No doubt, the fiercest contest in the political history of the former Senate president David Mark of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the recently held rerun election in Benue South Senatorial District. The rerun election was conducted in nine local government areas of the district.
The repeat election was held following an order of the Court of Appeal in November, last year, which jettisoned the result of the earlier election held on March 28 with Mark emerging winner and returned to the Senate for a fifth time.
Mark emerged winner of the repeat poll with total votes of 84,192, beating his All Progressives Congress (APC) opponent, Daniel Onjeh, who scored 71,621 votes.
Following the victory, the supporters and admirers of Mark, expectedly, jubilated while Alhaji Usman Abubakar, popularly known as the Young Alhaji, who is a staunch supporter of Mark, in fulfillment of his promise, threw a seven-day party in his Otukpo residence to mark the victory.
The turnout of voters in all of the nine LGAs for the poll was impressive, despite the cases of pockets of violence, alleged ballot box snatching and physical assaults of some persons by suspected political thugs.
Mark, who addressed newsmen shortly after he was declared victorious, dedicated his victory to the Idoma people and appealed to his main challenger, Onjeh, to join him in moving Idoma land forward.
He said: “I want to thank all sons and daughters of Idoma land because this victory is for us, not for David Mark. I also want to urge those whose political interest might have clashed with mine to join hands with me in moving Idoma land forward.”
He said that the election was over and all efforts must now be geared towards the betterment of the people, adding: “I want to thank people for their support and promise that I will not disappoint them. The youth stood by me. The election is over and I am ready to serve Idoma land again.”
Needless to say that lessons have been learnt not only by Mark but all the Idoma prominent political figures.
Mark has been the senator representing the senatorial district since democracy returned to the country in 1999, though there have been unsuccessful attempt to unseat him before now.
Somehow, Mark, like the proverbial cat with nine lives, survived and remains at the upper chambers of the National Assembly.
In the past, he fought for the seat with the likes of retired Lawrence Onoja, Young Alhaji and Chief Mike Onoja who, at the last minute, stepped down after pressure was mounted on him by particularly members of the traditional institution who claimed that it was in the interest of the Idoma people for him to withdraw for Mark.
But there was also the alleged conspiracy against Mark by forces from within and outside the state to ensure that he was defeated in the election and end his 17 years political sojourn.
The unexpected defection of PDP big wigs in Idoma land to the APC was meant to spell doom for Mark’s political career as the likes of immediate past Benue State deputy governor, Chief Stephen Lawani, ex-minister of state for Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode, ex-Senate president, Ameh Ebute, and former federal permanent secretary, Chief Mike Okibe Onoja, among many others, declared support for Onjeh.
It appeared that Mark was a man destined for defeat at the poll and Onjeh, seemed to be hailed as the politician who dared the “lion” and defeated it.
Onjeh, 41, has stirred the hornet nest in March 28, 2015, senatorial poll when he turned deaf ears to pleas made by the Idoma elders to allow Mark go back to the Senate unopposed. He later pursued a legal redress which terminated at the appeal court.
Mark, it was said, won at the March 2015 poll because the Idoma people held the office of the Senate president in high esteem and wanted him to retain the office so that they would continue to remain in the mainstream of the nation’s politics, sustain their agitation for the creation of Apa state and enjoy dividends of democracy which eluded them at the state level.
Also, Mark was able to persuade the people to vote for him the fifth time because of the need to retain the status of the federal university/teaching hospital, Otukpo, which he attracted to the area but has now been demoted to college of medicine under the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.
But this time, it was a different ball game. Mark needed to convince the people to remain with him as a politician in the opposition party. He also had to battle the ruling APC-led government in the state which is bent on rendering him politically powerless while it was also believed, in some quarters, that his colleague in the Senate, George Akume, was largely behind his travails.
Yet Mark’s effective campaign team was able to mend fences with the former Senate president’s biggest political threat, Young Alhaji, who never winked an eyelid while he combed all nooks and crannies to canvass votes for Mark, regardless of party affiliation.
Still counting in favour of Mark was, of course, the secret decision of some individuals who earlier abandoned the PDP and some elders of Idoma land to give him the chance to complete his current tenure at the Senate so that he would gloriously exit the scene in 2019.
The rest, as the saying goes, is now history. Mark has learnt his bitter political lesson at the build-up to the election and those who left the PDP to punish him have also learnt theirs, with most of them losing their wards to Mark’s PDP in the rerun election.
Nevertheless, Onjeh is viewed by many as the hero of the election for his doggedness to dare the path which many, including the prominent sons of the land, feared to tread.
The Idoma people, who are republican in nature, have also showed their resolve to conquer a common enemy in the strength of togetherness.
For sure, the election has redefined politics in Idoma land, through especially depicting that neither the electorates nor good standing politicians who have earned their reputation could be taken for granted. Now, it is known that everyone is important and should be respected at all times.
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