Nigeria’s Senate president, David Bonaventure Mark, is deeply troubled. And his present state of mind is justifiable. The criminal empire which prince he’s one of is at the verge of crumbling, or so he thinks. He’s eyeing the kingship of the empire in a few years from now. He wants to rule and reign in the kingdom. He has amassed enough wealth and bought enough souls to make this possible. He dreams of joining the league of candidates for prison who became presidents of Nigeria in the last three or so decades.
But the turn of events, especially since January this year, has jolted him. It doesn’t seem as though he would have any smooth ride to the kingship he so much covets, neither would he have the rest of mind to consume the millions he has so far amassed. He recently heaped the blame on new media or social media. The credibility he has sought to build in the last thirteen years hasn’t even taken off the ground, to his utter dismay. Millions of Nigerians don’t see any reason to take him seriously. He knows – or thinks – social media is responsible for this.
Last Thursday, while declaring open a two-day retreat for Senate Press corps in Umuahia, Abia State, he said there was a need to check the use of social media as Nigerians were using them to demean their leaders. Hear him: “We need to change our attitude on how we report things about our country and we should emulate the foreign reporters who never report negative things about their countries.” So Mr Mark wants to sponsor – and pass – a legislation that would impose restrictions on the use of social media in Nigeria. Once that is done, his confidence in the empire will rebound, and his hopes of assuming the kingship will come back to live.
Again, Mr Mark is justified, because, you see, there’s so much money can buy; and there’s even much more plenty of money can buy. The more money you make without working, the more you want to spend without sweat. He pays himself N600 million from Nigeria’s treasury in one year. That isn’t heavenly or biblical year. It is earthly year as we know it; twelve calendar months, the one within which Barack Obama, the United States president, earns N60 million.
What Mr. Mark pays himself in one year is the salary of a US president for ten (yes, ten!) good years. What Nigeria’s number three citizen takes home, legally, in one year, is what the number one citizen of the world’s biggest economy, and only remaining super-power, earns in ten years. Because no president stays beyond eight years in America, it means what David Mark gives himself as earnings in one year is what will pay at least two American presidents – one for eight years and another one for extra two years. That means before Mark concludes his four year term, he would have amassed enough money from our treasury that will pay United States presidents for forty years! You see why he has to checkmate social media? You can’t have access to such amounts of free money without being sensitive to any avenue through which opposition rears its envious head.
Interestingly, what Mark is supposed to be doing to be taking such a humongous amount home every year is the same job the United States Vice President combines with his official job as the Vice, and for which he earns less than one-tenth of the money Mr Mark allocates to himself. Actually, it is the president of the US, not his Vice, who earns up to one-tenth of Mark’s annual bazaar. So for taking home N600 million for doing nothing, why will David Mark not feel threatened by social media?
It is even more annoying because years before now, nobody knew how much of injury his avarice –and those of his ilk – inflicted on the nation’s treasury. It was easy for him to buy up the entire mainstream media peopled by brown-envelope-seeking journalists and editors in a hurry to join the resource-grabbing frenzy of those who rule Nigeria. His Ghana-must-go bags were handy for willing media people who had no regards for the sacred role the society, and their jobs, had thrust upon them. Today, Mark can’t control what gets into the new media. He can’t control the number of people who read just a tweet, or Facebook post or blog post, detailing how much David Mark grabs monthly from the purse of a nation in pathetic poverty. He can’t control who reads this piece or who doesn’t. He can’t pull down this website or the other ones linked to it through which this piece will be read by thousands or millions of Nigerians. And this is why he is troubled.
There is also the conscience – or even emotional – side to his discomfort. He hates the poor, and gets angry at the sight of any poor person enjoying whatever he (Mark) considers a luxury. Most of the people who attack him and his tribe of nation-killers on social media do so with telephone which, years ago, he had declared wasn’t for the poor. The society-made super rich which Mark loves dearly can’t say anything wrong about him on social media. They are all colleagues in the nation-wrecking industry. Clearly, it is those “poor” ones, or those who should be poor but have somehow risen above it, that criticise Mark.
As Babangida’s minister of communication, he told whoever cared to listen to perish the thoughts of making telephone available to Nigerians. He stated, clearly, that telephone wasn’t for the poor. It was for the rich, eaters of hundreds of millions of naira from Nigeria’s commonwealth. Today, the senator watches even roadside mechanics clutching their phones, reading the internet and seeing how much of a curse to them this government has become. If you were Mark, you’d be troubled too.
He saw the shape of things to come from social media last January. The OccupyNigeria protests jolted him and his co-travellers. Forget the lies they took to the market of how opposition hijacked the protests, he knew that the power of social media was at work. But for lack of patriotism of the labour leaders who sold the protests to Mark and his government, the government would have been brought down. And since then, he has watched the social media project himself and the government in their true picture: enemies of the Nigerian people. He saw the Arab spring and how social media swept away his mentors in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and others. The senate president has stomached enough. He isn’t going to take it anymore.
It is a paradox that the same society which David Mark has so much undermined sent him to the Senate to represent them. It is even more shocking that the same Mark was made the president of the Senate, the nation’s symbol of democracy. Yet it is more paradoxical that the head of the institution which should bear the torchlight of democracy is the first person who has openly demonstrated his desire to outlaw the right of the people to freely express themselves.
Mr Mark’s ingratitude deserves a special mention. Here’s a man who was part of Babangida’s gang that collapsed Nigeria’s economy while their private economies, represented by their numerous bank accounts, blossomed. This is the same Mark who failed as a communications minister. Isn’t he supposed to be serving a lifetime in jail? Instead, he bulldozed his way through our polity and just happened in the senate. And for not taking a punitive action against him for his failure, he has got emboldened to punish us.
David Mark has always represented darkness in Nigeria. The senate he leads, which is an effective retirement house for former state treasury looters, has represented everything a nation’s senate should not be. While the lower house rose to the defence of Nigerians during the fuel subsidy protests, Mr Mark and his senate looked the other way round just to preserve the darkness which so much benefits him. While the lower house set up committees upon committees to perform their constitutional oversight functions on federal government ministries, departments and agencies, Mark’s senate chose silence which darkness brings.
He is preaching how reporters should follow their foreign counterparts. Unfortunately, the Senate president, like the other “leaders” in Nigeria, does not read. That raises another question: what does he do with the newspaper allowance he pays himself? If he reads American or British newspapers, then he would understand that a vibrant media will always question their leaders.
But let’s even assume Mark is right about foreign reporters not reporting the negatives about their countries; and we choose to emulate them, has Mark emulated the same foreign countries in insisting that politicians only earn realistic and sustainable salaries? Part of what he wants us to report is that he doesn’t pay himself ten times the salary of the US president, or that he hasn’t made efforts to frustrate, through his senate, the demand of Nigerians that subsidy thieves be prosecuted. Mr Mark hasn’t seen anything yet.
I understand he is a Christian. I would refer him to an interesting portion of the Bible. It is John 1:5:
“The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.”
New media is the light of the 21st Century, it is shining forth and forcing darkness to give way.
In the coming days and weeks and months, we would know who gives way between David Mark and social media. But I am convinced it won’t be the latter.