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Unraveling David Mark’s stint in the Senate

Written By Idoma Television on Saturday, May 30, 2015 | 1:53:00 AM

Title:         David Mark: Mastering the Senate Presidency
Author:      Dr. Onjefu Okidu
Publisher:  Tigraph Prints and Publishing
Pages:       500
Reviewer:  Dan Amor
Rather than being an outing in the familiar mode of commemorative publications, complete with its eulogies, accolades and nostalgic effusions, ‘David Mark: Mastering The Senate Presidency,’ beautifully written and expertly packaged by Okidu, a lecturer in Mass Communication, is a profound and ramifying intervention in the remarkable and inimitable strides of distinguished Senator David Mark as President of the sixth and seventh Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Segmented into 28 chapters, this is the first major extensive work on any of the politicians who have led the Nigerian Senate since the evolution of the Fourth Republic in 1999. 

The book provides an intriguing balance to the dark and murky depths of the National Assembly leadership of the 1999-2005 period before the emergence of Senator Ken Nnamani as Senate President.

With a sharp-shooting narrative, the author keeps to the surface with a sure sense of comic timing, weaving intricate and amusing plots that provide opportunity for witty commentary on a marvelous variety of human foibles and conceits.

The account is a bittersweet story, set in an amorphous context, related in a prose that is strikingly unpretentious. Bitter in its lamentation of tottering leadership of the upper chamber leading to its endemic instability during the (Chief Olusegun) Obasanjo presidency and sweet in the overwhelming stability the red chamber is manifesting since the Yar’Adua/Jonathan presidency.

Technical and aesthetic accomplishments coincide exactly with its thematic content - what is said and how it is said - are inseparable. As a professional communicator, everything the author has said has helped to consolidate his achievements. Indeed, the separate pieces of the book are stitched together with recurring motifs and gradual revelation of details that coalesce in the reader’s mind.

The narrative portrays Senator Mark, the president of Nigeria’s sixth and seventh Senate and chairman of the National Assembly, as a statesman and the repository of the workings of the legislature in which he has been a leading player since 1999 when he was first elected to represent the people of Benue-South Senatorial District on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). A charismatic leader of men, described as a brilliant mind and  an astute politician, Mark was trained in various academic institutions at home and abroad, including the National Defense University, Washington DC, and Harvard University, Harvard, Boston USA.

What many may not know about this accomplished political denizen is that he is a consummate team player. This may have been responsible for his unfettered rise in Nigeria’s political firmament. He had also played several roles in the current political dispensation which has prepared him for the unprecedented achievements he has recorded as the doyen of the Nigerian legislative leadership. As President of the Nigerian Senate, he is also chairman, Senate Committee on Selection.

Before his dramatic emergence as Senate President, the Senate in particular and the National Assembly at large had been hobbled by a plethora of bickering and confrontation between an overbearing executive and an inexperienced legislature. No doubt, this unhealthy development adversely affected the performance of the National Assembly.

Eight years down the road, the astute and pragmatic leadership of Senator Mark has infused the legislature with some sweet-smelling flavour and has thus insulated the hallowed chambers from needless controversies between the legislature and the executive and also helped in dousing tension and internal wrangling amongst members.

Without going into a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Mark’s startling achievements as Senate President as captured in the book, it is important to stress that the book lays bare his leadership qualities beginning from his mature handling of the crisis that arose as a result of the health challenges of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua leading up to his untimely death. In fact, the negative perception of non-performance of the National Assembly has changed markedly due to the enviable leadership provided by Senator Mark.

The integrity of the political system embodied in the Constitution, respect for the rule of law, belief in the supremacy of a law higher than the wishes of a transient majority: all these are estimable grounds on which to base one’s actions, grounds on which many Nigerians may comfortably stand. Isn’t it an irony therefore that someone with military background could be as level-headed as to entrench or deepen our democracy with such finesse and comportment?

To strengthen legislative capacity, Mark initiated series of institutional and technical innovations to enhance the capacity of the Senate to meet the challenges of the legislature in the 21st century. This has resulted in the acceleration and passage of key legislations to enhance ongoing economic reforms. Under his leadership, there has been strategic institutional intervention through robust application of oversight functions, to ensure accountability and probity in concert with international best practices. There have been increased sector-wide probes, to ensure greater accountability and transparency even as more and more agencies of government, ministries and parastatals have come under intense Senate scrutiny.

It is an accomplished and mature work. The narrative is told from the perspective of a well-grounded academic with a PhD in Mass Communication, who has several years of solid journalistic experience behind him. The book is a potboiler of high order, intended to sustain the reader’s interest, remain true to the historical evidence and deliver a message, all at the same time. The plot is structured according to the complex rules of journalistic reporting and informed commentary. Yet there is a vast aura of authenticity about Dr. Onjefu Okidu’s analysis, the result of his intensive research into the historical setting.

While the book shows considerable political insight and compassion, it offers little insight into the characters themselves, except the subject, David Mark. This is, indeed, appropriate to the genre, but at times the reader craves subtlety and an occasional touch of elegant simplicity amid the dark, exotic shadows. Go for it. And keep it in your family library for generations unborn.
Amor is based in Abuja.
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