Fourteen years of uninterrupted civilian rule is indeed enough assurance that democratic system of government is already firmly rooted on our soil. Irrespective of different political affiliation, religious or ethnic leanings, Nigerians across the divide are of a consensus that democracy is the preferred option.
It was by deliberate choice and design that Nigeria chose a presidential system of government modeled after that of the United States of America. In the short-lived First Republic, Nigeria practised the parliamentary system of government.
The Presidential system of government prescribes three arms of government: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Each acts as check on the other to guide against abuse or excesses in the use of and application of power.
However, what makes the difference between democracy and the other forms of government for example, military regime is the existence of the legislative arm of government. Otherwise, the executive and the judiciary have always been there.
After so many years of military rule, Nigeria successfully transited to a democratic civilian administration on May 29, 1999; a day that has been institutionalized and now celebrated as “Democracy Day”.No doubt, the system started on a shaky note especially with the turbulence and high turn-over in the leadership of the National Assembly, regarded as the symbol of democracy. The instability and incessant squabbles unarguably cast ominous doubts on our readiness for democratic civilian rule. Besides, the frosty relationship between the executive and the legislature did not give credence that Nigeria was prepared for the challenges of democracy.
In the first eighth years between 1999 and 2007, the House of Representatives produced three Speakers; Salisu Buhari, Ghali Na’abba and Aminu Bello Masari. In the same corresponding period, the Senate, otherwise called the Upper legislative chamber produced five Presidents of the Senate: Senator Evan (s) Enwerem ( June 1999–November 1999), Senator Chuba Okadigbo (November 1999— October 2000), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim (2000—2003), Senator Adolf Wabara (2003—2005) and Senator Ken Nnamani (2005—2007).
It is instructive to note that apart from Anyim and Nnamani, other Presidents of the Senate were booted out of office by their colleagues for alleged complicity in the administration or management of the office and other inexplicable reasons. To be sure, the reasons or otherwise of their removal are not the focal point of this piece . But suffice it to note that the Senate of that era was hamstrung on account of the high turn over in Leadership.
However, since 2007 when destiny entrusted the leadership of the Senate on Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark , the hitherto turbulent, unpredictable and unstable Upper legislative chamber has now assumed an entirely new architecture and character. In place of the restiveness that characterised the Senate, a sure-footed leadership has emerged and endured, giving room to the stability experienced in the past six years. Except destiny and probably a few with insight into his pedigree , no one gave Senator Mark a chance to succeed as President of the Senate.
Some were quick to recall that as a former military officer, he would not have the patience required to run the rather slow wheel of democracy; and therefore unsuitable for the seat.but as they say in popular parlance, all that is history now. By June 06,2013, Senator Mark will be six solid uninterrupted years on the saddle as the President of the Senate of Africa’s most populous country.
Six years on and still counting, Senator Mark has not only proved book makers wrong , he has in fact crashed existing records and set new standards . He has disappointed doubting Thomases . He has shown that his military and strategic training in management of human and material resources were worthwhile armour in the treacherous theatre of Nigerian politics.
Hate him or love him, the incontrovertible fact is that Senator Mark has earned the sobriquet of ‘Mr. Stability’ of the Nigerian polity. He has not only engendered stability in the Senate, nay National Assembly but more so in the wider the national polity. He has always stood up to be
counted when it mattered. An instance of note was Senator Mark’s invocation of the Doctrine of Necessity on February 9, 2010 , a timely intervention that rescued the ship of the Nigerian state that was tottering precariously on the precipice.
That master stroke was akin to Herbert Simon’s theory of bounded rationality, an idea that in decision making, rationality of individual is limited by the information at his or her disposal, the cognitive limitations of their minds and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision. It was proposed as an alternative basis for mathematical modeling of decision making as used in Economics and related disciplines.
It complements rationality as optimization, which views decision making as a fully rational process of finding an optimal choice given the information available. In the invocation of the Doctrine of necessity, Senator Mark had submitted ” we have examined all the options available to us and today rightly concluded that it is necessary to take this stand and allow the country to move forward. The intendment and spirit of the constitution as far as section 145 is concerned is that the legislature should have fool- proof and irrefutable evidence that Mr. President is going on vacation or is otherwise incapable, in the interim, of discharging the functions of his office”.
What Senator Mark and his colleagues did on that eventful day like Herbert Simon postulated, is that the decision maker is a ‘satisficer ‘, one seeking a satisfactory solution rather than optimal one. It is instructive to point out that satisfying model of decision making earned Herbert Simon a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1978.
In 2008, Senator Mark’s leadership shocked the nation when it returned N7billion Naira unspent fund to the treasury in line with late President Musa Yar’adua’s directive to ministries, departments and agencies to return all yet-to-be spent funds to the government coffers by November that year. Others may have done otherwise.
Besides, the harmonious relationship between and among Senators unarguably dismissed the initial idea of political party affiliation under the Senator Mark’s leadership. The hitherto kitchen cabinet that existed in the past, a recipe for suspicion and crisis has been dismantled for a one united family.
A few sceptics in 2007 had no choice than to appreciate the leadership qualities of Senator Mark.
Bills and motions which used to be encumbered by sectional or party interests have continued to be churned out of the mill because under Mark, the nation is the only constituency and the focal point of legislation is irrevocably the Nigerian people. Under him, the national Assembly gave fillip to freedom of speech and expression when it passed the freedom of information bill into law.
In 2007, Senator Mark was elected Senate President when he polled 69 votes to defeat his opponent,Senator George Akume who scored 39 . This was in spite of the conspiracy by the then Clerk to the National Assembly and his Deputy, Nasiru Arab and Yomi Ogunyomi respectively who paved way for Akume to contest in violation of the Senate Standing Rule order 97 (f) which
hitherto prevented freshermen Lawmakers from vying for the Principal Officers positions. Two ranking Senators; Nuhu Aliyu and Gbemi Saraki had stepped down to pave way for Akume to emerge. But the wishes of majority prevailed.
Section 97(f) of the Senate standing rules then stated ” nomination of Senators to serve as principal officers and Chairman of Committees or any parliamentary delegation shall be in accordance with the ranking of Senators in which member(s) previously elected into the Senate are granted precedence “,
In 2011, there was a dramatic but positive twist of history when the 109 Senators unanimously returned Senator Mark unopposed. For them, the verdict was that ‘you don’t change a winning team’. An emotion laden Mark on that occasion reminded his colleagues of the inevitability of togetherness and team spirit. According to him, the legislature is a collegiate system stressing ” we are as strong and as effective as the strength of our team work; team work within the Senate; team work with the House of Representatives for national legislative agenda; team work between National Assembly , the Executive and Judiciary; team work with state Assemblies for constitutional amendment”.
He added that the Senate will continue to identify and prioritize key areas where legislation is required for the rapid transformation of the economy and polity. Senator Mark assured ” We would also seek to strengthen the analytical capacity of the National Assembly as it relates to budgeting and oversight functions. Our target is that hopefully, this session of the National Assembly shall set a historic record by passing very critical legislations that would propel Nigeria to the 20 most advanced economies”.
His motto has been to be honest, fair, just and will always be guided by the constitution and with the fear of God in the discharge of his duties. The constitution of the standing committees in the Senate bears eloquent testimony of a fair and equitable management of human and material resources under Mark’s leadership.
Besides the Appropriation bills, the Senate under Mark has in the last two years passed 29 bills comprising 20 Executive bills and nine members (private) bills . Several other motions that have successfully intervened in our national polity have been passed. Other bills are at various stages of legislative attention.
Since 2000, Senator Mark floated ‘David Mark Scholarship Scheme’ (DMSS), for which no fewer than 15,000 students especially indigent ones have been awarded scholarship . At least about N200million Naira has been expended on the annual program.
He singlehandedly built and donated a multi- million Naira complex to the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Otukpo, Benue state study centre. For him, the best legacy to bequeath to the younger generation is education.
An 18 hole green golf course in his country home, Otukpo employs not less than 50 staff while Joy FM Radio station has about 70 staff members.His philanthropic gestures cut across ethnic and religious boundaries.
The Stability Senator Mark has brought to bear in the last six years in our national polity is not just happen stance. It is a product of good conscience, training, discipline and tenacity of purpose . He has proven beyond reasonable doubt, that he is a great asset and indeed a jewel of inestimable value to the National Assembly and the nation at large.
Paul Mumeh is the Chief Press Secretary to the Resident of the Senate.
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