By Maurice Tsav
There is currently a political dislocation in the Southern axis of Benue State with grave implications for people of the constituency. The disquiet is understandable; hence, an illustrious son of the state from Benue South senatorial district, Distinguished Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark has had his fifth serial senatorial electoral victory quashed by the Appeal Court in Makurdi.
Mark has represented the senatorial district in the Red chamber of the National Assembly (NA) since the return of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999. And in the last eight years, Mark rose to the pinnacle of National Assembly leadership as
President of the Senate and chairman of the National Assembly. And for the years he led the National Parliament, he displayed an uncommon political astuteness and sagacity in handling inherently explosive national problems to the admiration Nigerians.
His restoration of peace, calmness, and unity of purpose in the management of the affairs of National Assembly, hitherto famed for its banana peels syndrome, which habitually dethroned its leaders, disarmed even his most ardent critics. Yet, he came on board at a time Nigeria faced potentially destructive issues ever known to her history. Many have confessed to Mark’s foresight and leadership courage in anchoring decisions that extricated the country which was on the brink of implosion.
While Mark‘s exploits and enduring imprints on national leadership lasted, his immediate constituency also counted the bounties of his representation in uncountable ways. As an effective legislator, he lobbied and influenced the siting of virtually all federal projects accruing to Benue state in his senatorial district, in addition to his numerous constituency projects in the provision of social infrastructure/amenities.
Facilitating the enlistment of his constituents into the Military and para-military establishments as well as other federal appointments were tasks the parliamentarian considered sacrosanct and uninfringeable for his people. It is evidently clear, that he never reneged or hedged at any point to go the extra mile to accomplish these missions, to the bewilderment of his other co-senators from Benue.
Unknowingly, his actions attracted anger and tantrums from his rival Senators from the Tiv area, who groped in the dark and advertised a shocking helplessness to impact on their constituents or to effectively harness the gains of their mandates. And the tales never changed, even when the people kept changing these slothful representatives in droves, but Mark waxed stronger.
Benue North West senatorial district has had Senators JKN Waku, Late Dr. Joshua Adagba, Fred Orti and the incumbent, George Akume saddled with the burden of representation at various times. Similarly, for Benue North East, Senators Daniel Saror, Col. Joseph Akaagerger (rtd) and the incumbent, Chief Barnabas Gemade have knotted the shoes of representation.
In fact, Gemade disappointedly and effeminately confessed this feebleness in the midst of peers during his mid-term report on his first tenure. Gemade, a former Secretary of works (Minister) twice national chairman of political parties (CNC and PDP), a reputable engineer and former Managing Director of BCC, piteously admitted to Mark’s unbeatable prowess in cornering all federal appointments’ allotted to Benue at the expense of his constituents. The pedigree of Akume, Saror and Akaagerger is no less weighty. Arguably, these are very big names in the political cesspool of the state, especially from Tiv nation. But it is baffling and somewhat of a mystery how even with their combined forces, a lone Mark perpetually outsmarts them to carve rewarding paths for his constituents while they swim in utmost awe upon realization. Mark’s splendid performance has continued to haunt these representatives’ at the heels of every general election.
Candidates for the senatorial contest, especially those angling for re-election from Zone’s “A” and “B” are often embarrassingly assailed by their constituents with Marks positive performance as the fulcrum of assessment. They are usually befuddled, as no sufficient explanation has been advanced till now.
Inside of their gargantuan stature and impressive profiles, but ineffective brains, the obliteration of Mark on the political scene of Benue is the only secured remedy to their suppressed performance and the embarrassments they intermittently face on the electoral turf on account of his overbearing shadows. This laid the template for the series of fruitless plots and gang-up to unseat Mark since 2007. But at every point, such plots crumble before daybreak.
Therefore, Mark’s fifth-time senatorial electoral victory was presumably his constituents’ token of appreciation to him. It, therefore, dismayed multitudes when the appellate court voided Mark’s victory.
The Appeal panel ordered a re-run election in all parts of Benue South. Earlier, the Legislative Petitions Tribunal in Makurdi had upheld Mark’s 2015 electoral victory, despite protestations about alleged flawed polls from his main challenger in the race. The candidate of the then opposition APC, (now ruling party) Daniel Onjeh, who braved the odds to challenge Mark at the polls cried foul upon INEC’s declaration of Mark as the winner of the ballot.
He proceeded to the Tribunal but was again flogged out by Mark, as it upheld his victory. Dissatisfied, Onjeh proceeded to the terminal point of litigation by appealing the verdict of the Lower Tribunal over the electoral mandate accorded Mark. And the battle has spread tentacles.
However, the array of external political gang-up against Mark is known to many Benue Southerners in the light of the current electoral logjam. But expectedly, a few in their midst have conveniently chosen to ignore this element in Mark’s temporary electoral setback. They are belatedly being prodded to clasp the infusion of deep-seated anti-Idoma sentiments from the backyard in the battle to unseat Mark.
These anti-Idoma sentiments are widely expressed beyond the confines of the senatorial district for the same reasons explicated earlier in this piece. It explains why drums of jubilations resonated in most parts of Tiv land, especially in Annune when news of the sacking of Mark went viral. His sack is manifestly a minus for the Idomas, but a plus for the lazy politicians from other parts of the state who have unashamedly tied their political impotence and representative incompetence to Mark’s hindrance.
The present instance is the farthest in the effort to rankle Mark. But he has never relented his decorous resistance to such moves by calmly deflating the power of forces against his people through their support. Armed with this overwhelming base support, explains his optimism to partake in the re-run election and emerge victoriously.
Mark himself is not oblivious of the fountain of these external forces against him. That Mark’s constituency scholarship gesture is extended to Tiv candidates in Benue West and Benue North East senatorial districts are part of the courtship of the restive interests in order to appease them over the Idoma cause. But it seems, these gestures are not appreciated, as ‘Sinners seek to scold Saints.”
A trace of the tracks of these anti-Idoma elements in plots to diminish Mark and undermine his people has seen the hoodwinking and sponsorship of some highly placed Idoma sons to wrest power from him. Before now, the likes of Alhaji Usman Abubakar (aka Young Alhaji) and Gen. Lawrence Onoja (rtd), Chief Mike Onoja were arrowheads of these plots. Even in 2015, Mike Onoja was beckoned onto the stage, for the APC senatorial ticket when he lost out in PDP, but declined the offer out of a phobia.
The former student unionist, Daniel Onjeh had earlier confronted the PDP political machinery led by Mark at the polls in 2011 on the platform of the defunct ACN, but could not stretch his shadows beyond his doorstep, before he was compelled to eat the humble pie of defeat. Like in 2011, Onjeh’s emergence in 2015 for the APC senatorial ticket was perceived more as inheriting an abandoned ticket.
But his chances enhanced with the widespread disenchantment with the then ruling PDP in the last general elections. Yet, on the turf, there was no serious impact. But that Onjeh has pursued the matter to Appeal Court, paying through the expensive legal process in Nigeria bespeaks of external shadows behind his quest. Curiously, the appellate court did not hinge its cancelation of the entire polls based on the validity of cast votes, but on misplacement of date, a clerical error. This is food for thought for the APC apologists.
And quite interesting too, Governor Samuel Ortom through his SSA on Media, Mr. Terver Akase was quick to issue a statement to deny influencing the judgment against Mark, even though he was never accused of doing so from Mark’s camp. But Mark in his usual manner has taken it lightly but wondered why the Governor would be running when nobody is chasing him. These salient points about the judgment and its post-events speak of nothing, but pre-determined efforts to hit back at Mark.
Benue South senatorial district is preparing for the re-run ballot soon, but the merriments in Annune over Mark’s sack is not only detrimental to Onjeh and the APC in the state, but the action has further devalued his candidature in the eyes of his constituents.
Again, the PDP enraged the people, but the APC government in the state has not shown any better performance against the PDP in the last six months as evident in the manner it handled the disbursement of the bailout funds, especially for council workers and primary school teachers.
Thus, Idoma nation has come to the painful realization of the anti-Idoma elements outside of its ancestral heritage beating the drums for Onjeh’s electoral dance with an evil agenda against his Idoma people. The Idoma people have adjudged these externally questionable elements as desperately scouting for Mark’s replacement in someone who is pliable to their suppression and would be deployed as their stooge or errand boy since Mark is a difficult nut to crack.
Also, the Idoma nation has assessed the current congregation of Senators’. And they have noticed that the legislators are Nigeria’s senior citizens, who are accomplished men and women in business, politics or reputable and respected professionals that have convened in the Senate, much like their counterparts from other parts of Benue. But where to peg an Onjeh in the Senate in comparison with them for the anticipated positive impact on his constituents is the greatest headache at the moment. It explains why his popularity and that of the APC is fast losing steam in the area.
At the moment, Mark’s hard work has etched the Idoma ethnicity on the psyche of Nigerians, and it is easier for any Nigerian, anywhere to recognize Benue state as a state exclusively for the Idomas. It is sometimes embarrassing that once anyone identifies himself as a Benue indigene, the next question his interrogator asks is “Are you Idoma?” Yet, this is a state which has the Tiv ethnic group in millions and two senators, but the Tiv tribe is gradually being blighted in social circles and on Nigeria’s map of ethnic groups based on Mark’s projection of his people.
Besides, Benue South enjoy federal projects like the Oweto road and Loko bridge, the multi-billion naira Owukpa Coal Power Plant, NOUN Study Center, Otukpo and a Federal University Otukpo, (reverted recently to a College of Health Sciences, after a visit to President Buhari by Sen. Akume and Gov. Ortom), the multi-purpose dam with a hydro component, capable of generating electricity to the entire Benue South and environs, among others. He has also railroaded the path for the appointment of Idoma sons and daughters as cabinet ministers.
Mark’s struggle for the elevation of his people went to the extent of even subjecting the majority Tiv in Benue to the junior ministerial portfolio. There is no way Senators of Tiv ancestry can excuse themselves of dormancy in representation, with these realities and the bottled-up anger of their constituents would soon explode on them. So, the only way to halt the string of achievements of Mark is to clip his wings and shut him out of political relevance.
The list is endless. But it’s worthy to recount that in 2007, under the Yar’Adua presidency, out of the 12 chairmanships of federal boards, agencies or parastatals conceded to Benue state, Mark bargained and snatched nine of these chairmanship slots for the people of Benue South. Both Zones “A” and “B” were left with three slots, yet Akume and Senator Akaagerger represented the senatorial districts on the same party platform with Mark and the President.
It is this powerfulness of Mark they want to dubiously checkmate to conceal their weakness that has sprouted plots to sponsor his ouster. It is also to prematurely terminate his political career, hence he nurses further and higher political ambitions like them. Only a fool hates another man for loving his people.
And what the external forces against Mark seek to achieve will surely boomerang because it lacks genuine intentions. To market the dummy that Mark has not fulfilled his promise of creating Apa state is the height of ignorance and mischief. No state has been created in Nigeria to the exclusion of Apa state. Nigerians generally kicked against the idea of adding more states to existing ones, yet Mark kept pushing for Constitution amendment until the tenure of the Senate expired.
And his antagonists know that creation of states in a democracy is not the prerogative of one man, if it were possible, Apa state would have long breath the earth.
But obviously, the Idoma people are wiser now. They have unambiguously decoded the evil intentions of the masked personalities, who are envious of their treasure in Mark and have hatched discreet plots to dethrone him to enslave and make the Idoma nation vulnerable to political isolation. And they are clearly determined to unanimously assert once more that Mark remains the bastion till 2019.
And the vow of the people of Benue South to ever queue behind Mark stems from the undisputed reality that as indigenes of Benue state, they cannot become governors, Speaker of the State Assembly or even State Chief Judge in their own state. But they have regained the positions they have lost in the state at the federal level and Mark, no doubt, is the architect of these accomplishments for his people. It is, therefore, nonsensical for any gang-up of whatever disguise to think of uprooting Mark by foul means until God Almighty decrees otherwise.
The people of Benue South are determined to chorus once more that “Sinners cannot scold Saints.”
Source. IPN NEWS