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Is this David still on his Mark?

By Emma Aziken
There are few doubts to the fact that the Senate of the fourth republic has never been as stable as it is now under the command of Senator David Mark.

One evidence of this is that sights of Senators openly yawning during plenary sittings on account of late night conspiracy meetings directed at unsettling the leadership have come to an end under Senator Mark.

How Senator Mark achieved this level of political equilibrium is said to be the result of the combination of maturity, age and experience garnered by the former army general. Talk of General Mark’s legendary role in the cut throat politicking that characterized his time in military service is commonplace.

Others also speak of his strategic roles in the several regime changes that happened during his first two terms in the Senate between 1999 and 2007.

Particular mention would off course be made of Senator Mark’s leadership of the Group of 86, the group of Senators that humbled Senator Adolphus Wabara before President Olusegun Obasanjo forced him out of office as Senate President in 2005.

Even though Senator Mark is yet to equal the nearly thirty-four months Senator Anyim Pius Anyim spent as Senate President, the tranquility that now shadows the Senate is unprecedented.

The seeming confidence of the Senate President is demonstrated in his habit of playing golf in the afternoons. After Senate sessions it is said that the Senate President would proceed to the IBB Golf Club not far from the National Assembly for an afternoon session of his favourite game.

Such afternoon leisure was unheard of in the past when Senate Presidents rather spent their afternoons formulating political plans to cage their enemies in the Senate.

It is perhaps in recognition of Mark’s awesome dominion of his political environment that the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka is today conferring on him an honourary doctorate degree in Military Engineering.
Some Senators who heard of the honour were indeed perplexed with the classification  of the honourary award.

Since General Mark rose through the ranks and acquired fame on account of his political exploits within and outside the service, it is muttered in some quarters that Senator Mark would have been better recognized for his political exploits, the latest of which is his now total control of the Senate.

However, that control became an issue this week as Senate observers for the first time openly asked if Senator Mark may have been overstretching his confidence.

That question arose last Wednesday as the nomination of Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu (JSC) for the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria came before the Senate.

At issue was the platform to use for the screening.

Whereas many Senators including some of Mark’s closest allies argued that the nomination should be referred to the Senate committee on Judiciary as they noted that the position for which he was nominated was clearly indicated, Mark thought otherwise.

Argued as much as they did, Senator Mark for whatever reason after listening to their arguments even when they seemed rational refused to budge. Mark it seemed was bent on having the screening done before the whole Senate.

As some argued conducting the screening in the full view of the whole Senate would rob the screening exercise the opportunity of raising expert questions which members of the Senate Judiciary committee would ordinarily have been better prepared for.

Besides, as some argued the report of any screening by the Senate Judiciary committee would still be subjected to the endorsement of the full Senate presided over by the Senate President.

Whatever internal muttering there was in the Senate was soon overtaken by the renewed rivalry between the Senate and the House of Representatives as evidenced by the face-off over the site of the joint sitting for the presentation of the budget.

Senators are insisting that they would not follow the convention of trooping to the chambers of the House of Representatives to hear the President deliver his budget proposals. The decision of the Senators follows what many of them claimed to be the overflow of the arrogance of their colleagues in the House chambers.

The history of the bitterness between the Bankole House and the Mark Senate is traced back to the emergence of Bankole as Speaker when his supporters felt that Mark was not happy with the sacking of the erstwhile Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh.

Indeed, many who have noted Bankole’s relations with Mark and the Senate have considered him childish. But as the face off between both men was reignited this week, one journalist said that Mark was now the one being childish. “Bankole is a child, coming down to his level is being childish!”


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