By Michael Jegede
Senate President, Senator David Mark, a man that is highly respected among his colleagues for his rare sterling leadership qualities, has no doubt endeared himself into the hearts of many Nigerians.
No wonder the Senate as a mark of honour stood still for him on April 8, 2014, the day he clocked 66 years of age. The Senators took turns at the plenary to eulogize him, after the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu set the stage through a motion.
Noting that it was imperative to say that the occasion of Mark’s birthday speaks far more than the number of years he has lived, the Deputy Senate President who has worked closely with Mark as his second in command in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly said: “He is one of the few Nigerians who have played very active roles in the nation’s political life both under the military and under democracy. I have often liken him to the biblical Paul. You recall that Paul was on the other side of faith and once he got converted on his way to Damascus he became not just one of the greatest defenders of the faith but the most fervent, prolific and travel preacher of the gospel. The Distinguished Senate President has made his mark as a soldier of democracy even suffering persecution and going into exile at a time in defence of democracy. Today he is a preacher and ardent promoter of democratic values. He is a practicing democracy per excellence.”
Ekweremadu continued “Far from the rambunctiousness and swagger that would ordinarily be associated with an accomplished general who has seen it all, Senator Mark turns out to be highly unassuming, quiet, but very sociable and outspoken. He is like the proverbial Amanlize, that Igbo folklore hero who has mastered the art of riding the storm and achieving great things quietly. Unlike Chinua Achebe’s Amanlize the cat in Things Fall Apart who was eventually floored by Okonkwo after seven years winning streak. This fabled Amanlize wrestled both malevolent spirit and men and always emerged victorious. I want to thank the Distinguished Senate President for his team spirit, conviviality, legislative due process and independence and the decorum he has cultivated in the Senate.”
In a goodwill message to the Senate President, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman described Mark as a great democrat, whose contribution to the sustenance and advancement of democracy in the country has been significantly wonderful.
The Senator, representing Kogi Central Senatorial District averred that 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, beating the “Ghost of Senate’s Banana Peels” that hitherto characterized the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. He added 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.
Abatemi-Usman further noted that the Senate President has been a great source of inspiration to him as the youngest Senator in the seventh Senate. This, according to him, was demonstrated in Mark’s presence at his empowerment programme for over 1,200 citizens from Kogi Central in Okene, which took place a day before the 66th birthday.
The goodwill message reads in part: “Happy 66th 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 66th 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.”
A media practitioner and publisher, Sufuyan Ojeifo, in a special tribute to Mark on his 66 birthday said: “The extra-caution that he (Mark) exercises in the management of Senate funds is largely contributory to the peace that has defined the ambience of the Upper House. By not acting avaricious, he has been able to stand on firm ground, far away from the proverbial ‘banana peel.’ He is wise and, indeed, wisdom is the principal thing in the game of leadership survival in the Senate. Mark has also provided a leadership worthy of commendation, charting for the Senate progressive directions. He has guided the Senate to push through a number of pro-poor and people-oriented actions and legislations. His sing-song has been the welfare of the Nigerian people; and, this has shaped the disposition of the Senate in the expeditious consideration of the national budgets.”
Ojeifo further observed that “His leadership has also ensured that standing committees are alive to their oversight checks on Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the executive branch of government. The objective of this is to instill discipline and accountability in the financial system. How else can he underscore his belief in leadership as a sacred trust? So far, he has not betrayed the trust. His synergy with the executive arm of government is salutary to national governance. Recall how he guided the Senate during the late Musa Yar’Adua’s sickness to empower Goodluck Jonathan as acting president through the adoption of the Doctrine of Necessity. His quiet but strategic intervention, using the platform of the Senate, helped to resolve labour’s nationwide strike in January 2012 over the fuel subsidy removal.”
While i join other Nigerians to wish this great man of history and former military Governor of Niger State more rewarding and fruitful years of service to his fatherland, I urge him to continue to live up to the expectation of the people in his leadership of the highest legislative body in Nigeria. He must endeavour not to deviate from the path of progress and all that will bring about transformation to the country in the legislative process.
Michael Jegede, media aide to Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman wrote from Abuja