Flipside of Senate Presidency, the challenge of progression
Recent events at the National Assembly have called attention to the challenges occupants of the office of Senate President face regarding their political future.At the return of democracy in 1999, the seat was highly exalted and therefore coveted, as every senator desires to be chosen. Not only is the office very powerful, but it also attracts a lot of perks and veneration. By order of protocol, the Senate President is the third highest public office holder after the president and vice-president.
Among those who have occupied the position, Senator David Bonaventure Mark stands out. Before becoming a senator, Mark has been an establishment person, operating in the corridors of power for years added to a successful career in the military.
Leveraging on this, Mark contested and won election in 1999 as senator representing Benue South Senatorial District. He continued to contest and win since then till date. In 2007, he emerged Senate President and served from 2007 to 2015, thus becoming the longest serving senate president in the history of the Senate. A feat that is truly unprecedented.
In 2015, Mark missed his political target of continuing as Senate President following PDP’s defeat in the presidential election by the All Progressives Congress (APC). With that Mark returned to the Senate after 2015 elections, but as a nominal member. This development marked Mark out as the first ever Senate President to return to the Senate as a floor member.
As a result, today, not many Nigerians know that Mark is still a serving Senator. He has maintained low profile and most times, hardly attends plenary session, talk less of contributing to debates.Even at the thick of ongoing tussle between APC and PDP senators for the soul of the Senate, Mark hardly talks or intervenes. It is obvious that had it been that he had a hint of the present turn of events in 2015 polls, he would not have sought a return to the Red Chamber.
It would be recalled that other past Senate Presidents since 1999, apart from Mark never returned after serving as Senate President.Favoured to become Senate President by majority of PDP leaders and members in 1999 was the Senator that represented Anambra North District, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.
But the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and his cohorts thought otherwise. They saw Okadigbo as too independent-minded and a powerful person that would be difficult to control or programme. That was how the senator representing Imo-East senatorial district, Evan Enwerem was propped by the Presidency to emerge the Senate President at the expense of Okadigbo on June 3. Enwerem polled 66 votes against Okadigbo’s 43.However, Enwerem did not last long on the seat, following allegation of corruption leveled him. He was impeached on November 18, 1999 and Okadigbo was at last elected to succeed him.
And, like his predecessor, Okadigbo was charged with corruption and impeached on August 2000, thereby demoting him to the seat he once occupied before becoming President. Either as a result in default, in 2002 Okadigbo decamped to the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to become Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate for the 2003 Presidential election, only to lose to PDP’s candidates, Obasanjo and Atiku.
Anyim Pius Anyim, who succeeded Okadigbo, was representing Ebonyi South senatorial district. But some where along the line, Anyim fell out with Obasanjo and his then state governor, now Senator, Sam Egwu.
In 2003, Anyim refused to seek re-election, sensing that under Obasanjo’s watch his efforts and resources would end in vain.After the 2003 elections, the senator representing Abia South, Adolphus Wabara, became Obasanjo’s preferred candidate for the post of Senate President. Despite the controversies that trailed Wabara’s election as senator, Obasanjo insisted on him. Wabara later became Senate President, but was forced to resign in April 2005 following allegations of bribe for budget scandal.
Ken Nnamani from Enugu East zone succeeded Wabara. Nnamani became popular for his role in frustrating Obasanjo’s alleged third term schemes. It is of note that in 2007, neither Wabara nor Nnamani recontested his seat as both of them bowed out of Senate.Now, with the ongoing battle for soul of the Senate and Senate President Bukola Saraki’s disclosure that he might contest the presidency in 2019, is Saraki trying to avoid Mark’s condition or emulate Nnamani, Anyim and Wabara’s approach?
Many observers believe that it would amount to political condescension for Saraki to contest and win senatorial seat in 2019 and become a nominal member or to contest and lose. It is better and respectful for Saraki to contest the Presidency to win or lose and hold his political prestige intact, than being rubbished like Mark, who moved from headmaster in the Senate to teacher by default.
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