By Paul Mumeh
The word ‘transformation’ is fast gaining currency, especially in the nation’s political lexicon. President Goodluck Jonathan literarily rode to the presidency in the April 2011 general election on a transformation mantra.
New and re-elected state governors, Senators, members of the House of Representatives and nearly every politician of whatever stock seem to have caught the bug of transformation as they all strove to outdo each other during electioneering campaigns in the preachment of a new dawn of imminent transformation once given the mandate. Now, elections have been won and lost. The talking period is certainly over and it’s now time to walk the walk, as the Americans would say.
For Senate President David Mark, the mantra of transformation seems to have taken immediate meaning beyond the symbolic level. As the curtain was finally drawn on the 6th Senate, a new and remarkable politics of ‘transformation’ was ushered in at the inauguration of the 7th Senate. Rather than talk the talk of transformation, Mark and his colleagues in the 7th Senate decided to walk the walk by the way they elected the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President.
There certainly is no better eloquent way to announce a new era of politics than to usher in a seamless transition devoid of the usual rancour, mudslinging, back-stabbing, betrayals and cut-throat politicking that characterised the push for the two topmost positions in the Upper Chamber in the past.
The Senate by its very nature and design is an embodiment of all that is noble, expected to espouse, at all times a very high level of maturity and decorum. That we did not witness this virtue between 1999 and 2007, things we have all taken for granted since June 5, 2007 when Mark assumed office as Senate President speaks directly to the quality of leadership he has brought to bear in the running of the Senate chamber. It was little surprise then that his colleagues opted to spare everyone the hollow but divisive ritual of election through the ballot box when the time to elect its leadership came. They returned him and his Deputy unopposed.
Mark’s unopposed return as Senate President becomes even more significant when considered against the backdrop that his colleagues from North Central where the PDP had zoned the position to as of right were entitled to vie and contest for the office. That they all decided to keep their ambitions in abeyance in deference to Mark speaks equally to their right sense of judgement. To be sure, no one is questioning their credentials to vie for the post. Like Mark, they were all very eminently qualified. However they, like their colleagues from the other zones came to the logical conclusion and agreement that given his track record, Mark still remains the right man for the job.
By his re-election as Senate President, Mark has yet scored another first. In 2007, he emerged as the first ever most democratically elected President of the Senate since the beginning of the 4th Republic in 1999. We were all living witnesses to the dance of musical chairs that was a staple of the quest for Senate leadership positions between 1999 and 2007. By his character, candour and leadership style, Mark is consolidating and re-writing the history of parliamentary democracy in Nigeria anchored on free choice and consensus building.
Significantly, the Senate President himself is not letting anything get into his head. To him, the confidence reposed in him by his colleagues is decidedly humbling. It is a trust, and as he has repeatedly said, and re-emphasised during his inaugural address, trust is a huge burden that must be discharged with the highest sense of responsibility.
The task ahead is indeed huge but Mark is confident that the 7th Senate would live up to the bill. The focus would be to come up with the legal framework on which the transformation agenda of the federal government can be launched. An area to be given prime attention is the budget and budgeting process and how to curb leakages in the system.
The Senate President is particularly concerned about the huge cost of running government in Nigeria, and in response to public sensibilities on the subject, has promised to lead the way towards a smaller government. This way, more resources can be freed for infrastructure development. Although the National Assembly has been unduly vilified over its running cost, it is a matter of courage and a mark of selflessness that someone who is ostensibly a major beneficiary is now pledging to lead the charge in what may eventually lead to huge reduction in its allocations. This is the mark of leadership; it is a clear sign that the Senate under him would continue to be a listening Senate that will always put the interest of the people first.
The way to proceed is to galvanise and leverage the unanimous endorsement he received from his colleagues and channel same towards the mission ahead. From his track record, there is no doubt that the Senate under Mark would achieve this, and even much more. The reason is simple. The Senate President has, in the past four years evolved a culture of service and leadership style that both inspires as it fascinates.
His relationship with his colleagues is devoid of all pretensions. Quite often, both in formal and informal settings, you would hear him addressing his colleagues as the bosses while he is the servant. And in real sense, they are his bosses because he seats on that chair at their instance and pleasure.
Although many a past Senate President mouthed the same platitudes, none lived his words like Mark. His humility radiates and inspires instant followership. If you add this to his insistence on consultation and consensus building, it becomes easy to understand why and how his last tenure recorded such huge and remarkable achievements. It was a product of team work, the very ethic he is presently enjoining his colleagues in the 7th Senate to embrace and consolidate.
It is this team spirit that saw the 6th Senate enact landmark legislation to reform the electoral system (amendment of the Electoral Act), treat financial requests from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the successful prosecution of the 2011 general elections with dispatch, pass Appropriations Acts, amend the Constitution not once, not twice but thrice; and much more! And when the nation was tottering on the precipice following the failing health and eventual demise of former President Umar Musa Ya’Adua, it was the resort to team work, consultations and consensus building that saved the day with the novel Doctrine of Necessity.
Perhaps more than anything else, the stability and excellent working relationship with the Executive arm which the Senate enjoyed throughout his first term as Senate President was a critical factor in this success story. Certainly, the seamless transition we have just witnessed, with its potential to further enhance the already existing stability in the Upper chamber is a clear pointer that the 7th Senate is destined for greatness.
To be sure, the achievements of the 6th Senate posses a big challenge to the present Senate and everyone, including the Senate President recognises this as he rightly pointed out during his valedictory speech.
Analysts however agree that if the same stability and team spirit that was the hallmark of legislative business in the immediate past Senate continues to prevail in the current dispensation, then the attainment of the ‘’Transformational Agenda” that would ultimately lead to a smaller government, food on the table for all Nigerians, good roads, education, employment opportunities for the youths, affordable healthcare and a general improvement in the living condition of the people is only a pole away. We can only wish Mark and his new team Goodluck.
Paul Mumeh, the Chief Press Secretary to the Senate President writes from Abuja.