Immediate-past Senate President, Senator David Mark (PDP Benue) has been battling with many troubles, ranging from political to corruption and financial crime allegations since the senate presidency slipped away from him in 2015.
Mark, who has been in the Senate since 1999, making him the most ranking Senator in the country, found himself as a ‘special guest’ of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) twice in a week.
He occupied the number three citizen position, the Senate President’s seat, for eight years (2007-2015) before the electoral misfortune of his party -the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), negated it after the 2015 elections.
Regarded as one of the most influential politicians in the fourth Republic, the Benue-born lawmaker has never had it this rough in his political career as since 2015, it has been from one trouble to another.
This former military administrator of Niger State and one-time Minister of Communication has lost his vibrancy in the Red Chamber.
STILL BATTLING WITH THE LOSS OF THE SENATE PRESIDENCY
About 30 months into the life of the Eighth Senate, Senator Mark is yet to fully recover from the shock of losing his seat.
Although he did not indicate interest in the contest for the Senate Presidency when the Senate was inaugurated in June 2015, his fall from the coveted seat to the floor as an ordinary member has made him a loner, keeping to himself in the chamber.
The once most powerful lawmaker is now one of the irregular personalities at the Upper Chamber. Senator Mark has not contributed to any debate on the floor and is not a member of any standing committee.
Since the inauguration of the Senate, he has only spoken once on the floor of the Senate when he led the debate on a bill to establish the Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo, Benue State. He’s the sponsor of the bill which is awaiting third reading and passage.
The Otukpo varsity bill has been the only major contribution of the once-vibrant lawmaker in this Assembly. He has no motion to his credit, even as he has never attended any committee hearing or meeting.
For the first time since 1999, the Benue lawmaker was absent for months at the Senate when his election was nullified in late November 2015. He staged a comeback in March when he defeated Daniel Onjeh of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PRESIDENTIAL AMBITION THREATENED
Barring any last minute change, Mark is said to have concluded plans to throw his hat into the ring for the 2019 presidential race under the PDP. He is one of the prominent presidential aspirants of the PDP.
Feelers around him said the ex-military administrator will use the occasion of his 70th birthday in April next year to declare his intention to vie for the presidency.
A source in the National Assembly said the date has been communicated to the key supporters of the Idoma politician and that underground mobilization is in top gear.
“I’m aware of it. It would be declared on his 70th birthday in Abuja and from there the campaign will commence,” the source said.
But this much nurtured ambition of Mark is being threatened by the return of former vice president Atiku Abubakar into the PDP fold. It is believed that Atiku, who is considered in the political circle as a ‘money bag politician’ possesses the machinery and structure to manipulate the party.
The emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as the National Chairman of the PDP against Professor Tunde Adeniran has also altered the permutation, as it is widely believed that he (Secondus) would work for Senator Ahmed Makarfi to clinch the presidential ticket of the PDP.
N2bn PDP LARGESSE TO SENATORS
Mark has a case at the EFCC over alleged payment of N2bn into the National Assembly account by the PDP for distribution to senators in 2010.
He appeared penultimate Friday at the headquarters of the EFCC over the N2bn PDP largesse to senators. He was grilled for over an hour on the alleged scandal.
Mark, in a statement by his media aide, Paul Mumeh, confirmed his appearance before the EFCC operatives. He said he honoured the EFCC’s invitation as a law-abiding citizen.
“Our attention has been drawn to media reports wherein it was reported that former President of the Senate Sen. David Mark was quizzed by EFCC over some alleged financial transactions.
“Curiously, they also alleged that the PDP paid over N2bn into the National Assembly’s account which he, as the then President of the Senate, allegedly shared among the 109 Senators (including PDP, ACN, and ANPP) in 2010. Again, tao the best of his knowledge, Sen. Mark is not aware of such transaction.
“This simply did not make sense to any right thinking member of the society. Senator Mark wonders why anybody would think that PDP will pay money into the National Assembly’s account. He however clarified all the issues raised before returning home,” he said.
OFFICIAL RESIDENCE PALAVER
More trouble giving the former Senate President sleepless nights is the move by the Federal government to snatch his official residence, which he acquired during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s era. The issue became public this week.
Without mincing words, the present administration has accused Mark of illegally acquiring his then official residence as his private property.
In September this year, the government, through the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, chaired by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, gave the former Senate President a 21-day notice to quit the mansion.
Mark had gone to a Federal High Court in Abuja, requesting that all steps taken by the panel to evict him and recover the house from him should be quashed.
Located on 1.6 hectares of land at 1 Musa Usman Street, (also known as No. 1 Chuba Okadigbo Street), Apo Legislative Quarters, Gudu, Abuja, the property comprises eight structures, made up of the main house, ADC/chief security detail’s house, guest chalet, security/generator house, boys quarters, security post, driver/servants’ quarters and chapel.
Mark is being accused of illegally acquiring the property with the approval of Jonathan despite that such property was excluded from the monetisation policy of the Federal Government.
But in a statement through Mumeh, Mark said he did not purchased his then official residence illegally.
Describing the allegation as spurious, contrived and baseless, he said that the EFCC or any other agent of government is chasing shadows because the property was duly offered for sale, bid for, and he purchased like any other person would in line with Federal Government’s Monetization Policy.
“I had the right of first refusal. Even if I did not purchase it, someone else would have. I am a law-abiding citizen. I did not flout any law.
“Curiously, four houses occupied by the then presiding officers of the National Assembly were offered to the occupants. All of us, me as the then President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his Deputy Bayero Nafada were all given the same offer.
“I am at a loss as to why it is now a subject of contention. If this persecution is about politics, my political party and the 2019 elections, I dare say that only God and Nigerians would decide. No amount of persecution would alter the will of God,” he said.
SEIZURE OF INTERNATIONAL PASSPORT
At the end of a 7-hour grilling at the EFCC on Monday, it was reported that the international passport of Senator Mark was seized by the anti-corruption agency before he was allowed to go on administrative bail.
Efforts to get Mark’s reaction through his media aide yielded no result as he said he was in a meeting when our correspondent phoned him, and he did not reply the text message sent to him.
Will Mark win the battle in the face of these many troubles? Only 2019 will tell.
culled: Daily Trust