By Comrade Lawrence Okoh
Born in the non-descript, inaucous and obscure ancient community of Otukpo in the defunct Benue/Plateau state (present day Benue State), on April 1948. Mark began his early education at St. Francis Catholic Practising School, Otukpo between 1956 to 1961. He proceeded to the NIGERIA Military School, Zaria.
Thereafter, he was admitted into the prestigious Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) and he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in 1970 making him one of the 3rd sector Officers to graduate from the Academy. (Mark is a member of the 3rd regular course of the NDA)
He later bagged a Bachelor Degree in Telecommunications Engineering between 1971 and 1976. After several professional military trainings in the United Kingdom, USA, and India. From 1978 – 1979, he was at the Command and Staff College, Jaji and between 1990 – 1991, he was at the National Defence University, Washington DC and later at the Harvard University, Boston USA between 1991 and 1992.
A man remembered for his honesty, patriotism, and orderliness. Decades ago as a young Major in the NIGERIAN Army during the administration of former Head of state General Yakubu Gowon, Mark headed the abandoned property, implementation committee after the 30 months old fratricidal civil war. It was to his credit that GOWON administration implemented the Reconstruction, Resettlement and Reconciliation policy other wise referred to as the 3Rs to reintegrate the defunct Biafrans into the NIGERIAN society.
In 1984, Mark was appointed Military Governor of Niger state where he again demonstrated uncommon leadership qualities in spite of daunting challenges.
As the then Communications minister, Mark transformed NIGERIA Telecommunications (NITEL) with his hyper tech engineering skill when he introduced mobile phones and digital telephone system. He reorganized NIGERIA Postal Service (NIPOST) and started the city coding system. Under his meticulous watch on NITEL, the organization built two ultra-modern digital earth stations in Lagos and Enugu.
However well intentioned a policy maybe, there is no silver bullet yet to completely stave off abuse. This was the situation; when Mark’s uncompromising position that telephone subscribers then should pay their bills or no service earned him the wrath of not a few NIGERIANS who interpreted his position that “telephone is not for the poor”. He was vilified. But today what Mark saw decades ago is what is practicable in our country. Under the Global Service for mobile telecommunications (GSM) no one uses the services without prepaid credit. Without any iota of sentiment Mark is a man who saw tomorrow.
If Mark had a glorified career in the Military, what he has achieved in the political turf paled to the insignificant his successful records in the army. He has contested and won elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and a rerun in 2016.
As a Senator, he gave quality representation to his constituents in sports, education, health, empowerment and scores of infrastructure. But as was discovered later his most superlative qualities were not realised until he was elected President of the Senate in 2007.
From a long, tortuous, and implacable position the Nigeria’s Senate eventually assumed a model and rejuvenated status and a great deal of Legislative stability under Mark’s Leadership. He has put paid to the reign of instability which was the hallmark of the upper chamber between 1999 and 2007. Thus the Nigerian Senate which used to be a laughing stock in the comity of nations given its nature and activities, has gradually evolved into a virile, focused and stable parliament.
It is on record that between 1999 and 2005, the senate changed leadership five times, a situation that was viewed by many as a mockery of democracy. More so that every state in the Southeast to which the presidency of the chamber was zoned at the time had a taste of the office before moving to the North central in 2007.
Thus by 2005, the impression had been created in the minds of most Nigerians that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Senate President to stay beyond two years on the exalted seat. However, Mark’s emergence in June 2007 proved cynics wrong and changed all that perception as the Otukpo born retired general turned Democrat had succeeded in registering his name in the Guinness Book of Records as Nigeria’s longest serving President of the Senate since 1960 when Nigeria attained independence till date.
It is not only that Mark sustained himself in the office upon his second coming, he was also not under any threat of removal from his colleagues who hold him in high esteem. He equally extend more than equal respects to his colleagues. He called the “My bosses”.
Upon assuming office in 2007, one of Mark’s first commitments was to phase out the era of ‘banana peels’ which were the characteristics of the Senate prior to his emergence. Before then, ‘Ghana-Must-Go” syndrome real or imagined was a popular phenomenon in both Chamber of the National Assembly. But today, memory of both “Ghana-Must-Go” as well as “banana peels” has completely disappeared in the Senate, as Mark repeatedly said during his Senate Presidency that the Senate under his leadership will not condone any act of bribery and corruption in the course of discharging its responsibilities. He demonstrated this when in December 2007 under late Musa Yar’Adua administration he caused to be returned to the national treasury the sum of N7Billion National Assembly unspent fund.
His prudent Leadership also stemmed from his ability to develop and established himself as an institution in legislative business. He is a master of legislative rules and procedures. As a Senate president for eight years Mark was never caught in the web of indecision or ignorance over any issue that arises on the floor of the Senate.
His wealth of experience not only in the legislative but the executive arm of government spanning through a glowing military career is what a disintegrating Nigerian state is in dare need of at this moment in her checkered political history.
When France was in dare need of a strong ruler they called on Charse De Guallie; when America was in a dare need of leadership she called on Eisenhower; Nigeria is a serious need for a Savior and the man for the JOB is Distinguish Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark (GCON); Okpokpowulu K’doma.
The least the Idoma nation and indeed all lovers of Democracy should do as he pick a nomination form this week is to come out enmass in solidarity and show support for this great deliverer and a political Icon of our time. Nigeria is indeed bless to have a man like him.
Comrade Lawrence Okoh The Convener of Idoma political forum.