By Emma Aziken

Senator David Mark’s remarkable voyage as a democrat was perhaps underlined last Thursday as he firmly took position against coup plotters.

In his concluding remark during the debate on the bill for the remuneration of former leaders of the country, the President of the Senate showed how transformed he has become when he said:

“We should put in the word elected. This is to discourage other ways of getting into power through unconstitutional means; the only way recognised by the constitution is through the ballot box and not through the barrel of the gun.”
Senator Mark’s submission found coherence with the submission of several other Senators who were against the payment of pension benefits to former Nigerian military rulers.

It is not within the framework of this commentary to contemplate those the Senate President may have had in mind or those who may have in the past aided in the several coup plots that in the past undermined Nigeria’s democracy.

What your correspondent can definitely say for now is that Senator Mark’s score in the shaping of contemporary Nigerian democracy that is, if you can forget the past, is indeed far better than what it was some few decades ago.

His interjection last Thursday added to his commendable role in the ongoing efforts to resolve the mess thrown up by the ill health of President Umaru Yar‘Adua. The doctrine of necessity thrown up by the Senate President which allowed the Senate to take President Yar‘Adua’s alleged radio interview as a form of transmission of his ill-health may have stretched reasoning, but it went a long way in sustaining the nation’s democracy.

But then, some would note Senator Mark’s seeming reluctance to go all the way in interfacing with the people.

Despite making the National Assembly complex available for civil protests, he has been reluctant to mingle with the people. Just as he did last January, Senator Mark shunned the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) when they called at the National Assembly last Wednesday. Even worse, the complex was barricaded from the SNG.

Perhaps, he took lesson from the way the SNG humiliated Speaker Dimeji Bankole last January when the group refused to listen to him after they brought him out to hear their denunciations of the foibles of the National Assembly.

Senator Manzo Anthony acting as Senate spokesman in the absence of Senator Ayogu Eze, however, contended to correspondents on Wednesday that Senator Mark was not shying away from the SNG.

Earlier on Tuesday the Senate rose as one body against the barbaric murder of hundreds of Nigerians in Plateau State. It, however, took some act of wisdom or discretion on the part of the Senate leadership when it moved the Senate into a closed session to discuss the issue.

The resort into a closed session was perhaps to douse what some felt were the extreme views of some Senators on the issue. It is not forgotten that among the 109 Senators is a Senator who in the past greatly advanced the cause of fundamentalism through the rabid enunciation of the Islamic Legal Code in the far North.

Remarkably, at the end of the closed session that day, the Senators came up with a remarkable and soothing resolution condemning the slaughter on the Plateau. The affirmation that the crisis was not religious is, however, disputable.

Further moves by the Northern Senators Forum to find a lasting solution through the constitution of a committee headed by Senator Jibril Aminu is indeed welcome.

Among the remarkable legislative initiatives that progressed in the Senate this week was the second reading of the bill to establish the Assets Management Corporation.

Senator Nkechi Nwaogu chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking Insurance and other Financial Institutions at a press briefing echoed reasons why the body would be good for the nation’s financial system notably, as it would be a channel to detoxify the toxic assets in the system.

Senator Sidi Ali, the Senator representing Abuja on Monday obtained a court injunction to stop the authorities at the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) from further demolishing houses in some areas of the federal capital.

His resort to court would be a boon to some of his constituents who face the prospect of homelessness from the authorities in Abuja.

Also this week, the Senate passed the conference report on the Oil and Gas Content Bill which sets the legal framework that will give priority to Nigerians in employment and contracting jobs in the sector.


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