By Vincent Ikuomola
Last Saturday, Nigerians turned out in their millions to elect their president, senators and members of the House of Representatives. It was a set of elections where grassroots support was the most critical ingredient of victory. But we saw a number of politicians whose grass were lush green but the roots were too feeble to resist the wind of change that blew across the land.
Among them were Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State as well as Gabriel Suswam, Isa Yuguda and Usman Dakingari, his counterparts in Benue, Bauchi and Kebbi states respectively, whose bids for seats in the Senate suffered terrible blows.The initial story that filtered out from his Otukpo hometown in Benue State was that the Senate President, Senator David Mark, had also lost his seat in the upper chamber. But while his admirers were mourning and his detractors were jubilating, another version of the story emerged that he had won.
Ordinarily, I should be congratulating the Senate President for his success at the poll. But I cannot do so because I do not know whether he is gladdened by the victory or saddened by it. For it is certain now that he will be returning to the Senate as a floor member. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which for 16 years has bestrode the upper chamber like a colossus, and on whose platform Mark won the election for the fifth time, could only muster 45 seats against the 64 won by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The development would have mattered little in societies where the motivation for seeking political office is service to fatherland. But from Mark’s comportment and deportment as a public office holder since his days as a military governor and minister of communications, he has demonstrated the fact that he is motivated more by ego and survival. Hence the Senate under him has been nothing more than the President’s rubber stamp.
For those who are familiar with his pedigree as a soldier, it should not come as a surprise that Mark has turned out an ultra-conservative politician. As the minister of communications during the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration, he was credited with the infamous declaration that telephone was not an item for the poor. He is also reputed as the arrowhead of the military top brass who insisted on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election fairly and freely won by the late Bashorun MKO Abiola. Mark and his colleagues in the Armed Forces Ruling Council were said to have insisted that Abiola would only be president over their dead bodies and that Nigeria would only return to democratic rule over their graves.
It is therefore an irony that he has turned the Senate into his cocoon and a seat in it his birthright. Yet in all the years he has served as a senator and Senate President, the only thing he seems to have deemed important is to protect his seat by pandering to the promptings of the President and studiously avoiding any form of conflict with him. What has emerged at the end of the day is a Senate that is all so willing to go along with the President, no matter how unpopular the latter’s position.
The most recent example was his near single-handed clearance of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro for ministerial appointment in spite of the widespread opposition hinged on allegations of the latter’s wrongful deployment of soldiers in his previous appointment as Minister of State for Defence, as well as the protest from his Lagos home state that after serving variously as an ambassador and a minister, the new appointment should go to another Lagosian.
The Senate under Mark has bungled investigations into such issues as the sum of 48.9 billion dollars which former Central Bank governor, now Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi, said was missing in crude oil revenue. So also were others like the fuel subsidy scam involving some highly-placed Nigerians, the two bulletproof cars a former Minister of Aviation, Mrs Stella Oduah, allegedly acquired with sums surpasseing the annual budgets of some African countries and the questionable manner a former Director-General of the Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission handled its finances.
His conservative Senate has been a veritable source of frustration for the highly progressive Hon. Aminu Tambuwal-led House of Representatives. At critical moments in the life of the nation, the lower chamber has pitched its tent with the people while the Senate, supposedly an independent institution of government, blindly allies itself with the Presidency. This unholy romance explains why the House viewed with suspicion Mark’s intervention when some policemen attacked the House late last year, following Tambuwal’s defection from PDP to APC.
The foregoing has led many to say that whenever the need arises to apportion blames for the calamitous leadership that has cost Jonathan his seat, Senator Mark would get a heavy dose. It is no use asking him to quit when the ovation is loudest. He has done nothing to warrant an ovation.