Where’s Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark? Has he dumped his coveted Senate seat? Why the loud silence? Who speaks for the Idoma Nation in the Red Chamber? Did his people goof to have elected him for another record term? Is his ego taking the better half of Senator Mark? Why his siddon look posture in the Senate?
These are pertinent questions some curious Nigerians are asking right now. But I guess we may never get the needed answers.
Senator Mark is the immediate-past President of the Senate. He is the longest serving lawmaker in Nigeria’s political history. He has been in the Senate since 1999. Maybe the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan may beat him to that record soon.
Rightly or wrongly, he is an elder statesman. In our popular Nigerian tradition, it’s safe to posit that Mark has paid his dues.
Within the Nigerian political circle, Mark is seen as a stabilizing force. He demonstrated these qualities when he manned the Senate as its president for eight years.
Unlike the trouble-ridden House of Representatives of between 2007 and 2015, Mark’s Senate played the role of a big brother whenever the chips were down.
He also played a historical role in the infamous Doctrine of Necessity imbroglio. In sum, it’s safe to conclude that the story of Nigeria’s political evolution will be incomplete without acknowledging Mark’s roles.
Notwithstanding, Mark’s deafening silence and ‘I don’t care’ posture in the Senate must be questioned. Did his people goof to have elected him for the fifth time to represent Benue South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber?
Since the disgraceful defeat of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, Mark has gone into a political coma, with no intentions to come out of it alive. His political oblivion is unsettling and those who should speak up are playing politics. Mark was sworn-in on June 9th, 2015, before the Court of Appeal nullified his election. One would have thought that Mark meant well when he put up a spirited fight to return to the Senate. It appears he embarked on an ego trip to save his face and had no intention of remaining useful in the Red Chamber.
It’s on record that Mark has not uttered a word since his party lost the elections in 2015. Last Tuesday and for the first time in two years, Senator Mark’s name found its way into the Senate’s Order Paper.
He broke his two-year silence, when he sponsored his first bill since he was sworn-in on June 9th, 2015.
The bill is titled “Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo, Benue State (Est, etc) Bill, 2017”, and was read for the first time.
Ironically, Senator Mark was absent when the bill was introduced by the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan and read by the Clerk to the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh.
Senator Mark’s frequent absence and questionable silence in the Red Chamber assumed a worrisome dimension during the well-reported confirmation hearings of ministers-designate in October 2015. Throughout the screening exercise, Mark maintained a loud silence.
Section 63 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), provides that the Senate and the House of Representatives shall each sit for not less than 181 days in a year. This provision is applicable to lawmakers who are also expected to satiate this constitutional obligation.
Senator Mark’s name was omitted when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki announced the names of the various standing committee chairmen in late 2015.
Since the emergence of Saraki as Senate President on June 9th, 2015, Senator Mark has been keeping mum and has been maintaining a solitary posture among his colleagues.
Unlike others who participated actively since the PDP lost its majority seats to the ruling APC, Mark has not uttered a word on the floor of the Senate even as he has not contributed to debates on pressing issues in the country.
At the peak of the massacre of natives of Agatu, in his senatorial district, Mark, unlike his colleagues, did not move a motion on the floor of the Senate to draw the attention of lawmakers to it.
Senator Chukwuka Utazi moved a motion on the floor of the Senate to draw the attention of his colleagues to the invasion of his senatorial district in Enugu State. His views were widely reported.
Senator Clifford Ordia recently moved a motion as well to also draw the attention of his colleagues to the activities of Fulani herdsmen in Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State. Front pages of national newspapers and television screens were adorned with the story.
But for Senator Mark, it was the usual siddon look. Instead of moving a motion, he resorted to press releases.
Unlike his colleagues who frequently move from seat to seat to exchange pleasantries and friendly banters on the floor of the Red Chamber before commencement of sittings, Mark is always confined to his seat the few times he has attended plenary.
Beyond his silence, I have observed that Mark has abandoned his reserved seat as the longest serving senator in the chamber.
In the Senate, the sitting arrangement of senators is usually based on their ranking. For instance, a high-ranking senator sits after the majority or minority leader. This depends on the lawmaker’s party affiliation.
Instead, Mark sits on the last row where seats reserved for senators who are of the PDP flock are located. He is the last senator to enter the chamber whenever he attends and the first to exit, long before the end of the day’s legislative business. Again, unlike other lawmakers, Mark enters the chambers through the back door and is always in company of two policemen and few aides. He boycotts the front door.
He has not attended one committee meeting, moved a motion or seconded any. He does not belong to any committee and is not a chairman or a deputy of any either.
I am not writing this piece to denigrate Mark. But if you are a Nigerian and his silence in the Senate does not unsettle you, maybe we all need help.
Nigeria is on the precipice. From north to south, east to west, there are drums of war. Leaders are speaking up, urging restraint. In the midst of this, Mark is missing in action. Maybe he is yet to recover from the big blow of 2015.
Last Wednesday, Mark’s contributions could have made the difference when the Senate had a long session and discussed extensively the ethnic tensions in Nigeria. Though his name was listed as on of the sponsors of the motion for the day, he was absent as usual.
Senator Mark, wake up from your deep slumber sir and speak up. Your long silence is no longer golden. If you cannot stand the heat sir, kindly get out of the kitchen.
One more thing…
On Wednesday, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) discharged and acquitted Saraki of any wrongdoing after nearly two years. He was dragged to the tribunal by the Federal Government in September of 2015.
For Saraki and his circle of political friends, this may have been the longest and the toughest battle the Kwara-born medical doctor cum politician, has fought. The fight almost consumed him politically.
During the long legal tussle, the Senate vis-a-vis the National Assembly which Saraki heads were not insulated from the ‘assault’.
At some point, the entire Senate relocated to the venue of the trial. Legislative businesses were tactically derailed, while the Senate could not bite, despite its huge constitutional firepower.
The coast is clear. Compromises may have been reached, but the Senate, at least for now, is free to fire from every cylinder. Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) who may have offended the Senate must watch their backs.
Ibrahim Magu, Itse Sagay, Abubakar Malami, Hameed Ali and their co-travelers should watch their backs. The re-invigorated Senate may come for its own pound of flesh. For now, congratulations Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, President of the Nigerian Senate and chairman of the National Assembly.