Ladies and gentlemen, please, rise and give it up for the Leaders’ Leader, His Excellency, Sen. (Dr.) David Mark, GCON. God bless Nigeria!
Nigerians always whine about how Nigeria has not produced great leaders. Yet we never look hard enough to find and encourage compatriots who evince sterling leadership qualities. Our young people have inherited this twin culture of hasty generalisation and blanket dismissal. At every turn, they decry the absence of politicians to emulate.
I admit and concede that our leadership is a chronic national migraine. An alarming majority of persons holding positions of authority are quacks. They do untold damage to Nigeria and the psyche of Nigerians. The population continues to sink into depression, apathy and cynicism.
But, things are not all gloomy. This vast, over-endowed country boasts a few bright sparks that can form a leadership galaxy to shine the much-needed light even beyond our borders and continent. Today, this column sets out with the first of some Nigerian leaders whose character, conduct, learning, patriotism and performance make them leadership models. The hope is that within the next two months, Nigerians would be appropriately teased, going forward.
The man who wins the pride of place is someone I have never met or seen physically. But, he and I go back a long way, starting from 1988, which is the earliest my mind recollects of picking up his leadership signals. Then aged 17, I was in college in Ekondo Titi, Cameroon. My young mind was intrigued by the new Minister of Communications (I think, the youngest member of the AFRC).
I recall the first two valuable lessons I learned from this minister’s leadership style. Desperate to guide NITEL away from the suffocating deficit burden of salary backlog and sundry debts, he went after the telephone giant’s debtors. Strangely, he began by disconnecting some powerful individuals and, wait for it, Dodan Barracks, the very seat of power. The explanation by my Literature tutor, Mr. Oro Oro Peters, that IBB not firing the minister meant the latter had sought and obtained his approval taught me something fundamental!
Consultation and approval are the lubricants of leadership. Also, I gleaned the idea of starting to implement harsh policy from within (self, family, friends, etc). Furthermore, I learned that people would always seek to rubbish the best intentions. It grieves my spirit that the lie, concocted when this man insisted on payment by telephone users, is still being used against him.
However, in and out of the military, this five-star Nigerian has been an epitome of consistent patriotism, humility, service, humanity and godliness. Born on April 8, 1948, in his native Benue, he was educated in his village and later in Zaria and other parts of the country and the globe. Blessed with an uncanny ability to see tomorrow, a hallmark only very few leaders possess, he retired in 1993 as brigadier-general. Decades after, the impact of his various staff, command or administrative appointments is everywhere.
For instance, girl-child education-wise, Niger State today has no good second in all of the North because, in 1984, our man, as military governor, made education for that gender compulsory. His ministerial heyday saw the modernisation of national communications with the introduction of mobile and digital telephony complete with the mental re-engineering that readied Nigerians for the current prepaid tariff regime. The country’s longest-serving senator (since 1999) and Senate President (2007 to 2015) also saw today in 2012 when in declaring open a Senate press corps retreat in Umuahia, he warned Nigeria to brace up for the downsides of the social media. In 2014, he not only refused to join the mass exodus of PDP members into APC but foretold their re-defection!
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Throughout his headship of the sixth and seventh Senate, he maintained personal relationships with colleagues, ensured freedom for all, dissolved no committee nor suspended any senator. Crises were resolved quietly and quickly. No wonder he got the sobriquet Mr. Stability.
In 2010, his monstrous leadership creativity produced the Doctrine of Necessity, which offered the country political good luck in the nick of time. His close friends describe him as a good mixer who is deeply spiritual, forgiving, easy-going and unassuming. That speaks to why so many senators (especially of the opposition) ensured he was returned unopposed in 2011 and indeed to the immense pressure to stay on in 2015, which he resisted. Alas, he remains one of Nigeria’s most misunderstood, underrated and unappreciated leaders.
This noiseless philanthropist spends a fortune educating, sustaining or sponsoring Nigerian causes. Since 2002/2003, his scholarship foundation has made education easy for thousands of indigent Benue children. As chairman of NDA Regular Course 3 (1970) Alumni Association that meets every September 1, he pays school fees for children of his late colleagues. Add that to his other exorbitant passion – golf, the course, the academy.
A 10-man team from his golf academy (that made the country proud three years ago in Kenya and Scotland) is currently in Dublin, Ireland, for the World Amateur Teen Championship. It is this palpable genuineness and the deafening silence of his altruism, coupled with his consistency, maturity and courteous politics that make this Otukpo man a leadership delight. Ladies and gentlemen, please, rise and give it up for the Leaders’ Leader, His Excellency, Sen. (Dr.) David Mark, GCON. God bless Nigeria!
Next Monday: Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, CON
NBA & the rest of us
The way law or the lack of it defines living in this country, those of us implied as unlearned need to have a say in who leads the bar. Do lawyers understand the reach of the NBA? Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, needs to expatiate on this!