By Ariyo-Dare Atoye
History is inescapable. Historical accounts that detail the exploits of great leaders and capture the story of special events have helped to shape every society since time immemorial. And there are exceptional ways in which these unique accounts are conveyed from generation to generation: Rome in the time of Caesar; England in the time of Arthur, and so many others. The history of Nigeria will never be complete without the account of David Alechenu Bonaventure, the son of Mark, who made his marks, serving his country in the military; and, representing his people in the parliament during which he was first among equals for eight years. He is a “red-icon” of legislative wisdom.
Permit me to situate the legendary Mark in the context of a profound assertion by R. G. Collingwood (1889 – 1943), an English philosopher, historian and archaeologist, who said: “History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.” It is in apple-pie order to state unambiguously that clues to what David Mark can do are what he has done. And this is truly so.
I had said last year, when I jointly wrote a tribute in commemoration of his 69th birthday that: “It is therefore expected that when Mark would be celebrating his 70th birthday on April 8, 2018, it would be a good time to properly assess his many rides including the quiet pressure being mounted on him to consider taking a shot at the presidency on the PDP platform. Although, his attitude to the presidential contest is not yet known, our well-considered view is that Mark is eminently qualified to run for the coveted prize.”
History tells us that antecedent is profound. In the time of Mark as the President of the Senate, he brought respect and stability to the National Assembly and the polity, and this account would remain a glittering reference point for our nation. His exceptional public coronation as “Mr. Stability” has been cemented with a place in the immortal temple of great leaders when his “Solomonic Intervention” birthed the “Doctrine of Necessity” that saved the nation from the precipice.
History is a guide to navigation when the tempest rages. Nigeria is now in the process of losing its integrity and forfeiting its soul because of clueless and incompetent leadership. Our country is desperately in need of leadership that can solve problems and unite the nation. A major clue that David Mark, the longest serving Senator of the Republic, can bring stability to Nigeria if given the rare opportunity of leading our troubled nation, is not limited to what he did during the dying days of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and how he was able to manage the parliament for eight years as the chairman of the National Assembly. He is among a few nationalists in Nigeria.
I had shared in the reservation of critics about a certain aspect of him being a pro-establishment guy, until I was able to come by certain truth, and also internalise the precarious situation minorities in Nigeria have found themselves. His ethnic group – the Idoma – has suffered double jeopardy: the Idoma people are limited in their state due to the overbearing influence of another ethnic group, and reduced in reach by the threatening dominance of the major ethnic groups in the country. I have also discovered that around the period he was on exile, fleeing the country from the terror of the Sani Abacha regime, his people became more endangered.
Knowledge is valuable: it has also come to my understanding that one can actually act a pro-establishment by stooping to conquer in order to defend your people in a society where the battle for allocation of scarce resources is intense. It is not limited to Nigeria. Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of Greece, gave fillip to my discovery, while writing in his 2017 book “Adults in the Room.” It was a book that documented his experience – “My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment,” – while defending Greece. It is in the interest of every nation or group to have leaders who can negotiate on its behalf.
By happenstance, it was my own Egbon, Mr. Tunde Mark, the first son of Okpokpowulu K’Idoma (the Generalissimo of Idoma Kingdom) himself, who gave me Yanis’ book to read to deepen my knowledge of the West and politics. Believe me, Tunde is the best you can have around in terms of contextualising global politics and situating it with happenings in Nigeria. He is versed and deep. I do not think Tunde can run away forever – he has to get involved fully in the affairs of Nigeria. It is a crime against knowledge to keep knowledge to yourself or a few. This is David Mark’s birthday (pardon my well-considered observation).
Yanis said: “By the time I entered that Washington bar three years later I had tempered my stance. My priority was not to leak information to the outsiders but to do whatever it took to get Greece out of debtors’ prison. If that meant pretending to be an insider, so be it. But the instant the price of administration to the insiders’ circle became acceptance of Greece’s permanent incarceration, I would leave.” This is a fine case of stooping with the establishment to free your people and get for them what they had wanted – what we have seen playing out “in the time of Mark.”
Hopefully, as the Mark’s Leadership Institute comes on stream one day, Tunde can take it as a challenge to facilitate a high-level forum where Senator Mark and Yanis can share experience on how they have been able to temper their stance to stoop with the establishment. I am ready to support him with my own ideas to birth this event, especially when the pay is good (I laugh). But, it is my wish that we can facilitate this and many other purposeful conversations to strengthen our country.
Mark has become a phenomenon. God has been kind to him; attaining three scores and ten years is a total encouragement for him to give his all to his people, nation and humanity. At 70, Bonaventure still has more to offer our country. Many Nigerians would want to see him take some steps to assume a leading role ahead of 2019 along the line of national political stability. That will be a good political contemplation. After all, he is a northerner of the middle belt extraction and suitable for the prime job.
There is no doubt that our national redemption and stability would be better achieved if he finally heeds the call of well wishers to join the race. His outstanding leadership qualities speak for him. Let it be said in the future to come that in the time of Mark, Nigeria prospered and witnessed stability.
Meantime, as Mark and family members converge on Otukpo and Abuja, to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of God, it is my candid prayers that the Almighty God will grant him good health, abundant strength and more wisdom to do more for the Minorities, Nigeria and humanity.
Atoye contributed this piece from Ekiti via [email protected]