here is no limit to the number of terms lawmakers can serve in either State or National Assembly as long as they continue to win elections. In this report, BODE GBADEBO AND GABRIEL EMAMEH profile three federal lawmakers who have been elected for a record fifth time, and have spent 20 years in the National Assembly.
Senator David Mark
Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, 71, represents the people of Benue South senatorial district in the National Assembly. He has been in the Senate since the return of democracy in 1999 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Mark is a former military governor of Niger State and a former minister of communications in the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida military junta. He was re-elected in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. In 2007, he became the Senate President and occupied the position for eight years, making him Nigeria’s longest-serving President of the Senate. He faced a re-run election in 2016 when his election was annulled by a tribunal. Again he won, thus making him the only senator that has contested senatorial election six times and won.
Till date and until he leaves the Senate in a matter of weeks, Mark is the most ranking senator. He brought his leadership qualities to bear as president of the Senate when he invoked the Doctrine of Necessity to solve the political logjam occasioned by the ill-health of late President Umaru Yar’Adua. At the time, Yar’Adua had travelled abroad for medical treatment had not transmitted a letter to the Senate transferring state powers to the then vice president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, as the constitution requires. With Yar’Adua terminally ill in a German hospital and no one in charge, Mark declared that he was invoking the Doctrine of Necessity – a previously unknown term in the nation’s polity – to fill the power vacuum by authorising Jonathan to become acting president pending the return of President Yar’Adua. With that singular move, Mark calmed the political tension that had built up in the country over the then president’s absence.
Mark ran the Senate in a way that gave his colleagues a sense of belonging. To him, no senator is more equal than the other. He called his colleagues ‘my bosses’ when he was at the helm of affairs in the Red Chamber. Mark was elected senator for a record fifth term which will expire on June 9, 2019 after which he would retire from the Red Chamber. According to Mark’s spokesman, Paul Mumeh, his principal will leave the Senate a fulfilled man after 20 years of meritorious service to his people and the nation in general.
The well respected senator voluntarily decided to make way for one of his protégés. “He is being succeeded by his political son, Comrade Abba Moro, while his daughter, Lady Blessing Onuh, goes to the House of Representatives. No doubt, Senator Mark is bowing out gloriously,” Mumeh said.
Senator Ahmad Lawan
Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, 59, represents Yobe North on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He also came to the National Assembly in 1999 on the platform of All Peoples Party (APP), which transmuted to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later merged with others to form the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014. Unlike Senator Mark who has been in the Senate since 1999, Lawan’s 20 years in the National Assembly is split between the Lower and Upper chambers. He was initially in the House of Representatives before scaling up to the Senate. He was in the House of Representatives for two terms – from 1999 to 2007, before his election to the Senate. The Yobe-born teacher, who has a Doctorate degree in Remote Sensing, became the Senate Leader in January 2017 after his failed bid to be the Senate President in 2015.
Lawan is also currently seeking to be the Senate President of the incoming 9th National Assembly, having received the endorsement of both his party and President Muhammadu Buhari. In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Friday, Lawan explained what has kept him going and why his people have reposed their confidence in him for 20 years and counting. “I will tell you a short story,” he said. ”When I ran in 1999 for the House of Representatives, I ran on the basis of coming to the National Assembly to represent my people well. I had a very good job after my training; I didn’t lack. So when I came in 1999, I told myself I’m going to remain the person that is coming to the National Assembly, that I was not going to become a politician.
I will tell everybody the truth, I would have to struggle to find out how to put it but I must tell people the truth. Where requests will be made that I know are not possible, I will tell people that it is not possible, either it is not my role or I’m not in a position to do it, but I also worked so hard. “Thank God to my colleagues in the House who supported me to ensure that my people were not cheated or shortchanged in the federal administration. Before I came in 1999 to the House, there was an incident in my place, the National Park Service declared a section of flood plain in my constituency, they stopped people from farming, rearing their animals and fishing because birds were coming there annually and they still do.
I told my people that when I’m in the House I’ll reverse that thing – the birds must co-exist with us because that is our place; we have no place to go to. So when I came in 1999, I decided to take on the federal authorities. I went to the then Minister of Agriculture and told him I was coming to complain about the National Park thing in my place, that my people from 1994 were stopped from going to their farms, fishing and rearing their animals, and that was not acceptable. “Well, initially, he said ‘you these politicians’ and I told him ‘I’m not a politician. I’ve been voted into office; what I’m telling you is what I believe in.’ Eventually, we had some misunderstanding, they thought I was joking, so when they didn’t treat me the way I thought they would, I decided to go public and everybody had to beg me in the federal system to stop talking because the other national park areas – which are eight in number – started to catch fire because they were under the same situation.
So they called me back and we wrote an MoU that farmers will go back to their farms and that they will not cut down new areas; they will not cut trees and the animal rearers will go back but they will not be cutting branches of trees for their animals; fishermen were also allowed to go back to fishing. We wrote the MoU here and went with representatives of Federal Ministry of Agriculture to meet farmers’ association and everybody there signed and my people went back to farms and they are still in their farms. “We should always target at ensuring that at no time should we compromise on issues that are fundamental to the lives of Nigerians. I could have taken money from somewhere and but where would I be by now? “My conscience would have continuously pricked me and definitely my people would not have voted for me again because God will guide them to do something else even though they didn’t know what happened. “God would have guided them. We represent people; they are not always around us but God is always there watching us. So we should do the right thing,” Lawan said.
Hon Nicholas Mutu
Hon Nicholas Ebomo Mutu came to the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP in 1999. He won election to represent Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta State at the age of 39. And since then he has been winning elections – in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. Just like Senator Lawan, Hon. Nicholas Mutu attended Rivers State School of Basic Studies where he graduated in 1986. He proceeded to St. Clements University Caicos/Irland, British West Indies, and graduated in 2003. He was the chairman of Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta State from 1996 to 1997 before being elected into the House of Representatives in 1999, where he has served in various House Committees including Banking & Currency, Niger Delta, Governmental Affairs, Sports, and Federal Capital Territory. He is currently the Chairman, House Committees on Niger Delta Development Commission and Niger Delta Affairs.
He also holds the national honour of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR). Mutu has been operating underground, so to speak. The soft-spoken Delta lawmaker rarely contributes to debate on the floor of the House and hardly grants interviews, but he must be doing something remarkable to retain a firm grip of his constituency. In August last year, the PDP in Bomadi LGA bestowed an honorary doctorate degree in road construction and empowerment of rural communities on Hon Mutu. The party chairman, Hon. Prince Opuofoni, said: “The title is well deserved and is in consideration of the lawmaker’s developmental efforts in his constituency over the years.”
Senior Special Assistant to Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Politics, David Ekereokosu, also described Mutu as an executive legislator considering his unequalled developmental activities in rural communities. “Your voice is loud and clear in empowerment schemes, road construction and community development. The only language of politics is development and development alone. You are an executive legislator in road construction in rural communities,” Ekereokosu said. Attempts to hear directly from Mutu were not successful as he did not answer our reporter’s phone calls nor responded to his text messages by the time of going to press.