By Dan Ekah
In consonance with his middle name, ‘Aleichenu’ which means ”unexpected” in Idoma language, the Makurdi Court of Appeal verdict was totally unexpected for a man who had straddled the politics of Idoma land, Benue State and Nigeria like a Colossus. For the first time, his dictum: ‘ ensure you are declared a winner by all means at the poll and leave the matter of courts and tribunals to me’ had failed him. David Mark is always cocksure that it is easier and tidier to win at the courts than at the polls. For four times, he had passed this route and scaled through. But this last time, he must be having sleepless nights wondering what he did wrong or what his spin man at the Tribunals, Ikonne, failed to do right!! He is, however, forgetting that nemesis reckons always from the corner, from an unexpected angle or what the Idoma calls Aleichenyan!
Since the court verdict, there has been an avalanche of reactions for and against David Mark. Most of those in support of the Senator have a tight rope to tread on and are merely posturing and sustaining a campaign of lies and false propaganda they even know cannot hold water. They have therefore initiated a smear campaign aimed at drawing sympathy for their fallen hero and equating him to the entire tribe through a network of social media, the Print media and Joy F.M. radio station Otukpo which is owned by David Mark himself. They are trying to whip up sentiments among the Idoma people stressing on Mark’s experience; status as former Senate President; so called achievements and mostly on the Tiv-Idoma divide. All it amounts to is a campaign driven by a man who has seen his political fortunes collapsing on every front. O! How are the mighty fallen!!
If David Mark has experience as a Senator, then it started in June 1999 when he went as a rooky and learned the ropes. He was not born as a senator or as the sole candidate of the Idoma people. When he was governor, there was no senate. Even before he was a senator, there were others who had been senators from Idoma land and even a senate president in the person of Distinguished Senator Ame Ebute. The other senators are Godwin Okpe from Okpoga and late Adejo Ogiri from Adoka. Ebute and Okpe are still alive and would have easily contested but have yielded the ground to Mark. He could therefore not claim ownership of the Senatorial seat based on experience or the mere evidence of being there as a nonperforming Senator!
Gabriel Olofu, a former Otukpo Local Government Caretaker Committee Chairman and Jandro Alex Aleji, an apologist of David Mark, believed that the verdict was enacted by enemies of David Mark and by extension Idoma people as personified by George Akume and his Tiv brothers. They believe returning D. Mark is the only barrier the Idoma can erect against the oppression of the Tiv. It is for this singular reason such campaigners want D.Mark back in the senate.
But for the past 16 years since the new political dispensation, has the Idoma fared better and has David Mark really fought or protected the Idoma cause in Benue State? The Idoma pathetic situation even worsened under David Mark than at any other time. It was David Mark who persistently and more than any Tiv man – dead or alive- that blocked the chances of the Idoma from becoming a Governor, a sore point that has always haunted him. If he were as strong as he was portended to be, he could have swung the primaries in favor of an Idoma aspirant at any time but he was a Lilliputian in Benue politics and he knows it.
It was David Mark who stopped General Lawrence Onoja in 2003 when he stood up for the re-election of George Akume. In 2007, his silence and refusal to endorse an Idoma candidate led to the loss of Mike Onoja. In 2011, he again blocked the coming out of an Idoma candidate just because he should be returned as Senate President, a position no Idoma can say he has gained from.
In fact after his retention as Senate President, he kicked out Hon Agbo Ogah and Doctor Mathew Oyinu who were his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff and excluded any Idoma person from his immediate cabinet. None of his Special Advisers who are equivalent of Ministers of State in the federal Republic of Nigeria throughout his tenure as Senate President for eight years was an Idoma or came from Benue. Even his Chief of Protocol was a secondary school teacher appointed by past Senate President Nnamani from Ebony State while his Special Adviser on Medical was the Igbo man appointed by the same Nnamani from Ebony State. Who then is the enemy of the Idoma people than Mark himself? Are there no qualified Idoma people? Is there no Igede person that is qualified to be a special adviser to the senate president when Mark was on the seat? Is there no Benue State indigene knowledgeable to occupy any of these seats? Let Mark answer us now.
Those campaigning for David Mark through the drumming of war cries and arousing sentiments of bad blood between the Tiv and Idoma are forgetful that they are setting the entire Benue State including their homeland on fire just for the sake of one man. They are forgetful that there is tomorrow when that one man is done with since no one has lived forever. The Kogi debacle should be a clear lesson. These campaigners have refused to acknowledge that the Tiv people even benefitted more from David Mark than the Idoma. In the eight years that David Mark reigned as Nigeria’s number three citizen, every good project that David failed to bring to his constituency and State were replicated even at a smaller level by the State Government in Tiv land. The wrong impression that David had cornered all federal appointments for Benue for the Idoma made the Idoma lose at the state level. Evidence abound that the percentage of Tiv employed in NAFDAC, EFCC, Human Rights Commission and many others were far greater than the percentage of Idoma engaged in parastatals or Ministries where Idomas were the head. The most lucrative contract awarded by the Ministry of Interior under Abba Moro was given to Mathias Buyan, a Tiv man from Gaav, Konshisha Local Government area of Benue state.
The Idomas should stop being hoodwinked by the notion that David Mark had stood as the Iroko or shed for them. He was in the same political party with Gabriel Suswam and as the number three man in government when the evil-minded Suswam refused to pay Contractors for Otobi Water Works rehabilitation and Otukpo and its environ had no water for three years! David Mark could not persuade ordinary Suswam to do something or even get Jonathan to talk to Suswam over this matter because of his perpetual indifference to the plight of his people. Thank God, the same water denied the people by Mark and Suswam was restored within one week of the assumption of office by the Ortom/Abounu APC administration. Those hacking for David Mark also drinks this water today!!
Adakole Elijah, another apologist of D. Mark believed Dan Onjeh is an implant of George Akume and that Dan’s victory at the Appeal Court is a disservice to Idoma land. Adakole who was a special assistant to Mark when he was Senate President also claimed Mark has achieved a lot and listed some of such achievements as the Oju-Otukpo-Oweto road; Otobi Water Dam; construction of Primary schools across the district; several water projects and scholarship to over two thousand students. A cursory examination of some of these so-called achievements will further expose the lies and false propaganda being dished out.
First, the Oju-Otukpo-Oweto road project was not initiated by David Mark. It was started during the military era. David Mark cashed in on the project and turned it into a conduit pipe for siphoning public funds and that was why for seventeen years since it was initiated, the road has remained uncompleted. The bills rose from 22b to 36b and finally 51 billion in the wee hours of Jonathan’s departure from office. Given the amount of funds allotted the project, it should have long been completed. Also, given the so-called interest, David Mark and his stooges claimed he had shown on the project, no President or Minister could have thwarted its progress and early completion.
The same fate has also befallen the Otobi Dam project which initially was awarded for 17 billion naira in 2012 and was to have been completed in eighteen months. Today, it is still in its foundation level and at just land clearing stage because work had been stalled for lack of funds. As a matter of fact, no one is being allowed close to the site these days. It is also being alleged that the cost was reviewed upwards and the review money of thirty (30) billion naira was shared between David Mark on one hand, the Ministry of Water Resources on another hand and the contractor, SGC as the third partner. There are virtually no other water projects in Zone C that had been completed except the one at Akpegede which was built to service the Saint Mark Golf Course. To worsen the situation, D. Mark imported crocodiles which have hindered the local people from accessing the water at the Akpegede Dam. Secondly, that dam is seen more as a curse than a blessing since farmlands around it are usually flooded during rainy season!
If the Oweto road and bridge, as well as the Otobi Dam projects; alone had been completed, the story about Idoma land would have been different today, but David Mark fleeced our singular opportunity to break through our impoverishment.
During his first ever constituency briefing at Otukpo on the 23rd of December, 1999, David Mark made several pledges and renewed his electoral campaign promises which 16 years after have remained unfulfilled!! Among such promises was the establishment of Ado Cement Plant which he said would cost him about twenty million naira then and would be completed within two years. Are those two years yet to mature? He also promised the establishment of a cottage industry in each of the nine local government areas. Can someone show us just one established through David Mark?
Now that Mark’s Party, the PDP is not the ruling party and Mark is no longer on seat as Senate President and worst still, that Mark became Chairman, Siddon look Committee prior to his timely removal by the Court of Appeal, how would any reasonable Idoma man or woman think David could influence the completion of these projects! Who would David Mark if ever he should be returned run to? Is it President Buhari who David rubbished through the coup at the Senate? Everyone knows that the present political logjam at the National Assembly is D. Mark’s handiwork.
THE NOOSE AROUND MARK’S NECK;
The noose around Mark’s neck was already tightening even before the Court of Appeal judgment. He was already a recluse in Otukpo and Abuja. He already knew the time was up but as a soldier he had to keep the Spartan face!
David and the leaders of Idoma land know that the verdict has nailed his political coffin. Everyone knows that it would be a herculean task for David to scale through any elections despite the huge amount of money he is ready to pump in because of his realization of the poverty level of the people. Three days after the court verdict, his campaign team started sharing rice, salt and wrappers across the district. He also initiated the construction of four streets in Otukpo Township through the Lower Benue River Basin Authority. The construction is being supervised by an Executive Director at the River basin, Owoicho Abel.
These efforts are seen as stop-gap measures aimed at hoodwinking the populace. But everyone knows that the factors that have helped David Mark in the past no longer exist. These factors include the Senate Presidency; the Party in power syndrome; APA state; the Tiv Idoma dichotomy usually coached as George Akume factor and many others.
During the 2011 elections, the entire Idoma people stood up for the sustenance of David Mark in the Senate on the grounds that he would retain the Senate Presidency. This he did but what tangible gains did the Idomas or Benue State achieve from his presidency of the senate?
An Abuja based legal practitioner, Alexander Oketa believes the Idoma gained nothing. He says “the office of the Senate President provides express membership of the ‘Boardroom’ of Nigeria where major decisions on the development of the Country are hatched and executed. It was, therefore, a rare privilege and opportunity for Idoma, nay Benue State, to have one of its own inside that room but for eight years, David Mark frittered away that opportunity and failed to attain any tangible gains from that exclusive membership he held on our behalf”.
Today, David Mark is not and cannot be the Senate President anymore. After the fatal loss suffered by his Party, the PDP, David Mark returned to first class floor member without any portfolio, not even as a Committee Chairman or member of the Senate. He has also sat for the past six months deaf, dumb and daft. By these acts, David’s stay in the Senate was no longer worth it since he would not contribute to issues raised, discussed and concluded that could affect all of us.
Our votes and precious representation was being wasted before the merciful court verdict that would free us from such a situation. If ever David Mark is returned to the Senate, how would the Idoma fare in consideration of his passive stance which would not change. It would have been better we have no-one there than to have a ‘siddon look’ Senator!
THE GEORGE AKUME FACTOR:
Those angling for David Mark have erroneously hinged their success on the whipped up sentiments of a Tiv-Idoma divide. They have argued that without David Mark, the Idomas would be decimated from the political scene of Benue and Nigeria. They fear that Dan Onjeh is a lackey of Senator George Akume who would be in the Senate to’ service’ Akume. These people forgot that David Mark also had serviced George Akume when in 2003 he fought the entire Idoma to ensure Akume got his second term as governor of Benue State. He further entrenched his service and loyalty to Akume when he ensured the victories of Gabriel Suswam handpicked by Akume in 2007 and 2011. Were those services protecting the Idoma from the Tiv?
Did David also not benefit from Akume? As Senate Minority Leader in the 7th Assembly, Akume worked dutifully to ensure Mark’s success as Senate President. For the past four years, Mark had no hiccups unlike his predecessors because Akume who had the arsenals to ruffle him did not do so. The opposition under Akume’s leadership was so benevolent to Mark’s leadership that he felt he has become second to god and no-one can undo him. A writer on David Mark Solidarity Forum created by Alex Aleji, Mr Micheal Maddoxman Okwori urged the Idoma to “forget all these lies that David Mark is the only Idoma man who can stand up to the Tiv. Has that put food on your table? Has that given us water and good roads? 16 years allowance to develop Idoma land….yet Otukpo Hospital is smelling. Go and find out what Ekweremadu has done with his allowance in developing his Senatorial District”.
APA STATE CREATION:
The crave for a state of their own has always endeared the Idoma people to whoever they believe could make it possible. They erroneously thought David is the answer. But after 16 years that trust is gradually waning. According to Ene Obekpa in a post on her timeline, ‘our brains seem obsolete that we believe in David Mark as the only god who can create something out of nothing’. She has the collaboration of Maddoxman Okwori who said Davis Mark could be a great man who many fear to criticize but he is not our God. He asks” Are we really satisfied with no development but just hoping he will give us APA State? He has since built APA State for himself and his family. Trust me, keep waiting for APA…” David Mark has ample opportunity to make APA a realty even before he became a senator and when he was senate president but blatantly refused to do so.
When Ibrahim Babangida was creating states, David was one of his closest confidants and among the IBB boys. He could have persuaded Babangida to create APA and that issue would have been history. But he failed for reasons best known to him. Emmanuel Adama says David has never valued the Idoma person and land and, therefore, would not think about such notions,
Secondly, when he was senate president, the Nigerian constitution was amended three times. His close confidant and deputy, Ekweremadu as chairman constitution review committee had revealed that it would be impossible for any new state to be created unless the relevant sections in the present constitution are amended. David had the opportunity of convincing his colleagues to make such amendment but he just plainly refused because he would not benefit alone which is his pastime.
PARTY IN POWER SYNDROME:
Today, the bet is on whether David Mark will truly agree to contest the rerun election. David himself had boastfully said there is no other party apart from the PDP in Zone C and as a result, he would win if the elections hold a hundred times!
He based his claim rightly on the fact that the four House of Representatives seats in the zone is occupied by PDP members, and ten out of the eleven State House of Assembly members are PDP. He has however forgotten that the circumstances when the 2015 elections were held have changed and are therefore different from the present situation he has found himself. Then, the PDP held sway in Benue with the Governor under the PDP, Local Government helmsmen also PDP members and all the legislators at national and state level also in his party. He also has a large number of government appointees who must stand by him and for the party. Then the current ruling party, APC, was in opposition and almost nonexistent in zone C. David Mark was also in control of government machinery such as the Police. The Police are no longer his easy tool as his stogies particularly the former Area Commander and CSP Francis Obingwa, the Divisional Police Officer for Otukpo have been moved out of the zone. Even the thugs he had used to intimidate opponents under the camouflage of vigilante and Idoma Youth Vanguard are now dismembered and in disarray. To worsen his situation, the leadership of the PDP in Zone C is crumbling with the increasing decamping of prominent members who have to show their new party that they are still relevant and capable.
THE LONG KNIVES
David Mark has never had a smooth run for his seat in the Senate and he knows that this rerun will be the time for those after him to draw out their long knives. It is payback time and there are many who have waited patiently for such a time.
David who has shown an unforgiving spirit would also not expect those with grudges against him to forgive him at a time he needed mercy more than anything. They like Shylock will demand their pound of flesh from David Mark. Many of them are praying that he should come out and present himself for a trashing. On that day, we shall remember David’s cry in 2Sam1:27: How do the mighty fallen and the weapons of war perish!
Then we shall acknowledge the sun set for the great man. We shall see a new horizon for the Idoma as a Daniel shall come to judgment. A young and vibrant Daniel that would erase our tears and ensure the completion of all federal projects abandoned through the greed of the wiry Mark. We shall see a Daniel that would bring healing to the estranged people of Benue South where everyone is currently made to distrust the other. Aluta for the new light coming into Idoma land!!
Dan Ekah is former Editor-In-Chief, Power Steering Power Magazine