of the most outstanding figures of our democracy and its symbol of forthrightness and courage. You are a perpetual lesson in service and we are proud to learn at your feet. At Sixty-five, we thank God for your life; a life of many stories; a life of service to man and to God; a life of fulfilment. We can only pray that the Almighty whom you have so faithfully served grants you many more years in good health so that you continue in your service to your Nation and humanity. Like wine you are only getting better with age. Happy birthday the Boss of Bosses!”
Born in Otukpo, Benue State, Mark, an Idoma by tribe, who attended St. Francis Catholic Practising School before proceeding to the Nigerian Military School, was equally applauded by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan for playing a very constructive role in women liberation.
The First Lady in a statement signed by her Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Ayo Osinlu said: “I commend the Senate President's support for the emancipation of the Nigerian women and his untiring effort to ensure that the voices of women are heard, not only in the National Assembly, but in all sectors of the Nigerian society.”
Congratulating Mark on the occasion of his 65th birthday, she added: “I congratulate Mark on the occasion of his 65th birthday. He is an agent of stabilisation in the National Assembly. I also commend his patriotism and mature handling of proceedings at the National Assembly, which promotes harmonious relationship between the executive and the legislature. I wish him more prosperous and fruitful service years.”
As part activities marking his 65th birthday celebration, the Senate president, a complete lover of sports, laid the foundation for the Otukpo Township Stadium to be otherwise known as “David Mark Sports Complex”. According to the country's number-one lawmaker, the stadium when completed would be centre of sporting activities in Benue state and its environs.
Laying the foundation stone of the proposed stadium, which, according to media reports, is being built under the “David Mark Bonaventure Initiative (DMBI) with support from his friends and admirers, Mark implored all those involved in the execution of the project to show the desired commitment so that the stadium can be completed on schedule.
Hear him: “Like you all know, I have a great passion for sports. Anything I can do for the development of sports, I will not hesitate to do so. The Otukpo stadium when completed will complement the Golf Course which is already attracting sports men and women into Otukpo. Hopefully in the next 12 months, God's willing, the stadium should be ready for sporting activities.”
Michael Jegede, a media expert and public affairs commentator wrote from Abuja 07065574368