President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, among others, yesterday paid glowing tribute to the immediate past President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, for his meritorious services as the latter exits from the Senate after 20 years.
In their separate goodwill messages to Mark at a thanksgiving mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Otukpo, Benue State, they described him as an icon and patriotic leader in the contemporary Nigeria.
Specifically, Saraki noted that his predecessor has set a record as the longest serving Senator since 1999, the longest serving President of the Senate and referred to him as an officer and a gentleman.
He said: “Senator Mark was our own equivalent of the US Senators Robert C. Byrd (51 years, five months, 26 days), Daniel K. Inouye (49 years, 11 months and 15 days) Strom Thurmond (47 years, five months, eight days), Ted Kennedy (46years, nine months, 19 days and Patrick J. Leahy (44years) in terms of institutional memory that he embodies.”
Saraki acknowledged that Mark remains a stabilising force in or out of the chamber pointing out that he remains relevant even when he left the position of the primus inter pares in the Senate.
According to him, “while Senator Mark’s record in the Senate remains unbeaten, it is necessary to mention that he is a bridge builder and consummate politician. My colleagues and I in the eight Senate, appreciates his humility, brilliance and patriotism.”
In his tribute, Deputy President of the Senate noted the leadership qualities of Mark and added “your place of honour as a fine, perceptive, detribalised, patriotic, astute leader and a true democrat is unarguable and unshakable.
Besides leading the National Assembly to break the jinx of constitutional amendments and the successful electoral reforms, Ekweremadu added “your capacity as a wise, experienced, patriotic and true statesman manifested at a very trying time in the nation’s history when you guided the National Assembly to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to steer the country away from palpable constitutional crisis.”
Governor Samuel Ortom, in his remarks, noted: “Your quality representation and indefatigable leadership in the Senate brought stability to the system and added enormous value to democracy.
“I am proud to identify with you for your selfless services to the state and the nation as well as providing mentorship to upcoming leaders.”
An elated Mark expressed appreciation to his people for the opportunity to serve, promising to continue to work for peace and unity of Nigeria.
In his homily, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, Most Reverend Kenneth Odeh, described Mark as an icon of inestimable value saying that his contributions to the development of Nigeria cannot be wished away.
Odeh urged Nigerian politicians to emulate Mark’s selfless service to the country.