Tunde is one of the sons of a former Senate President, Senator David Mark. He talks about his father’s life and career with MOTUNRAYO JOEL
Tell us about yourself.
I am Tunde Jonathan Mark, the first son of the immediate past President of the Senate, Senator David Mark (GCON). I am in my 40s, married with a child. I started primary school at Yaba Military School, Lagos. I subsequently completed my secondary school in the United Kingdom and I graduated from King’s College, University of London.
I learnt you once worked at the National Assembly?
Yes, I did, I worked at the National Assembly, but I am now currently exploring entrepreneurial opportunities in the private sector.
How was it growing up with the famous David Mark?
My upbringing was typical for those who grew up within a military setting. My father’s military career was one of postings, assignments and so on. We followed him wherever he went as a family.
What fond memories do you have of him growing up?
I still have a picture of him (in my memory) wearing his military peak cap and carrying his officer’s staff when he returned home. I always followed him to work and returned home to wait for his return from office.
Describe his personality at home.
My father is quiet, easy-going and informal. He can be conversational if we are watching television or talking about current affairs or sports.
Growing up, how did he discipline any of his children who erred?
We never suffered corporal punishment. His ‘stare’ was enough to warrant self-censorship and reflection.
You are privileged to have a father who is well-known, has his name opened doors for you?
Not in any material way whatsoever. I believe having a name can permit you access, but nothing more.
Considering his political status in the society, many would assume that he is an overprotective father.
No, he is not an overprotective father.
Where are all his children based?
Majority of his children are here in Nigeria.
Which professional paths did his children take?
His children are involved in various fields — journalism, financial services, the civil service, academia, homemaking and entrepreneurship.
Is he the type of father that influences his children’s career choices?
No, he did not influence any of our career choices; he is not the type of father that would do that.
What led to his joining politics?
He returned from exile at the advent of this current democratic dispensation. Then he consulted with well-wishers from his community and decided to represent his constituents in the Senate.
While he was President of the Senate of Nigeria (2007 to 2015), what challenges did he face?
As an external, though close observer, I think the challenge of being the Chairman of the National Assembly rests in how one can manage the constant tension between national interest and the pull of party politics.
As an example, we can look at the unstable transition period we experienced in transitioning from the administration of the late Umaru Yar’Adua to that of former President Goodluck Jonathan. If you recall, he invoked the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to solve the political logjam then. He saved the nation from the precipice. Personally, I feel that he handled that period of uncertainty very adroitly. It is now obvious that the situation could easily have escalated into events that could have curtailed our democracy.
A good number of political figures seem to be defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress. If he had the opportunity to follow suit, would he do same?
For party political purposes, no; if couched in the national interest, he could be persuaded to serve the nation, but not a political party.
Your father is often described to be a rich man.What is your view on this?
I would not want to comment on that.
What are some of the challenges he faced in life, especially while climbing up his career ladder?
He was a minority from a modest background, and from a politically inconsequential tribe domiciled in a region with little political clout (as opposed to being from the more established ethnic groups).
He was fortunate to serve in the Nigerian Army, which at that time placed a high premium on the integrity and capabilities of its general officer cadre. He had demanding but fair bosses who recognised his qualities of promptness, thoroughness of action and achieving set targets. He also enjoyed the unalloyed support of his colleagues from the 3rd Regular Course at the Nigerian Defence Academy.
Being David Mark’s first son, what values have you imbibed from him?
He taught me to never shirk from one’s responsibilities, however burdening. I also imbibed persistence and optimism from him; these are values my father cherishes. Also, I would say that I imbibed his ‘can-do attitude’ and a sense of practical pragmatism, as opposed to starry-eyed theorising.
What are the secrets of his success?
Permit me not to comment on that.
What is the most important advice he has given you?
These are his words of wisdom, “Your word is your bond. If you commit, commit wholeheartedly.”
Your father is seen as a tough man, but there must have been an incident that saddened him…
That would be the death of his father. He was then on self-exile and was unable to give him a befitting burial. He was deeply saddened by it.
Your father has a beautiful house in Benue State; it must have cost him a fortune…
I have no comments on that.
How does he like to relax?
He plays golf. Golf is his favourite sport; he plays it daily.
Tell us about his likes and dislikes.
Let me start with his dislikes; my father dislikes tardiness, mendacity and poor personal hygiene. And for his likes, that would be professionalism, attention to details and courtesy.
Who are those he considers his role models?
His 3rd Regular Course NDA colleagues, (the late) Gen. Murtala Muhammed (he was briefly Gen. Muhammed’s ADC) and his late father, Pa Aikwuta Mark.
Who is your dad’s best friend?
I would say Sen. Jonathan Tunde Ogbeha, a retired general from Kogi State, a former administrator of Akwa Ibom State and old Bendel State during the military era. Many may not know, but that is his best friend.
What makes him happy?
Getting a hole-in-one during a golf course.
He still looks strong at his age. What is his secret?
He does regular exercise (‘games’ in old military parlance). He also has a healthy eating diet; his consumption is done in moderation.
Is there anything about his looks he would love to change?
Yes, his height; he would love to change that if he could.
What does he splurge money on?
I would say golf balls such as Titleist Pro VI balls. Occasionally, he splurges money on a new single golf club or some comfortable golf shoes.
Many Nigerians know him as a former senate president. Tell us a few things we don’t know about your father personally.
Many would not know that he can’t drink coffee. Secondly, he is a closet Arsenal fan. He writes only with a red pen (a legacy from his days as a directing staff at Command and Staff College, Jaji. He also attends Catholic mass every weekday in the morning. He is an honorary indigene of Niger State. His first calling was to the catholic priesthood.
Describe him in three words?
I would use the words — disciplined, loyal and strategic. He is an exceptional father.
History will judge his political life. But he inspires me every day to live a full life and give the best one can in everything one does. I consider him as one who has an enviable record of eight uninterrupted years as President of the Senate.
What is his favourite food?
He enjoys local fare — fresh palm wine, pounded yam and bush meat; that is his delight.
How does he like to dress?
He loves his native attire. On some occasions, you would catch him dressed in a sober-coloured suit. When he is at home, he likes to dress in smart casuals.
What type of movies does he enjoy?
He enjoys watching biblical dramatisations.
Aside playing golf, what are his other hobbies?
I would say golf is his favourite sports.
What is his view on President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of leadership?
I would not want to comment on that.