FEATURE ARTICLE

Akintokunbo A. AdejumoMonday, June 11, 2007
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akinadejum@aol.com
London, UK

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NIGERIA'S SENATE PRESIDENCY AND A WHIFF OF CORRUPTION


t is no longer news that the recent election of the new President of the Nigerian Senate has generated a lot of controversy both within and outside Nigeria. Most of the reaction has been that of utter disbelief, disillusionment, disappointment and despair from those of us who are not partisan or part of the Government or at least not part of the decision making bodies of our democratic government.


It is rather unfortunate, considering the furore over the last flawed elections, and the call by some of us that instead of crying over spilt milk and calling for inane actions and useless exercises such as conducting new elections and installing Interim Governments, we should move forward and consolidate our democratic experiment further, with the hope that many of our failures and shortcomings will be resolved with time.

Just when you thought it is safe to come out of the woods and support our politicians, especially after a very flawed election full of massive riggings, mayhem and death, there comes our daft, clueless, insensitive political class who called themselves Senators, electing a dubious, to put it mildly, Senate President.

Why do we always insist on self-destruction, we Nigerians? We were looking forward to a fresh governance after eight years of Obasanjo's administration (which I sincerely believe has done its best for Nigeria, and laid some very good solid foundation for future development and progress), hardly had we calmed down and allowed to take our collective breath, that Senator David Mark was foisted on us as Senate President, and effectively, the Number 3 Citizen of the country, who, God forbid, may even become the President if anything should happen to President Yar'Adua and his Vice President Jonathan.

Senator David Mark, a self-reformed democrat, a former military officer who allegedly made a fortune stealing public funds has emerged as Nigeria's upper legislative body's leader. It does not look good, does it? Hear these:

Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, former Dean of Law, University of Benin, and a renowned legal expert, described the emergence of David Mark as the Senate President as a tragedy.

"Mark has a bad record; he was the one who threatened to deport non-indigenes when he was the governor of Niger State. As Minister of Communications, he said telephones were not meant for the poor. It is an eternal shame to him that virtually everybody now has a phone. It is a great tragedy that a man who has no compassion for the common man has emerged as Senate President. He is a member of the establishment that wrecked the country; there is a great difference between him and his predecessor, Senator Ken Nnamani."

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And former Senator Joseph Waku had this to say, "David Mark is an embodiment of corruption in the National Assembly". How can such a man who said, while he was the Federal Minister for Communications, that "telephones are not meant for poor people" have the interest of the common man in mind in the performance of his duties such as protecting the common Nigerian, alleviating our suffering and put us on the road to progress? By this saying alone, David Mark, whether due to arrogance, insensitivity, slip of tongue or power-drunkenness, demonstrated what I have always said about Nigerian leaders; our leaders hate us. They only have disdain and utter contempt for the people they lead, and therefore, they are not worthy of being leaders. They are in power to be served and not to serve the people. And unfortunately, we continue to oblige them.

I could not agree more with Professor Sagay. Senator David Mark is said to be super corrupt. From all indications, he is heavily compromised. Saharareporters reported that

"David Mark owned a private jet and a multi-million dollar golf course in Ireland.
(I have myself heard that rumour for a few years now and believe me, as we know in Nigeria; such rumours often turn out to be true)
What gave a major clue into David Mark's corrupt lifestyle was a bitter divorce filed by his fourth wife, 57 year old Victoria Preye Mark, a Rivers State indigene to whom David Mark was married in 1979. The couple had four kids all of whom were British citizens. The four kids attended schools in Switzerland and the UK before their parents' divorce which commenced on July 17 2000. Victoria's divorce claims provided the best yet exposť on David Mark's corrupt past, in 2000 Victoria successfully got a Family Division court in London to freeze an account owned by David Mark to the tune of 6 million pounds. Obviously the monies in the account were proceeds of corruption from his days as currency courier for the Babangida's family". (Saharareporters.com)

David Mark was the Military Governor of Niger State (Babangida's home state) during Babangida's regime and we know that the looting of the treasury in those days was a free for all. David Mark, it was said, had a field day; hence as a military officer, whose salary we know very well, was able to enrich himself. He was then rewarded further as the Minister for Communications, charged with developing the telephone system in the country. His few years in charge were disastrous, not to say the least. That was the period that NITEL's fortunes nosedived and subsequently became more or less moribund. Not a single new phone line was laid despite massive investments. You can't even get through to your family and friends on the telephone within the country not to talk of from outside. No new ideas were brought in, but a lot of money was spent. We all know where that money went as rumoured: a world-class golf course in Ireland. The man loved golf so much; he bought an entire golf course in a foreign country with our money. That is his own idea of contributing to the development of his country. And today, he is a three-time Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to rub salt on the sore, the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What a reward for underachievement, mediocrity, corruption and mismanagement?

Even his own people, the Idomas of Benue State have virtually disowned him.

"Senator Mark is a chop-chop politician. His years as military governor and Minister of Communication were disasters to the Idoma people. Out of sympathy, we made him Senator in 1999 to attract development to us but he went to lobby for contracts for himself, and supported third term for selfish aims. That is why we want to recall Mark,"
Enalegwu Oche, President, Idoma National Forum, said in Makurdi recently.

I would not want to condemn him because of his support for the botched and doomed Third Term Agenda. The man obviously knows which side his bread is buttered, but I wonder what new ideas, innovation, good governance and transparent dealings this heavily compromised man can bring to bear on the governance of this country. Absolutely nothing. When he was Governor, he was stealing; when he was a Minister in arguably the most corrupt government Nigeria ever had, he was dipping his bloody hands in the treasury; when he became a senator in 1999, he was still chasing after contracts and supporting lost causes. What exactly would he do as Senate President, with billions of Naira at his disposal? Do you think that this kind of man will support measures to effectively tackle corruption in our country? Your guess is as good as mine.

And is he a true democrat as he made himself out to be? No. He was reported to have insisted that the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1997 presidential elections, Chief M K O Abiola, was not born to rule. Incidentally and ironically, David Mark was later to align himself with the pro-democracy exiles calling for Abacha to go, but only after Abacha had sacked him from the Army, because Abacha saw him as a Babangida Boy, and hence was a threat to him. So easy to become a democrat these days, isn't it? Ironically, the word from his former mentor, General Babangida's camp is that they have all but disowned him, alleging that David Mark was one of the brains behind the annulment of June 12 elections. It is a falling out of thieves.

Even now, Mark's re-election as a senator in April is being challenged before a tribunal, with his opponents alleging massive vote-rigging in his senatorial district of Central Benue State.

"David Mark may call himself a senator these days, but I'm not so sure he can lay claim to being a true democrat,"
wrote columnist Muhammad Al-Ghazali in the Daily Trust newspaper.

And by the way, shouldn't the new Senate President and other Senate and House of Representatives officers, and indeed all Senators and representatives also declare their assets before assuming office like other top officials? Are governors and civil servants the only set of people that the EFCC and ICPC investigate?

The election or selection of Senator (I hold this title in disdain) David Mark as our Number Three Citizen is really no step forward and ten steps backward in the fight against corruption. It is a reward for corruption, mediocrity and bad governance. It is an aberration of democratic norms. It is inapposite to his predecessor, Senator Ken Nnamani, a fine and upright gentleman, who stood firm against the forces of corruption and the Third Term Agenda. Maybe there's not a lot we can do about this aberration now, but we must make it known that Nigerians are opposed to it.

To make matters worse, fifty senators, claiming to belong to a new forum in the Senate, recently alleged that there were on-going plots by forces outside the Senate, to smear the new Senate President, David Mark, destabilise the Senate and cause a change of leadership. And hear one of them; Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the former President's daughter; "Nobody is perfect, and we need to support him to achieve the best for this country". That's very rich, coming from them. Trying to force a bitter pill down our throats again.

So we should let a corrupt adult person, who had been stealing from his own people for years and thereby denying them progress and development, be a top leader who will be making life and death decisions affecting our well-being, because he's not perfect. Well, OK then, why don't we forgive an armed robber because he's not perfect too?

Of course, you will reap what you sow. Put a corrupt man in power and sooner of later, he will show his hands and will soon get his penalty. His past will catch up with him. The evil that men do lives after them, David Mark's name sake, Marc Antonio, said.

No, "Honourable" Senators!! Nobody is trying to destabilise the Senate. You have already accomplished that by yourselves, by electing one of the least credible of yourselves to the highest post in your normally revered house.

Simply, on the face of all these allegations of corruption when he was a Minister and State Governor, David Mark seems unfit to be the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whichever way you look at it. This is not a smear campaign or a plan to destabilise anything. It is his dark past now catching up with him, his hidden skeletons now threatening to spill out of the closet. His mere presence in the Senate and as the Senate President itself is enough destabilisation of not only your (dis)honourable house, but the whole country, if you ask me.

If he and his supporters think otherwise, let him come out and defend himself convincingly. You owe the Nigerian people.

Matters Arising: Atiku and the Jefferson Indictment.

Now that Congressman William Jefferson has been properly indicted by a US Grand Jury, albeit, deliberately done so after the Nigerian Elections, what will our erstwhile Vice-President do? What explanations will his acolytes in the Action Congress give us, or the Atiku Campaign Organisation (even after the elections) say about this? The chicken has come home to roost. Obasanjo and Nuhu Ribadu are close to being vindicated, isn't it? When they were saying that Atiku was corrupt, Obasanjo's opponents were saying that these were trumped up charges because he does not want Atiku to become the President. Why should Atiku consider the Presidency to be his birthright anyway? Now, the shit has hit the fan. And the evidence is now coming out. Though his name was not specifically mentioned in Jefferson's indictment, we all know who was referred to in the indictment as "a top Nigerian official", don't we?

He has countered this by saying he was a victim of a "419" scam. This is very laughable. Atiku, the Vice President of Nigeria was a 419 victim. Sir, I find that very difficult to believe. What did they defraud you of? How did they do it to a whole VP of a country? How could you be so gullible? How much did they defraud you of?

Atiku is still undergoing some kind of therapy for a broken toe, weeks after the elections, first in Germany, then the UK and now in the US. I always said it, the man has a knack of travelling out of Nigeria when something is about to burst him open. The word in the papers is that the former VP will return to Nigeria soon and continue to pursue his election petition. He might return to Nigeria but I strongly doubt that he will pursue his petition. I think it is his aides who are now making all the noises giving the impression that all is still well. They know if the man sinks, some of them are also sunk.

And now that those failed AD politicians and disgruntled former PDP politicians he sponsored in the AC have got what they want in various capacities, (and some failed to get what they wanted) they are abandoning him to his fate. That tells you a lot about the murky waters of Nigerian politics. But the man is still fighting. And fighting he must, else he might find himself in prison as a result of Jefferson's indictment, corruption charges, breach of trust, etc. No more immunity from prosecution and the chances are that he may even be extradited from his Potomac palace to a prison in Abuja.

Moral of the story is: The President of a country is bigger than the Vice President, no matter how influential and powerful the VP may think he is. That is why you are a Vice. The Vice or Deputy is not the real thing, not the real McCoy. Loyalty to your President is essential to your own personal political existence and survival; otherwise, you will find yourself eating dirt.

Let's see how this pans out. Them what has, gets.

Vagabonds in Power (VIP) in Oyo State?

My home state of Oyo is in one hell of a mess, (and that's putting it very mildly) and I really don't know how we will get out of it. I normally would not like to comment on the state of affairs in that God-forsaken state, where anything resembling democracy, good governance, rule of law, progress and development has been eluding us for the past 8 years, if not more. My ex-teacher, Lam Adesina was a disaster, Rasheed Ladoja was a calamity, and from all indications, Adebayo Alao-Akala will be a catastrophe. And who suffers from these power play, corruption, neglect, poverty, etc? The people of Oyo State and directly and indirectly, all Nigerians.

People may not realise it, but anything that happens in any of our 36 states and Federal Capital Territory affect ALL Nigerians. So don't think that because you are from Bayelsa State, what happens in Borno State is not your concern. It does. We are all in it together, and we will all suffer together.

But I think the truth will out one day and nemesis will catch up with all those denying Nigerians their freedom from poverty, denying us progress, good health, good education, food and water, etc. This is as certain as night and day.

Politics, or should I say, Nigerian politics, is like a magnet. It attracts everything and everybody. It attracts thieves, sycophants, opportunists, ragamuffins, intellectuals, true patriots, the ignorant, well-meaning people, all thrown into the same cauldron. Normally, this should make a good mix, but no, not in Nigeria, because the undesirables who go into politics far outnumber the desirables, and if they are in the same cauldron, the undesirables will get the upper hand. This is exactly what is happening to us. Some schools of thought said we should accommodate everybody, all strange bedfellows in one bed, because politics is a game of numbers. From personal experience, this is not possible. There are far too many devils eating from the same pot than the saints. After a time, the saints will not be given a chance to express themselves, and it will all go the way of the devils. Trust me. If it is the other way round, we are likely to have a chance, however, I don't think saints should be eating from the same pot, or sleeping on the same bed as devils in the first place.

But there we have it. Nigerians have been eating with the devils for a long time, and getting rid of them is nigh impossible. These agents of corruption and the consequent suffering of my people will not let go easily.

It is either them or us. Nigerians have got to rise up against them with the ultimate force. For me, I can't afford to let them win. We need a few good men (and women)!

And with several ex-Governors who have lost their immunity on the run, isn't that vindication time for Obasanjo and Nuhu Ribadu? And what do we have here? Ex-Inspector General of Police Sunday Ehindero is actually more corrupt than ex-IGP Tafa Balogun? Wonders will never cease. And you tell me the "rule of law" should apply to these corrupt people who have made their people suffer? Not on your life.

Readers Feedback to "The Illusions and Delusions of Nigerians in Diaspora.

It would be ungrateful and irresponsible of me not to appreciate the numerous readers who take the time and effort to read my articles and then actually take the effort to write me with their feedback, comments, criticisms and advice. My last article was the one that has attracted the most feedback and I would like to thank the over 120 readers who sent emails to me. I replied all of them, and some have become friends.

Such readers give me hope, they encourage me and they let me know that I am not writing nonsense. They also demonstrated and confirmed my faith in Nigeria, because they are true and patriotic Nigerians. I have also learnt from them. These great readers and commentators span the world, United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany. I had feedback from Nigerians living in Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Russia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mexico (he said he is a Mexican-born Nigerian); Thailand, South Africa, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, and a brother from Iceland.

From these alone, people might say Nigerians are in Diaspora, contrary to my opinion and writing, but fortunately for me, all these readers confirmed that they regard themselves as Nigerians living abroad temporarily, and just trying to make a living for themselves and their families, and they intends to go back, not only to live in Nigeria, but to help develop the country in anyway they can, despite all the obvious obstacles they will encounter.

It also shows that Nigeriaworld.com and Nigeria Today Online (Nigeria2day@aol.com) are truly international journals that reach Nigerians everywhere in the world and their readership consist of enlightened Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike who would have their opinions one way or the other and have the interest of their motherland at heart. Kudos to the publishers of these fine news media.

Many thanks, brothers and sisters. Like you said," we are all in it together".

Akintokunbo Adejumo, a social and political commentator on Nigerian issues, lives and works in London, UK. He is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1979) and University of Manitoba, Canada (1985). He also writes on topical issues for newspapers and internet media including Nigeriaworld.com, Nigeria Today Online, Washington Nigerian Times, Wise News Today, etc.