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Why I dumped priesthood for politics – Benue Gov

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Why I dumped priesthood for politics - Benue Gov
Benue State governor, Hyacinth Alia
Politics, many would say, is a game. To a few others, however, it is not only a serious business, it is a social contract between a political office holder and voters that elected them into office. Benue State governor, Hyacinth Alia, a catholic priest who has been in the saddle for 10 months, shared his experience in Government House with reporters in Makurdi

• Reason some people call me Mr 25

• Says Tinubu deserves national applause for his tough choices

What informed your decision to drop priesthood for a part in the murky waters of politics?

Many people have asked similar questions. But the one that thrilled me most was Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State, who taunted me at a time, asking why I temporarily left the cassock to take on the headache of governance.  I told him that the answer is quite simple. The church generally has an aim, which is to save souls. The church does not want people to be lost.  The aim of my coming into partisan politics is exactly to fulfill that purpose.  I came in to save the poor masses of Benue.

Before my advent into partisan politics, too many things were wrong. I had lived a functional 33 years as a priest with my locals. I’ve been in the trenches with them, and the people I love working for the most are the destitute, the poor masses, those who do not have a voice in our society, who are oppressed, suppressed and neglected. God loves everyone and He does not want anybody, particularly the vulnerable groups in any society, abandoned and lost. These are the people that I felt were never cared for.

How would you describe Benue at the time you took over as governor?

When I took over, I met the state in a pitiable condition. Pensioners were regarded as dead people; they were not remembered. Their entitlements were not paid for years. Local government teachers and the rest of the civil servants were nearly totally forgotten. My father was a local government teacher and I felt his pains when his entitlements were not given to him.

The state, since its creation, was just a glorified village. We didn’t even have light on the streets in the state capital.  Our internal roads were minimally tarred. So many things were not just in place. Benue has more ghost schools and workers than the real ones. You come into the state capital, Makurdi, and it is like you come into a village.  I felt there was a need for us to change that narrative.

But the church stood against your ambition and consequently suspended you from priesthood…

The church is not against her priests joining partisan politics.  Where it is a case of plurality of parties, the church will hold her reservation. But at the same time, there is a leeway that if the church judges that the society is too dysfunctional and that the only person to salvage the situation is a priest, then the church is given that allowance. Someone can spring up via the church to save the rest of the people.

Not many people understand this, and this is why I had to come in and save the souls. We had to take care of the human beings that are out there.

You have had about 10 months in the saddle. What would you say your administration has been able to do?

Since we came in, we’ve been caring for the human beings in the state.  We have been trying to fix several dysfunctional sectors. The first thing we did was introduce a policy of meritocracy, meaning you only earn or get what you earn.  And having understudied the system in the last 10 months, we were able to record huge financial shift.

We are constructing roads to boost our agricultural market and food production. One of the areas we are looking at is improving the public primary schools.  Can you imagine the primary school I attended having only a teacher with dilapidated infrastructure? That is a replica of many primary schools in the rural areas. We’re talking about the future of Benue, the future of Nigeria.

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These are vulnerable groups who can’t fight for themselves; we need to fight for them. It is like fighting for democracy, which does not just happen; it has to be fought for. To ensure that the schools are working, there must be infrastructural traction and functionality. This is what we have been doing since we came in.

When we fight for democracy, then we’ll be fighting against food insecurity that exists because farmers are on the farms and encouraging them to go into mechanized farming. I came in to assure them that God loves them in a way they can have their liberality of thoughts, they can know that they and their children owe the future.

So, I came in so that the state will have the fullness of democracy and the fullness of life. People need to understand that government is an opportunity to protect peoples’ lives and ensure that the people go back to their agrarian society.

On May 29 last year, you promised massive infrastructural development and later declared a state of emergency on infrastructure.  With the challenging economy, do you think you would be able to deliver on your projection?

We had declared a state of emergency on our infrastructure. Our primary schools were in decay. We had weeded out ghost schools in that unit. Benue had more ghost workers.  For instance, we had these ghost schools with 95 teachers and the least teacher was on Grade Level 10. This had been on for a very long time. Can you imagine what the state had been losing to that alone?

So, what we did was that we were able to save N1.4 billion the first month we came on board. By the second month, we saved over N2 to 3 billion from ghost workers alone. We then shifted into the civil service where we saw some other things.  The state had more casual staff than the permanent staff. These casual staff were paid between N10,000 and N15,000 a month. The entire ministry of works didn’t have up to 12 staff. This was quite unheard of. We had to weed out some of them and it is just now that we are coming to terms with reality. That is what we are doing. By this, we were able to fine-tune the system to work.

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In terms of infrastructure, we are an agrarian state and over 80 per cent of the people here are farmers. But unfortunately, they were never incentivised to be the best they would be on the farms.  So, we set out to do the roads that could lead from their farms to the market squares and back here to the centre.  I’m glad to tell you that in the last few months, we have fixed 16 roads and we’re at the point of unveiling another 31 street roads within the capital city, Makurdi.

At the same time, other contractors are working on rural roads across the state where we have most of our food production, because that is where we want the impact to be first felt.

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There are talks that you give contractors 70 per cent up front, which is unprecedented in Nigeria. What is the guarantee that these contractors will deliver on their projects?

Yes, we wrote down that 70 per cent be given to them, which we do on installments basis. We decided to be doing this to arrest the challenges of inflation and foreign exchange. For the records, we do not give 70 per cent at a go.

Let me also inform you that many of our contractors are locally sourced. These contractors have built themselves up and also because we have received other testimonials from other states. But with the agreement to sign with them, there’s no way any of them can perform below expectation. And where we sense that, we’ll hold them by the jugular. It is not as if we just give them the contracts.

It is not true that we give them 70 per cent. But because the State Executive Council said 70 per cent should be given to them because of inflation, it is segmented. That is why most contractors are scrambling for Benue State. And those who took projects and money and didn’t do the work, their day is coming as we are counting for them.  They’ll have some questions to answer on why they took jobs they didn’t do.

What steps are you taking to address the security situation in your state, especially in the rural areas?

Before we were ushered in on May 29, 2023, the security reports on our insecurities were horrible. It is also on record that hundreds of people were being killed in one local government area. Before you took that to heart, you heard of another one. We had tonnes of these deaths on our hands. But since we came in, it is on record that there has been relative peace. How do we know the indices? By the same security apparatus that we have and by the reports we get from our vigilantes, forest guards and other security apparatus who are working in sync with the security of our people.

By the situation report we receive every day, we are able to measure that. Overall, we have relative peace. But at the same time, relative peace does not mean we have absolute peace.

But there are still reports of attacks and killings in the state…

It is true that we have had pockets of attacks in recent times. What we discovered was that of late, we had a large influx of armed herders that flocked in some local government areas of the state. These local governments are prone to insecurity because they share borders with a number of states.

Despite your achievements in a few months and to the delight of many Benue residents, there are still dissenting voices in your party against your administration. What are the issues?

Well, in every administration, you expect those who oppose you. I came in with a plan to rebuild our state. Some people are at their best when there is a crisis, and there are some political leaders who dug a hole and kept everyone in the state down there and they don’t want anyone to see the light of day. There were no infrastructure and no one knew where the monies given to the state were going to. They did not better anyone’s lives; they took care of their individual families. We have a conscience and a report card we must present to the people. So, if a select few say they are in charge of the state and that before development comes, they must know, when FAAC allocations come, it must be given to them first, who does that?  It is not for anyone to be inciting the masses against the government.

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Who gains more if all the political gladiators come together with ideologies that will take the state forward? It is regressive for anyone to be thinking of sharing the state’s money.  That would not work at all. This is what some of them have been doing that has not taken us anywhere.  Benue, though created in 1976, is far behind on all fronts.

Look at Nasarawa that was just created, can we consider the development in that state with what we have in Benue? Everywhere in Lafia its capital city is lit up, structures have come up. The people brought me to the seat, they ensured that I present to them the merits of democracy. They voted me on trust. Let all political gladiators come up with ideologies and not dysfunctionality that will consume everyone. So, for those who want the state’s money to be shared with them, sorry, that can’t happen anymore. This has been the practice for more than two decades and where has that taken us?  I feel it is just high time everybody got on board with me.

Besides, I have my character and reputation and I came into this game with a defined intention to work with and for the people and accommodate everyone. That is what we will continue to do, because at the end of it all, I am going to be responsible for everything. I am for the people, with the people and working for them. The people of Benue gave me their trust.

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You campaigned and won the election on APC’s ticket.  Should there not be a well-defined arrangement to take care of party machinery?

I am not denying the understanding of doing what we should do by taking care of our statesmen. We have been doing that. I am a moderate person, it will be childish of me to go on television and say we are giving money to some people.  And as much as the law allows us, we will continue to do the needful.

My predecessor plunged Benue into a huge debt hanging on my head.

It is disheartening to know that few indigenes of the state want to be known as Benue APC and they want all the funds in the state to be handed over to them. If that is done, can the state function that way? For us, we consider the masses and that is why you see all the projects going on in the state, and we will continue on that path. Anything short of that will be detrimental to the state and I am not prepared to settle for less.

Those who criticise every policy we bring out are the beneficiaries of the dysfunctional system.  These are cohorts who move in their own gangs.  These are social media bandits and we need to get rid of them by executing the projects we had promised to do that will benefit everyone. Some of these people come to me privately to hail me but when they come, I say to them to make their kudos known to the public. Some of them take it as a business.

It is in the news that you have a frosty relationship with the Secretary to the Federal Government, Senator George Akume. Will this not affect the party and the state?

As regards my relationship with the SGF, Senator George Akume, for the records, I don’t have any differences with him. He was the leader of the APC in the state and he ensured that everything was done for me to win, and we won. There is no way I will talk ill of him or complain. He was the one encouraging me to break all the records of my predecessor. I am also happy when I read where Akume said that he has no problem with me. We don’t have issues.  But then, it is granted that social media is a new world on its own where some miscreants flourish.

Some people accuse me of pinching Benue money. They say I run the state like I ran the church. I hear them saying that since the church does not have money, priests are already used to money pinching. They are not happy with me because they expected me to keep the state’s treasury open for everyone to take what they can. If that is the grouse, I thank the church for giving me such discipline. Without the pinching, you cannot rule a state like Benue.  I feel that if we consider the masses, APC will do great things for this state. I can tell you authoritatively that everybody is benefiting from the programmes and projects we are doing.

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If you say you and the SSG have no differences, what about several court cases against Benue APC that made the national leadership of the party to order withdrawal of all litigations?

For the records, I never took the APC to court. So, the letter is not talking about me. Those who are working for the APC in the state have not taken the party to court. Let me be clear on this.

Are you not distracted?

I am not distracted in any form or fashion because I came into the bidding of the party and above all, the people. We are executing that script as planned, so, there are no distractions whatsoever, and that is why I am doing the work I am doing. In some places, you hear people calling me Mr. 25 because their salaries are being paid on the 25th of each month. People need to understand the stability of governance, they worked for it and they earned it. Why should they be denied?

NLC is agitating for a pay rise. Is Benue prepared to key into the new minimum wage demand?

We are prepared. As one of the sub-nationals, why can’t we be in sync with what the entire nation is doing? We must and I am prepared to go for that. Once the minimum wage is agreed upon, we must also follow. So far, salaries are being paid and we are doing well with the payment of pensions of the people as well. Their lives are back and I am willing to do more for them.

What have you done to better the lots of workers with Benue Links Transportation Company?

We met nothing on ground, I mean total zero. Those who owned Benue Links before May 29, 2023, were individual private persons. They brought in a few of their buses that used to be known as a fleet for the company. Benue Links had no cars.  When we came in, we saw the need to revamp the establishment. With our location as a state, people come into the state from all directions. So, we need to ease the movement of people who need to go to other parts of the country. This was why we did some investment by buying 100 buses at a time and thank God, it was effective. We subsidised that so that the fuel subsidy removal will not have any effect on the people. I was happy with the result. I am happy that the buses are running to a good number of states.  The establishment is trying to do some addition that will encourage competition towards improving our transportation and I’m looking up to that.

You have embarked on several infrastructural projects. How are you sourcing the fund? Also, your predecessor was owing workers, have you been able to clear the debts?

Though we met a huge debt, we have been able to invest in health, roads, and some other infrastructure. Unfortunately, we have not been able to offset the arrears because it runs into hundreds of billions of naira. I cannot take care of that now, but what I have done is to take care of their salaries. Under my watch, our civil servants will not lose any of their salaries.

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With the pensioners, their situation was more critical, but we are trying to take care of the pensions and continue to scale down. Governance deals with prioritization.

In the medical sector, we have invested heavily in our teaching hospital.  We also gave some form of incentive to our medical personnel and the student population there, many of whom we are encouraging to give back to the state.  We were the first to take care of the medical doctors’ residency last year. So, we understand that many doctors are now longing for Benue to hire them. We’ll give similar attention to general hospitals and clinics in the local governments.

Government is an opportunity where the unemployed will be given some form of training and exposure to acquiring skills.

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Apart from pinching the state’s resources, are there other ways your government has been raising funds to meet the state’s needs?

I’m trying to raise internally generated revenue. Our treasury had too many holes and we are making some parchments on it. If anyone accuses you of pinching, well, I thank God and the church for that training.  Do you know that I got only one car just last month for the state’s business as sitting governor? I have to make some tough choices too.  Though I know what the book provides and I know what others will do, I’ve got to make some tough choices. For now, I need just that one car and that is good enough for us. This can be a platform for luxury, but we don’t have that means for now.

Our President had to make tough choices, I mean tough choices.  We should be clapping for him for taking the boldness to remove the fuel subsidy. He was attacked and some are still attacking him. If he didn’t make that tough choice then, where would we be now as a nation?

What is your take on the calls for a return to the parliamentary system of government?

We need to get this right.  We need some education and re-education. The system of governance is not the problem; we the people are the problem. Politics is not a bad game, it is the players that are bad. God forbid, if I play bad, it doesn’t mean that politics is a bad game, it simply means that the players are the bad players who are not promoting the good spirit of democracy. It is not the form of government that is bad, but it is the people, who have their own different modes of thinking.

Take for instance, state police. It is not a new idea.  We have had it in the past, but why did we jettison it? Why are we projecting its re-establishment now?  Why do we have large appetite for money? Why are we too greedy? Why are we not thinking of the masses? Why do some politicians make promises of what they didn’t intend to provide during campaign? The problem is the man and not the system. This is why we need this new orientation.

Benue is an agrarian state, but she is not occupying this role.  What will your government do to make the state feed the nation?

We will do all that we need to do to ensure that agriculture takes its pride of place in Benue again.  I have promised financial support to those farmers who are ready to return to their farmlands, and I mean it. The state had agricultural development programmes and I’m waiting for those with requisite knowledge and techniques to come in there and take it up. The state will provide the capital to do whatever they intend to do. The state will provide the capital and the farm tools. The state can also be the off-takers of your farm products. We in the state have no reason to talk about food insecurity. We have all it takes to feed the state and the nation.

What’s your stance on the push for the autonomy of the local government?

Yes, granting autonomy to the local government will make things work better for the people.  Again, it is not the system that is bad, but the individuals. So, if the managers of the local government become irresponsible, autonomy won’t make any difference.

At the moment in Benue, we are checking because we have discovered that a lot got missing from the treasury through the local government, as many of them became conduit pipes of corruption. Granting local government autonomy is the springboard of development and growth. We are already on this track of autonomy as both the judiciary and the legislature have their full autonomy.  The executive does not intervene in their business.

You have some IDPs in the state.  How soon would they be returning to their homes?

As soon as possible. We thank the Federal Government’s intervention.  In fact, there are a number of programmes the federal government has shifted to us to impact skills and resettle the displaced persons.  This particular programme is for the Northwest and Northeast, and I thank God that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu gave us, I mean Benue and Niger, to key in into this programme. The programme is going to enable us to get the IDPs back to their homes and enable them to take back their lives and businesses.

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Where do you see Benue State by 2027?

By 2027, the entire nation will be making reference to the infrastructural development that Benue would have recorded.  Having come from grass, we are headed to grace and there’s no stopping at all.  By 2027, the Yes Father dynamism you’re hearing will be the sound bite on the lips of the opposition.  They’ll first say yes Father before the legitimate Yes Father will say it.  This is because we are doing what we promised the people we will do.

It excites me when I get reports of people coming from neighbouring states to Benue for medication.  That is the new dream I have for Benue. I want to deliver a Benue that everybody will be proud of. (The NATION)

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Politics

David Mark @ 76 : Bestriding Two Worlds

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Senator David Mark

“There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval”

– George Santayana

By Paul Mumeh & Law Mefor

The wise words, “Live your life so that the Preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral,” were displayed in a particular pastor’s office sentinel. The pastor expressed his admiration for the way it would loom large over the heads of people who came to confess yet another transgression, hoping that it would persuade them to change their ways and begin to act morally upright without him having to persuade them. The man said that the longer he had been a pastor, the more he had come to understand the peculiar theology the sign represented.

It suggests to him, that some people have lived such morally upright lives that preachers don’t need to tell lies at their funerals, and that some people have also led terrible lives that leave funeral orators in a difficult situation.
David Mark’s life has always been an open book. Even his detractors have to admit that he is a man who has elevated his life to such an extent that he has left profound imprints on the sands of time.
Given David Mark’s sprawling personality, it would take many books to tell his entire narrative. Mark has essentially dominated two worlds like a colossus; politics and the military, where he has played prominent and historic roles. He left the military after attaining the rank of a Brigadier General. He was a military governor of Niger state and a minister of the federal republic in charge of communications.

Holding the positions of chairman of the National Assembly and Senate President for two terms of eight uninterrupted years, [2007–2011 & 201 5], he oversaw politics as the head of the legislative arm of the government in the nation’s presidential democracy.

This made him the most tenured senate president in Nigerian history. David Mark stands out as exceptional and singular because he is most likely the only Nigerian to have achieved the combined rankings so far.

Indeed, how one chooses to tell his story will depend on both the main thrust and point of view of the storyteller. John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887), an American poet, provides related useful insights in The Blind Men and the Elephant. In the fable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, a group of blind men who had never seen an elephant before learnt about it and develop an imaginary image of it through touch. Though only one section of the elephant’s body — the side or the tusk, for example — each blind guy senses a distinct part of it.  Published in 1873, The Blind Men and the Elephant, is a poetry and rhyme collection by John Godfrey Saxe. The poet based his moral tale, which is really more of a parable disguised as a rhyme; on an Indian fable he dubbed a “Hindoo Fable.” That ballad was really lovely. It tells a story and offers a framework that bestows on the narrative its intended, deep lesson—just as David Mark’s current account portends.

The story of The Blind Men and The Elephant serves as an example of how conflict and misunderstanding can result from our unique perspectives, or what Peter Senge refers to as our “mental models.” The purpose of this account on David Mark is to provide
an alternative viewpoint to those provided by previous and subsequent writers on this quiet and gentle giant.

It is acknowledged that although an individual’s subjective experience and opinion may be accurate, they may still be constrained by a lack of comprehensive knowledge about the subject. Because of this, the blind men’s accounts of the elephant varied from one another and were based on their limited experience. The blind men did not exchange blows because of this understanding. The parable’s lesson is that people often assert absolute truth based on their own constrained, subjective experiences while ignoring the constrained, subjective experiences of others that may be just as accurate. The tale was first popularised in the ancient Indian subcontinent, from whence it spread abroad.
If this description of David Mark turns out to be only a portion of the gentle giant and his amazing times, be willing to overlook its shortcomings.

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Let researchers and histographers of the future fill in the blanks. We also think that David Mark would compose a note on himself before going away at the end of life, which is an inescapable fate that awaits all mortals at some point.
Suffice to submit that Mark’s accomplished sojourn in the military, his political engagement and achievements as a leader of the legislative arm of government is a study in brinkmanship.

On April 8, 1948, Pa Mark Aikuta and Madam Eyum Mark welcomed a baby boy into their home. He was given the name Alechenu, which means “the unexpected.” Later on, the local Catholic Church baptised him as David. The parents worked in farming and trading, which were typical vocations of the Serene Otukpo community in Benue State.

David Mark was raised as a devoted Catholic Christian, a faith he has adhered to throughout his military service, career in politics, and retirement. Aware that childhood is the foundation of life; his parents took great care in raising him as their first child.

SEE ALSO:  David Mark @ 76 : Bestriding Two Worlds

David Mark, as he is more commonly known in adult life, is a unique individual who was shaped by a combination of hard work, good upbringing, divine providence, military training, and intellectual rigor. He is like an octopus with numerous tentacles. His extraordinary life story serves as a powerful reminder that anything is possible for someone who works hard and has faith in God.

David Mark would undoubtedly have passed as just another one of the many people who came through this life unheard and unsung if he had accepted his father’s origins and decided not to battle for a noble name. Instead, he fought for the opportunity to earn a noble name. He has elevated his fame to the point where, when the time comes, he would have left deep indelible imprints in the sands of time, making him a household name today.

Given his birth circumstances, Mark knew that no one achieves overnight success without hard work, diligence, and perseverance. While others slept, he was working hard. And in the end, his diligence paid off, with heavenly hands acting as his engine.

St. Francis Catholic Practising School, Otukpo was where the young David Mark enrolled and completed his elementary education. Mark received excellent formative years at the Catholic school, which helped him lay the solid intellectual, philosophical, and educational foundations of his future.

David Mark’s military training and foundational education began at the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria, which was where his tough, uncompromising discipline style originated.

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David Mark’s set arrived at the Nigerian Military School (NMS) in May 1961 where his early years were further shaped. He was among the first group of boys to take the WAEC examination in 1965, and they did remarkably well.

David Mark was among the best graduates of the NMS, and after graduating with flying colours from that institution, everything was in place for him to enlist in the Nigerian Army . To adequately develop his military career as an officer, Mark was admitted to the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA, 3rd Regular Course), Kaduna as cadet in 1967. He graduated from the academy in 1970. As it happened, his NDA graduation marked just the start of an extensive journey through the world of military elite training in his field of study — military communication and engineering.

When young Mark came to NDA as a cadet, the basic knowledge he had gained at NMS proved to be quite helpful. He was well aware of the fundamental principles of army culture, which include honour, integrity, bravery, responsibility, devotion, and selflessness.

In 1970, Lieutenant David Mark continued his education at the School of Signals in Blandford, England. Part of the Defence School of Communications and Information Systems in the United Kingdom is the military training facility known as the Blandford School of Signals.

After being promoted to Captain and given a new commission upon his return to Nigeria in 1971, he enrolled in combined training programmes at the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering Mhow and the College of Military Engineering Poona in India. He completed this training between 1971 and 1975, earning a B Eng. – Telecoms and becoming qualified to work as both a military and telecommunication engineer in 1975.

When Captain David Mark completed his Militating Engineering course in India, he returned to Nigeria. At the age of 27, he received a promotion to the rank of Major and was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division at Port Harcourt, where he was Commander of the Division’s Signals, under Lieutenant General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, the General Officer Commanding (GOC). His duties were expanding, and this time they included organising the commanders and men in the Brigade in addition to sports and welfare.

In addition to leading the way in educating other officers in a variety of roles, Mark made a strong push for more professional training in the UK, India, and Nigeria. In addition to this, he holds the following degrees: B Engr – Telecoms – 1975′ , Psc+ – 1979, fwc, fss, a Diploma in Defence Studies (1991), a Diploma in Senior Defence Studies (1992), and more.

Later on, Major General Muhammadu Buhari and Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbon came to power during the military takeover in December 31, 1983. David Mark, who by then had already been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, was chosen by Buhari to serve as the military governor of Niger State because of his exceptional leadership abilities.

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Few people in Niger State’s history of leadership are as warmly remembered as David Mark.” This encapsulates the significance of Lt Col David Mark’s groundbreaking tenure as governor of Niger state.

His influence in Niger state is still visible today, many years later, in a variety of fields, including education, infrastructure, industrialisation, agriculture, sports, health, and media development.

As the Military Governor of Niger State, Governor Mark’s leadership style was distinguished by audacious plans, deeds, and gallant endeavours. He disregarded unproductive custom, bureaucracy, and other inconsequential factors in order to attain tangible results. He is a man of integrity and a fearless strategist who was committed to achieving goals at all costs and by all means necessary and lawful.

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Following yet another military coup in Nigeria in 1985, General IBB was installed as the country’s military president. He put together an excellent team to handle all aspects of Nigeria’s economy, politics, and well-being, including the type of government the country would resume after the military leaves office.

Babangida sought for the brightest minds capable of innovation to further his ambition of taking Nigeria in a totally new direction and opening up its economy to the outside world. One of the persons Babangida chose was David Mark, who was redeployed from Niger State.

Babangida needed a true specialist to revamp the nation’s communications system and introduce the technologies required to get the nation into the emerging digital and global information networks since communication was essential to his ambitions. Babangida, the previous military ruler, displayed his ability to fit round pegs into round holes when he appointed Col. Mark as the minister of communications.These were some of the best appointments in the country’s political history.

As was to be expected, Col. Mark brought about drastic changes, innovations, and reforms after being appointed Federal Minister of Communications.

David Mark was retired from the Nigerian Army by General Sani Abacha, the supreme military leader of Nigeria in 1993. After going into exile in Ghana and then England, Mark returned to the country upon Abacha’s death in 1998.

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When Mark returned from exile on September 5, 1998, his Idoma people of Benue state welcomed him with great fervor and he became their leader, expected to fulfil their hopes and dreams and win their support to run for the senate and represent them.

The Idoma elites rolled out the drums to welcome the soldier from exile; the masses and the progressives wing of the political elite were part of the frenzied reception that attended his home-coming. They knew that being in exile for five years only confirmed him as firm believer in democracy and true son of Idoma land.

After Mark became a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he was eligible to run for Senate. He was chosen to represent the Benue South Senatorial District under the PDP’s banner in the April 1999 senatorial election, which he easily won. He was sworn in as a Federal Republic senator in June 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. During his tenure in the Senate, he held a number of responsibilities, including chairman of the Joint National Assembly and Senate President, which he held for a record eight years.

Sen. Mark prevailed over George Akume, the previous governor of his State, in a keenly contested Senate election on June 5th , 2007 to become the President of the Senate . He polled 69 votes against Akume’s 39. One senator was absent. As a result, he took the oath of office as the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 12th President of the Senate.

As Senate President, Mark exuded a strong character and dignity, elevating the position to the highest regard that the public has ever given it. He so cleared the Senate of the “banana peels.” His administration was the first to return billions of Naira (28 billion) of unspent public fund to the national treasury in 2008. Significantly, Senator Mark demonstrated a shared preference for excellent legislation, manners, social elegance, and the guts to stand up for what is right and follow his conscience. Mark was seen by Nigerians as the embodiment of the country’s presidential democracy.

On Tuesday, February 9, 2010, a new terminology was added to Nigeria’s political lexicon. This date will remain a significant landmark in Nigeria’s political history as Senator Mark put the existing laws to the test in order to create a safety net for Nigeria’s ongoing existence as a single nation through the Doctrine of Necessity. The impending constitutional crisis, political unrest or a deadlock that had engulfed the country prior to the installation of a new leadership was broken by just one act. The “DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY” authorised Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to act as president in order to address the constitutional crisis orchestrated by the absence of ailing President Musa Yar’Adua.

The Doctrine of Necessity serves as the foundation for the legitimacy of extraordinary measures taken by the administrative authority to maintain or restore order, even when those measures were not contemplated by established constitution, laws, customs, or norms.

When Senate President Mark took office in 2007, he demonstrated an extraordinary level of dedication and perseverance to the promise he made to Nigerians to offer meaningful legislative leadership.

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Under his leadership, the Nigerian National Assembly broke the jinx by altering the 1999 constitution for the first time, which set the stage for the nation’s democracy to flourish and gradually return to federalism. This wasn’t achieved by the two previous senates preceding his.

Senator Mark, a former president of the Senate who was still serving at the time, announced his plan to run for president in 2019 on the platform of PDP. He sparked a lot of curiosity when he picked up his Presidential expression of interest and nomination forms at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.

SEE ALSO:  BoT takes over affairs of Labour Party, declares Anambra National Convention a charade

After purchasing his forms, he spoke with journalists and pledged to address the socio-political, economic, and security issues endangering the nation if elected. Additionally, he pledged that if given the chance, he would start the process of reorganising the nation. Though he lost in the PDP’s primary elections, he continues to serve the party and the nation at large as a peace ambassador .

Ado, Apa, Agatu, Obi, Oju, Ohimini, Ogbadibo, Okpokwu, and Otukpo are the nine local governments that make up the Benue south senatorial zone . At least one developmental project targeting the generation of jobs for rural areas and addressing the nation’s high rate of youth unemployment was established by Mark in each of the local government areas.

Mark placed a high value on economic empowerment. He created a revolving trader’s loan programme with zero interest to help the women expand their enterprises. He knew that in order to be supported, the majority of small business concerns required an improvised capital base. This action significantly enhanced inclusive growth and economic development.

Mark prioritised education when it came to youth development. With a focus on youth education, he established the David Mark Scholarship Scheme (DMSS), under which, since 1999, annual scholarships have been given to students enrolled in primary school through universities which has benefitted thousands.

Senator Mark constructed and donated a building for the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) study centre in Otukpo, Benue State, as a symbol of his dedication to providing education to his people. Within his Benue South Senatorial District, he has constructed and refurbished numerous school blocks in each of the nine local government areas.

Senator Mark sponsored numerous projects in the Senate, chief of which was the Act for the Establishment of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (FUHSO). The university was eventually established as a result of President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of this bill. The establishment is transforming Otukpo into a medical tourism centre and is the first of its kind in Nigeria.

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Mark is an avid sportsman believes that sports should be a source of both entertainment and employment. Among many other initiatives, he founded the Apa United Football Club (male) to play in the State and National League, as well as MarkMentors Basketball Club, which is currently rated second in the National Basketball League, to support young people who aspire to advance in sports .

His annual Mark D’Ball basketball competition, has transformed the lives of numerous young people who are pursuing professional basketball careers. He also founded the football teams “Apa Queens” (female) in the same spirit.

Additionally, Mark built an 18-hole public golf course at Otukpo Golf & Country Club St. Mark Akpegede, Otukpo of Benue State, which employs a good number of people. One unique feature of this golf course is that till date, nobody pays the green fee to play. Golfers use the golf course gratis, which is unprecedented.

He equally established the Otukpo radio station Joy FM 96.5, which also provides jobs for his people and other Nigerians and has grown to be a major hub for news, entertainment, and education in the community. In Nigeria’s North Central Region, this FM is the first radio station that is privately owned.

Mark accomplished a great deal for the zone during his record- breaking eight years as Senate President. Among the projects were about 17 billion naira Otukpo Multi-Purpose Dam in Otobi-Akpa which has the dual benefits of supplying Benue South and its surrounding areas with electricity and water.

In a similar vein, students of the Mark International Golf Academy have competed internationally on behalf of Nigeria. Professional golfers provide these young men and women, affectionately known as “The Lion Cubs,” with extensive training, and they have demonstrated complete supremacy in every event in which they have competed.

On infrastructure, Mark attracted and the construction of the Loko-Oweto bridge and the road networks that connect Benue, Nasarawa, and Abuja. This project serves as a bridge connecting Nigeria’s Northern and Southern regions.

Under the Rural Electrification Projects, Mark also gave numerous towns in each of Benue South’s nine local government areas several 300KVA transformers. He believes that this would help the locals in the district thrive economically.

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It is indisputable that Mark would go down in Nigerian history as a true nationalist, social and political strategist of great stature, detribalised Nigerian, and patriot. The people of Idoma and the country as a whole will always have nostalgic memories of him.

After taking stock of his political journey; senator and senate president for 20 eventful years, Mark declared that God has greatly favoured him and that he will carry on serving God and humanity in the years to come. He also said that Nigeria has treated him fairly and that he would continue to advance the course for peace and peaceful coexistence in the country whether in or out of office.

• By Paul Mumeh and Law Mefor

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BoT takes over affairs of Labour Party, declares Anambra National Convention a charade

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BoT takes over affairs of Labour Party, declares Anambra National Convention a charade
The Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Labour Party (LP) said it has stepped in to steer the affairs of the party following the expiration of the tenure in office of the immediate past National Working Committee (NWC) led by Julius Abure.

A statement signed and issued on Wednesday night by the BoT, through its Chairman, Comrade S.O.Z. Ejiofor, described the secret national convention held on Wednesday, at Nnewi in Anambra State, as a charade.

The statement reads: “Following the expiration of the tenure in office of the immediate past National Working Committee of the Labour Party headed by Mr. Julius Abure, the Board of Trustees of the Labour Party, in line with the Labour Party Constitution, has stepped in to steer the affairs of the Labour Party.

“This step is to avoid any leadership vacuum in the Labour Party.

“Furthermore, the Board of Trustees of the Labour Party, in consultation with major stakeholders in the Party, will soon communicate the processes for the conduct of an all-inclusive and expansive National Convention of the Labour Party.

“This is in line with the March 20, 2018, Federal High Court consent judgement delivered by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, which recognised the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as the owner of the Labour Party and mandated that an all-inclusive and expansive National Convention of the Labour Party be held.

“The decision of the Board of Trustees is also in furtherance of the agreement signed between the former National Chairman of the Labour Party, Mr. Julius Abure, and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on 27th June 2022, which was mediated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

SEE ALSO:  David Mark @ 76 : Bestriding Two Worlds

“While we commend members of the Labour Party, especially workers, students, youths, market women and men, Obidients, and candidates on the platform of the Labour Party for their contributions and fidelity to the ideals of the party, the Board of Trustees promises to quickly set in motion processes for the conduct of an all-inclusive and expansive National Convention.

“Unlike the charade that took place today in Nnewi and in tandem with the principles of popular democracy, the all-inclusive National Convention will start with grassroots congresses at ward, local government, state and ultimately at the national level.

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“This process will not leave any genuine member of the Labour Party out and will be held in the full view of the Independent National Electoral Commission, media, civil society, security agents and the general public.

“We commend the leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi and key stakeholders in the Labour Party for declining to deodorise the malfeasance that took place in Nnewi with their presence.

“The BOT assures all stakeholders that we are committed to reclaiming and repositioning the Labour Party as the vehicle for the socio-political emancipation of our dear country, her working people and populace.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Abure was re-elected as the National Chairman of the Labour Party at a controversial national convention held in Nnewi, Anambra State.

Abure, along with eight others, was declared re-elected into the 22-member National Working Committee (NWC) of the LP by the Chairman of the National Convention and Deputy Governor of Abia State, Ikechukwu Emetu, at the event held at Grand Seasons Hotel in Nnewi.

SEE ALSO:  Labour Party reserves 2027 Presidential ticket for Peter Obi, Abia Gov ticket for Otti

A communique issued by the LP delegates, who attended the convention, said the party declared its presidential candidate in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi, as its preferred presidential candidate for the 2027 general election.

The controversial convention also adopted the Governor of Abia State, Alex Otti, as the Labour Party governorship candidate for the 2027 gubernatorial election in Abia State.

However, both Obi and Otti were conspicuously absent at the national convention.

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Abia Deputy Governor, Emetu, led all members of the State Executive Council (SEC) and members of the National and State Assemblies from the state elected on the LP platform to the national convention.

However, no member of the National and State Assemblies from Anambra State elected under the LP platform except the member representing Peter Obi’s Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency and Deputy Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, George Ozodinobi, attended the LP national convention.

The controversial re-election of Abure as National Chairman came a week after members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) picketed the LP secretariat in Abuja.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had earlier asked Abure to shelve his planned secret national convention.

The NLC had in a statement on Friday, March 15, accused Abure of running the Labour Party as a Sole Administrator by secretly scheduling a supposed national convention of the party without consulting stakeholders.

Members of the NLC, which accused Abure of “financial rascality”, had on Wednesday, March 20, occupied the National headquarters of the Labour Party in Abuja, calling for Abure’s sack as National Chairman of the party.

SEE ALSO:  BoT takes over affairs of Labour Party, declares Anambra National Convention a charade

Reacting to Abure’s re-election earlier on Wednesday, Benson Upah, Spokesperson of the NLC, said, “It is an illegality, a nullity. The whole exercise was a charade! Nothing can legitimise such brazen impunity.”

Also, the factional chairman of the Party in Anambra State, Peter Okoye, boasted that the Nnewi national convention will not stand.

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Describing the convention as a sham, Okoye queried: “This is not a convention. We are on top of the matter. It’s purely illegal. There was no ward congress, no local government congress, no state congress, and now who and who are the elected delegates that are electing the National Working Committee (NWC) members?

“The NLC was not there, TUC was not there, the owners of the party and members of the NEC and BOT members were not there either. So, who is holding the convention?”

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NLC rejects Abure’s re-election as Labour Party chairman, says it’s an illegality

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NLC rejects Abure's re-election as Labour Party chairman, says it's an illegality
Julius Abure, Re-elected LP National Chairman
The leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC has vowed not to accord the National Chairman of Labour Party, Julius Abure, any form of recognition following his re-election.

Abure was returned as the party national chairman at a national convention of the party held in Nnewi, Anambra State, on Wednesday.

The convention also saw all members of the National Working Committee return.

The slots for representatives of both the NLC and the Trade Union Congress were, however, left vacant.

Reacting to the outcome of the convention, NLC spokesman, Benson Upah, vowed that the congress will never back the party under Abure’s leadership.

While describing the convention as a charade, Upah said the return of the national chairman was a nullity as far as the NLC is concerned.

He said, “It’s an illegality, a nullity. The whole exercise was a charade! Nothing can legitimise such brazen impunity.”

When asked for labour’s next line of action, the NLC head of information, who replied via a text message, wrote, “You, wait and see.”

The national convention of party had generated so much heat in the last week.

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At least five persons were reportedly apprehended at the convention ground on Wednesday for allegedly attempting to foment trouble at the arena.

The arrested persons were said to be distributing inciting leaflets critical of the leadership of the party.

They were eventually handed over to the police for questioning.

In a communiqué jointly signed by Abure and his National Secretary, Umar Farouk, the party announced that the presidential flag bearer of LP, Peter Obi, and Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, have been cleared to contest as the party’s candidates again in 2027.

SEE ALSO:  BoT takes over affairs of Labour Party, declares Anambra National Convention a charade

The statement partly read, “The convention in session, based on the antecedents of the presidential candidate before, during and after the 2023 general election, recommended that the 2027 presidential ticket of the party be solely reserved for His Excellency, Mr. Peter Gregory Obi, the national leader of the party.

“Furthermore, the convention in session reviewed the ongoing development and performance of its Governor in Abia state, His Excellency, Dr. Alex Otti, and passed a vote of confidence on him and recommended the 2027 Abia State gubernatorial ticket of the party be reserved for His Excellency, Dr. Alex Otti.”

Continuing, the leadership of the party called on President Bola Tinubu to address the rising cases of insecurity ravaging, particularly Kaduna and some other northern states.

The party also threw its weight behind the restructuring and decentralisation of policing architecture to pave the way for regional, state, and local police.

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“The convention in session also noted with concerns the renewed insecurity in the country, especially Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, and other states. The convention hereby calls on the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to secure the lives and properties of Nigerians, which is the primary responsibility of the government.

“We also call for general restructuring of the security architecture to meet up with current security challenges facing the nation. The convention advocated for decentralisation of the Nigerian Police Force to pave the way for regional, state, local, and community policing,” it stated.

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