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David Mark @ 76: A Further Reappraisal Of My Perspectives

By Sufuyan Ojeifo

The news headline projected the infrequent, the unexpected. The totality of it appeared from the blue. Read it: “Mark in Delta State for the burial of Paul Mumeh’s mum…offers scholarship to nine-year-old boy… says CPS Mumeh most loyal person.” Mark in Delta State!? Yes, he was there, as people are wont to say in our part of the world, “live and direct.” Against expectations, Mark had hauled himself and his beautiful wife, Helen, from Abuja to Igbogili, Abavo in Ika South Local Government of Delta State for the burial ceremony of the mother of his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh. Mark could have given some excuses to be absent at the event. There are a thousand and one excuses he could have given. He might even have, as well, told Paul that he would not be able to make it and that would be it.

But an appreciative Mark took the opportunity of the occasion to show fidelity to unwavering followership and loyalty, which Paul aggregates and exemplifies. From 2007 to 2015 when Mark stepped in the saddle as Senate President through 2019 as Benue South Senator until now, Paul has tended to the media needs of the Idoma-born politician, discharging the responsibility with commitment and sharp focus. Paul could have moved on to other things after the tour of duty in the Senate, but for reasons best known to him, he chose to stand with Mark. Today, beyond the master-servant relationship, Paul has become an integral part of Mark’s family, yes, a “son” with whom Mark is well pleased. So, the appearance by Mark and his wife, Helen, at the burial ceremony of Paul’s mother was, exempli gratia, a demonstration of a kindred spirit anchored on a consummated “family” relationship.

For those who had always harboured a parochial view of Mark, that should provide a departure of sorts from the mundane, routine and jaded prisms through which he is mischievously appreciated or viewed. David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, retired brigadier general, former military administrator, former minister, and former senate president -the trajectory is quite phenomenal- who turns 76 years old today, is a great leader and defender of the interests of those he leads as long as they are nested in and in pari materia with his overarching interests. This is a component of his corporeal personality that through a further review of my perspectives of him I have chosen to celebrate as family members and associates identify with him on this occasion.

Ordinarily, there should be pomp and circumstance, but one is not sure Mark will go that route. But one thing I am sure he would do is to have a special morning mass at his residence in Apo Legislative Quarters to thank the Almighty God for His faithfulness and mercies upon him over the years. Other considerations can kick in thereafter.

But, as I wrote in my tributes to him on his birthday in 2022 and 2023, and it bears repeating, “David Mark significantly presents avant-garde perspectives to writers who indulge in the enterprise of questioning and contextualizing the essence(s) or quintessence(s) of grandees.”

The assertion supra and those infra are, in this celebratory piece, subjected to further reappraisal, of sorts, to explore the labyrinth of existential perceptions and perspectives of his identity or individuality, and the subsequent obligatory validations. I will give a verdict of sorts at the end of this tribute.

But as I posited in my two previous tributes (I have been involved in this enterprise since 2009), “For writers, it is an enterprise in which the subject matter becomes a captive of their imagination, and they are at liberty to either build or dismantle primordial prejudices; or to somewhat deconstruct or even reconstruct the persona of the subject through editorial interrogation.”

In my previous outings, I had made a silhouette, something close to Mr Lely’s portraiture of Oliver Cromwell, a politician and soldier, widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in English history. It is, therefore, my essential perception, add to it perspectives, that I have reappraised today within the context of his Igbogili-Abavo visitation in October last year in celebration of Mark at 76. It is important to state this now to provide a background understanding of this enterprise, lest many think the enterprise amounts to mere regurgitation of views once expressed about the celebrator.

Perceptions have always assumed free reins in the appreciation of personalities, and that is the tragedy, so to speak, of grandees. They are subjected to the whims of characterizations that most times encapsulate both the sublime and the outlandish; the profound and the jejune; the profane and the sacred, just anything and everything as long as it provides new and experimental contexts.

Read my summation as asserted last year: “Inevitably, Mark is on the occasion of his natal day a captive of this obligatory enterprise, which many crave and which many others loathe. There is always the existential fear about the possible boomerang effects or unintended consequences of media exposure. The fear is real and grisly. Yet, it could be salutary, somewhat, for introspective self-assessment of how well one has fared whether rightly or wrongly in the eyes of the community and the realm of public perception, especially for those in public offices and those who have taken their places in the pantheon of all-time greats, who must, in any case, be taken through the critical appraisal indices. It is in this context that the essential David Mark cannot escape essential consideration.”

Mark means different things to different people. To some, he remains a gentleman officer even in retirement; to others, he is an astute politician and strategist with a rare legerdemain; some more see him as a benefactor with a capacity for cornucopian eleemosynary acts while some relate to his persona as a passionate golfer. Those are not all to the varied perspectives. To boot, some see him as a great aficionado of the Catholic faith, while others see the part of him that warmly embraces tradition. They validate this with his acceptance of the traditional title of Okpokpowulu K’Idoma (transliterated as the leader of war or the bulldozer of Idoma) from the Och’Idoma IV of Idomaland, in 2009 or thereabout, in recognition of his numerous contributions to the development of Idoma land.

Read what I penned last year on his 75th birthday: “Permit me to, at this intersection, reflect a simple event and/or an encounter that continues to define my perspective of this influential politician, a man whose entirety evokes, at once, multiple perspectives by admirers and traducers alike. I could have adapted the summative one-liner of the French philosopher, Rene Descartes’ ‘cogito ergo sum’ meaning ‘I think therefore I am’ when he was asked who the man is, to answer the question as to who David Mark is.

“I am consensus ad idem with the adumbrated characterizations supra as much as I am on all fours with those elucidated infra. I could settle for one of the perspectives in a quick riposte. But on the occasion of his 75th birthday, there is nothing more to hold back except if one decides to do just that.

“Therefore, to answer the question, I would say that Mark is a fitting exemplifier or embodiment of all the perspectives here and elsewhere, which makes his exemplar quite remarkable. Given my significant encounter with him, he is simply quintessential! I take the opportunity of his birthday, just as I had done in the past, to celebrate a man who chose, at a critical intersection in my coverage of the Senate as THISDAY politics editor in Abuja, to bring me close to him by force of appreciation of my “intellectual capital”.

“My reportage of the politicking for the race for the senate presidency in 2007 had been misconstrued as opposition to Mark’s senate presidency and that disposition had preponderated ‘reportorial interactions’ with his media office until 2009 when Mark turned 61. The then Deputy Editor of THISDAY on Sunday, Mr Collins Edomaruse, had asked me to do a tribute on him (Mark) about the close of production on Friday night, which I did under 40 minutes.

“I did not even take time to proofread the piece for errors. I pressed the ‘send’ key on my computer. It was after the piece entitled: “Pomp, as Mark Turns 61 in the Saddle” was published in The Gavel-to-Gavel page that I read through and felt I had done a pretty good job. I later realised I had done a magnum opus on Mark when the then deputy minority leader, Senator Mohammed Mana from Adamawa state, called to commend me for what he called “a beautiful and brilliant piece.”

“I had to go back to read through myself. By Thursday of that week, I got a message through an AIT cameraman that the senate president said he would like to see me. I went to see him in the office of a company with his Chief of Staff and his Special Adviser Media. Mark said to me that he read through my piece and decided to call to commend me for it.

“It was a particularly fulfilling encounter for me. His words were soothing. If I remember vividly, he said: ‘You are a brilliant writer. You are not like some journalists who write sentences without verbs. I read you always in THISDAY and I agree with many of the issues you have interrogated except for one or two, which we will discuss later.’ We never got to discuss them, though.

“That was how we struck a relationship that has endured so far. When I was redeployed by THISDAY from the Senate to assume a new position as State House Bureau Chief, I had the privilege of being hosted to a dinner at the Apo Mansion, the official residence of the Senate president. Since then, he has not broken the line of communication between us. Given my kind of person, who does not like irritating my influential friends (and, so in trying to keep fidelity to that attitude, I maintain minimal, dignifying contact with them). Therefore, any time I decide to get in touch, he always jokingly charges me with having ‘abandoned’ him.

“That, for me, is the essence of the intercourse between greatness and humility. Mark is a great man. He is also a humble man, regardless of his visage and poise, contoured by his disciplined military background, which tends to be misconstrued for meanness and arrogance. Regardless, Mark remains one of the most influential politicians around. He has earned that badge for which history will not forget him, and posterity will judge him positively. This remains my verdict. It is a message of reappraisal of my perceptions and perspectives of who he is in his life and times…. The verdict is constant, consistent with the previous acts.

As I did last year, I round off with Edward J. Stieglitz, an author and doctor, who once rationalized thus: “And in the end, it is not the years in your life that count; it is the life in your years.” As a medical doctor, Stieglitz understands what he was talking about having a bubbly life. But as I wish the quintessential David A.B. Mark, a great golfer, many happy returns in long life and good health, I sincerely pray that the Almighty God will continue to bless both the years in his life and the life in his years. Happy birthday, Sir!

 

Mr Ojeifo is the publisher of THE CONCLAVE. {ojwonderngr@yahoo.com}

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