By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
The political milieu has in the past few days been beclouded with reports of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s invitation and quizzing of former President of the Senate, David Mark who is being accused of illegal acquisition of his official residence during the years of his service to the country in the leadership of the National Assembly.
National Daily investigation, however, revealed that the lingering controversy may not be unconnected with the 2015 presidential project of David Mark which was gathered to be receiving endorsement by the ruling elite in the North and the retired Army Generals. There is the phobia that the corruption allegations could, hypothetically, represent mere smokescreen to cover up the power tussle towards 2019 presidential election.
David Mark has not formally declared for the 2019 presidential race but findings showed that the former Senate President has deployed his politic machine to concentrate energy on the power house of the polity. The political simulation and lobby were principally restricted to the ruling elite, where elite re-alignment or a new coalition was gathered to be taking place towards 2019, as well as the party structure. Mark was gathered to have worked assiduously in this area and is ahead of some other presidential aspirants in virtually all other political parties.
Findings further revealed that the current PDP leadership is skewed positively in favour of Mark in the contest for the presidential ticket of the party for 2019. Apparently. There are indications that Mark has been building strong invisible power bloc in the polity towards 2019 that could make him the major presidential aspirant that may stop former Vice President Abubakar Atiku from picking the PDP ticket. The battle for the PDP ticket is expected to be fought between Atiku and Mark.
Curiously, the depth of negotiation or horse trading and consensus building permeating the elite community show symptoms that Mark is gradually deepening his stronghold to the presidential throne in 2019.
Paradoxically, the rising profile of David Mark in the elite community has become a source of concerns or an intimidating phenomenon to other aspirants including the incumbent president.
It will be recalled that Engineer Martin Onovo, 2015 Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP), had in an interview with National Daily, declared that the EFCC has become an arm of the APC Government, alleging that EFCC is no longer fighting corruption but fighting political war for the president.
Comrade James Oche of Door to Door, Mark’s campaign organisation, was gathered to have bemoaned that the EFCC invitation is a witch hunt.
He was cited to have argued inter alia: “Look at the list – Sule Lamido, Atiku, and now, David Mark. The President should deal with insecurity and monumental failings and not try to bully people who want to get into the ring with him. What is he afraid of, even Mugabe invited and accepted opponents.
“It’s been two years since David Mark lost the President of the Senate, why has it taken two years for Buhari to investigate him, this was the number three man.”
David Mark is accused by EFCC of acquiring his Apo Residential House illegally. Based on the allegation which investigation is yet to be concluded and prosecution commenced, the Obono led Presidential Task Force on Recovery of Government Properties, has already issued an ultimatum on Mark to vacate the property. This is already being challenged in court by counsel to Mark, Ken Ikonne.
There was also the allegation that PDP paid over N2 billion into the National Assembly’s account which Mark shared among the 109 Senators (including PDP, ACN, and ANPP) in 2010.
Mark had explained that the property generating the controversy was acquired under the modernization policy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
It is on record that former President Obasanjo introduced the modernization policy to reduce the cost of governance, according to the former President’s philosophy of the modernization policy then. The policy required that no government official including ministers live government residence, use government vehicles, etc. they were to also cater for their utility needs and housemaids. However, all these were paid to the government officials in bulk money, putting an end to the routine monthly expenditures by the government on public officials.
It will be recalled that only Malam Nasir El-Rufai, then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was permitted by Obasanjo to use government official vehicles then. The argument was that as the FCT Minister, El-Rufai also the status that was the same with state governors.
Meanwhile, David Mark had declared: “I am a law-abiding citizen. I did not flout any law.
“I had the right of first refusal. Even if I did not purchase it, someone else would have.
“Curiously, four houses occupied by the then Presiding Officers of National Assembly were offered to the occupants. All of us, me as the then President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his Deputy Bayero Nafada were all given the same offer.
“I am at a loss as to why it is now a subject of contention.
“If this persecution is about politics, my political party, and the 2019 elections, I dare say that only God and Nigerians would decide. No amount of persecution would alter the will of God.
I had refrained from commenting on this because it is already in the Law Court. But they have taken the matter to the Court of public opinion.”
The scenario is generating fears that political space may not be open for liberal participation and transparent elections.