By Paul Mumeh, Abuja
The Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark clan including his household, friends, associates and former colleagues in both the Nigeria Army and the political class will have cause to celebrate this week; precisely on April 8, 2021. It is the 73rd birthday of this trained soldier born on April 8, 1948 in Otukpo, Benue State. He is gradually and steadily taking up his seat in the hall of fame where other great men and women of value of our nation are.
Senator Mark has unarguably paid his dues. He has been virtually everything Nigeria public office can offer and which any man can dream of. A boy soldier, war hero, commander of uniformed men and material, military governor, minister, legislator and number three man for eight uninterrupted years. Yet, agile and ready for more accomplishments.
In his years as a public officer, Mark has chosen in his words to “continue to contribute to the wellbeing and the development of our dear country. That service he continues to render not just to his native Idoma clan and Benue State but to the nation and humanity at large.
As a statesman, the former President of the Senate has turned to quiet philanthropy that has seen him encourage educational pursuits for his people through the David Mark Scholarship Foundation (DMSF). So far, about 25,000 young people have benefitted from the scholarship scheme. In addition, Mark single-handedly built and donated a multi-purpose complex to the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Otukpo study centre in 2010. To his credit, all the nine local government areas in his Benue South Senatorial District where he held sway as their Senator for 20 years enjoys medical services via the Primary health care centres he facilitated.
Some of Mark’s legacies for which his people idolise him is the establishment of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (FUHSO), the construction of Oweto/Loko road and bridge as well as the Otobi Water Dam project. These giant projects have created employment opportunities and activated economic activities in Benue State and beyond.
He also runs an interest free revolving loan to small-scale enterprises for his constituents as well as a free Women Skills Acquisition programme for women and girls where no fewer than 15,000 have benefitted since its inception in 2007. Besides, he continues to encourage youth in politics through his mentorship. This tutelage is about service to man and country.
People still refer to the sixth and seventh Senate where Senator Mark was President as one of the examples of a patriotic parliament. The sixth Senate successfully navigated the nation through the uncertainties of the illness of a then sitting President late Umoru Yar’adua and transfer of power to his vice, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. That singular act of Mark’s invocation of the famous Doctrine of Necessity saved the nation from the political logjam.
Mark’s tenure as Senate President (2007 to 2015) was characterised by parliamentary stability, harmonious relationship with other arms of government, particularly the executive, without compromising its statutory powers of checks and balances as well as parliamentary interventions to complex national challenges. His survival as Senate President for eight uninterrupted years where others before him failed, and when he was not given a whiff of a chance to survive the murky political waters is a study in political brinkmanship.
Of particular reference was Mark’s success in using the Senate in 2007 as a consultation platform to reach stakeholders in the crisis-ridden but oil rich Niger Delta region and laid the grounds for the resolution of issues that led to armed struggles in the area.
The success of the Amnesty Programme introduced by the President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration to stabilise the oil bearing Niger Delta region was principally made possible by the successful interventions in the area on account of Mark’s led Senate Retreat in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2007.
This was in addition to series of highly strategic parliamentary interventions that led to resolution of myriad of industrial disputes such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), their Polytechnic counterparts one year strike action and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) dispute during the Ebola pandemic in 2014. Such methods established by Mark are still being used by the Senate to resolve disputes and fine-tune enabling legislations in critical sectors of the economy.
This soldier cum politician, astute administrator and cerebral parliamentarian is still brimming with his smart salute and patriotic gait even at 73.
Expectedly, Senator Mark has been overwhelmed by the deluge of encomium, goodwill messages and prayers for his contributions to the development of the nation and humanity.
For his clan, at 73 is the opportunity to reminiscence on the eventful journey of this son of a yam farmer whose knack for adventurism has broken the barriers of poverty and reached great accomplishments in the country.
But his new vocation is the promotion of peace and development in Nigeria especially as the nation grapples with large scale insecurity. According to him: “I will remain a peace ambassador both in Benue State and Nigeria at large. I will uphold the sanctity of peace and unity. More than anything, Nigeria needs peace and unity. We need to bond together as one people with a common destiny. Let us believe and have faith in our country. We should do our best to make the nation work because we have no other country to call ours”.
The pursuit of peace was the hallmark of his long military career which began in 1962 at the Nigerian military School (NMS) in Zaria through the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Signals School, Blandford, England, National Defence University , Washington DC, USA. Even as a politician, his assignments has been to seek understanding among fellow political actors who often clash in the contestation for power and position.
However, what still gives him great delight was his work as the Military Governor of Niger State (1984 to 1986), then Lt. Col. David Mark stood out with his articulation and prompt implementation of development-oriented policies and programmes that laid the solid foundation for infrastructural and human capital development in the State. Of particular reference is Mark’s introduction of the compulsory girl-child education, an initiative that earned Niger State the leading position in girl-child education among the States in northern Nigeria till date.
Today, beneficiaries of that programme have become high flyers and global competitors in their various chosen paths, where they are making immense contributions to the development of our nation and humanity.
Even as the Minister of Communications in 1988, Senator Mark brought in managerial discipline and strategic initiatives that laid the foundation for the modernisation of the communication sector in Nigeria.
Among other initiatives, Mark reorganised the operations of NIPOST and NITEL, leading to the introduction of city coding system, construction of ultra-modern digital earth stations as well as laid the platform for mobile and digital telephone system in the country.
His irrepressible stance that those who own telephone lines must pay the bills or get disconnected earned him the wrath of many. But like a prophet who saw tomorrow, he ensured that NITEL became efficient and viable then. in retrospect, those who criticised him then can now juxtapose the emergence of the Global System for mobile Communications (GSM) today where nobody can own a cell phone or enjoy the services without purchasing airtime (prepaid). Unarguably, Senator Mark saw tomorrow.
Mark is one of the disciplined public officers whose actions have demonstrated that our nation can get it right if we apply ourselves to the good of the country.
Wherever and however, he choses to mark the day, Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark GCON, Fnim, Fnipr can beat his chest and say, “God has been faithful and I give Him all the glory.”
Mumeh wrote from Abuja.