By Emma Aziken
There is arguably none in the corridors of power today that may have endured as long as the President of the Senate, Senator (Brig. Gen.) David Mark.
From the early seventies when the then Captain Mark was plucked as a young military graduate to chair the controversy laced Abandoned Properties Implementation Commission through his stint as Military Assistant to Gen. Murtala Mohammed to now, the Idoma born military communication engineer has hovered around the corridors of power.
The five year rule of Gen. Sani Abacha may have been an exception but that is easily explained by some as a fall out of the vicious contest for political power between the goggled goliath tempered Abacha and the younger David.
The smack from Abacha wasnâ€™t the only setback Mark received in the course of his adventures in military politicking. Some close to him attribute his long spell as an Army Major to bellyaching by some senior officers who were jealous over the prominence he played in the Murtala administration.
Despite the successes he recorded in the cutthroat politicking of the barracks, General Mark left service with a clouded reputation among the majority of the civilian class.
Even though he is hailed for his role in the digitilisation of the former national telecommunications carrier NITEL, and the introduction of mobile telephony as a communications minister, controversial remarks allegedly made by him on the ability of the poor to maintain telephones tended to cloud his image.
How he was able to transmute perceptions to being honoured by some of his kinfolk at the beginning of the fourth republic as the leader of the Idomas could well underpin his political sagacity.
As a Senator between 1999 and 2007 Senator Mark was not just an ordinary personality. His successful play as the unofficial leader of the Senate especially between 2003 and 2007 is wrapped in the tales of the power quakes that rocked the Senate in that period. His depth of political wizardry was semi-officially proclaimed with his coronation as the leader of G-86, the group of 86 Senators in the 109 Senate that nearly forced Adolphus Wabara out of office as Senate President in March 2004.
But even then, Mark was said to have met his match in a trick played out on him and his accomplice, Senator Tunde Ogbeha by the well known political maverick from the Southeast who together with another Southeast Senator engineered the original plot to remove Wabara.
As the plot to unseat Wabara almost crystallized into reality, the maverick one who also played a dubious role in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election was said to have pulled out of the game after allegedly being bought over by Wabara and realizing that Mark would not hand him the office of Senate President.
Three years later, Senator Mark got for himself the office of Senate President giving official recognition to his long stewardship of the Senateâ€™s most cohesive power block.
Having achieved the Senate presidency and with it an opportunity to entrench a legacy as a pro-people statesman it had been suggested that the 61 year old political warhorse had come to the end of his tethers.
That suggestion is now being put to test with the political vacuum in the country created by the ill-health of President Umaru Yarâ€˜Adua. Despite being the countryâ€™s number three man it is no doubt a fall out of Markâ€™s perceived political wits that he has become a permutation in whatever power game may unfold.
It was against that background that the Senate President this week railed against mischief makers who he claimed were canvassing him as a factor in what ever power play that breaks out. He described the talks about him as phantom speculations, easily reminding us of the phantom coups of the Abacha era.
Mark has gone to the extent of asking the Roman Catholic faithful to pray the Novena prayer, that is nine consecutive days of prayer for the ailing President.
Remarkably, when Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba brought the issue of the ill-health of the President to the floor last Tuesday the Senate refused to consider the issue. Considering Markâ€™s overwhelming influence on the decisions that take place in the Senate many wondered why the Senate President allowed Ndoma-Egba to bring the motion to the floor and to abandon him.
Despite the muttering of an increasing number of Senators even within his camp, the Senate President has taken to the habit of taking positions on debates and as such foreclosing the vote. His non-committal to the motion some say was his mature way of not exacerbating tension in the polity.
Meanwhile the Senate stood down from plenary sessions that Tuesday to allow committees devote attention to the 2010 budget proposals.
On Thursday, the Senator Joy Emodi led Committee on Education conducted a hearing on the bill to amend the Education Trust Fund (ETF) that will streamline its funds to only tertiary institutions.