David Mark and the tussle for 9th assembly leadership  

By Timipanipre Uge and Christopher Ngara, PhD

Introduction

Studies have shown that personality has strong influence on leadership behaviour  (Teclock 1981; Goldstein 1999; Richards 2008; and Ngara, Esebonu and Ayabam 2013). This is because all humans have different behavioural characteristics that determine or guide the way they think, feel or act (Miller 2003). The uniqueness of human behaviour is such that no two individuals could have exactly the same personality traits. That is why personalities are usually classified based on fairly consistent patterns of observable behaviours over time. Thus, the disposition of leaders and the choices they make about the course of action they take and the policies they pursue are to a greater degree influenced by their personality trait. Therefore, personality plays a profound role in patterning the leadership styles of political leaders; and leadership style in turn affects the stability or otherwise of human organizations.

Between 1999 and 2007, following the return to democracy in Nigeria, there has been a consistent trend of political instability in the National Assembly. This consisted of frequent leadership changes, corruption scandals, and rancorous sessions as well as recurring conflicts with the executive arm of the government. For example, within this period, the National Assembly replaced a total of twenty-three (23) of its Presiding Officers. The leadership turnover produced not fewer than five Presidents of the Senate and three Speakers in the House of Representatives.

However, with the election of Senator David Mark as the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly during the 6th and 7th Assembly spanning 2007-2011 and 2011-2015, respectively, the National Assembly enjoyed relative legislative stability and improved relationship with the executive. His leadership witnessed consensus building and harmony among legislators and enduring cordial relationship with the executive arm of government. It is against this background that this paper examines the influence of David Marks’ personality on legislative stability in Nigeria’s 6th and 7th National Assembly.

Conceptual and Literature Review

Personality is defined as the particular considerations, feelings and practices that portray the way an individual adjusts to the world (Santrock 2007). To Coleman (2003), personality is the whole of the behavioural and mental qualities that are particular of a person. Personality is what makes individuals to be different from others (Miller 2003). According to Marsiglia (2009, p. 32), “Certain personality traits are positively related to leader effectiveness and team performance.” Corroborating this view, Pretorius (2008) maintains that leadership styles are influenced by personality types. In other words, since personality affects leadership style, it is possible to establish causal relationships between leadership and organizational behaviour. In this connection, Dietrich, Lasley, Remmel, and Turner (2012, p.2) draws attention to the fact that personality can help explain fundamental elements of legislators’ political predispositions and patterns of behaviour. Taking it further, Alkahtani, Abu-Jarad, Sulaiman and Nikbin (2011) showed that personality type can impact negatively or positively on the effectiveness of leaders. In their study on personality and leadership styles on leading change capabilities which adopted the Big Five dimensions of personality on Malaysian managers, revealed that managers who enjoyed openness to experience tend to use consultative leadership style and extraversion that are positively related to leading change.

In a related study, Yukl (2010) show that managers who derailed in leadership were less able to handle pressure, prone to moodiness, angry outbursts, inconsistent behaviour which undermined their personal relationship with subordinates, peers and superiors, while successful leaders as managers are calm, confident and predictable during crisis. Furthermore, O’Neil (2007) observed that leadership effectiveness and personality traits influence effectiveness in leadership behaviour. On his part, Sydanmaanlakka (2003) identified 26 leadership competencies categorized into six clusters. It sees leadership as a process not a position and identified intelligent leadership as the best form of leadership. The competence areas covered in the research include professional, interpersonal, leadership, efficiency, wellbeing and self-confidence. Similarly, Magner (2014) study on servant leadership and global leadership in Northeast Indiana, Unites States, found that personality is a key factor in determining leadership effectiveness. Agreeing with this, Marsiglia (2009, p. 32) states that “the combination of leadership style and personality type appears to meld into a psychological combination that produces the ethos of a leader.”

Arter (2006) identified three areas of legislative effectiveness which are temporal (concerning the period of the legislature and the dynamics of the political development as at that time), quantitative (referring to the volume of independent legislations made by the legislature without recommendations or significant influence from the executive) qualitative (the extent to which individual legislators make input to the policy processes of the state). Both temporal and qualitative requires legislative leadership to make a difference. The quality of a leader’s contributions to group processes is one of the indicators of leader’s effectiveness. For instance, leader’s ability to enhance group cohesiveness, cooperation, commitment, confidence as well as enhancing problem solving and decision making capacity of the group (Yukl 2010).

Pelizzo and Cooper (2011) espoused that legislative stability should not be treated less important to government stability. This is because one of the key variables for government stability is legislative stability, especially in parliamentary democracies, where instability in the parliament could lead to failure of government. Mishler and Hildreth (1984) corroborates this position when they assert that effective and responsive legislatures enhance stability of democratic government. The effectiveness of national legislatures are also directly proportional to quality of public policies relating to economic development, international relations, educational reforms, scientific research, health care, among others.  In the context of Nigeria, Ojo (1997) and Abdullahi (2004) suggests that frequent military intervention in politics affected the country’s political stability and deprived the legislature institutional stability and experience needed to mature. Whenever the military takes over power, it disbands the legislature; and since the reintroduction of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, instability in the National Assembly is often instigated by executive-legislative conflicts. Similarly, Obidimma and Obidimma (2015) believes that Nigeria’s presidential system does not promote harmony in executive-legislative relationship because officers in both arms of government are elected on different platforms and does not conduce to coalition building.

Conversely, Alabi (2009) held that bicameral legislatures are susceptible to inter-chamber crisis leading to ineffective coordination therefore giving opportunity for the executive to exploit the differences to its advantage. Alabi believes that when there are differences between two chambers in bicameral legislature, it also affects the relationship between the legislature and the executive. A stable legislature compliments the executive in the delivery of service and welfare to the people. Furthermore, Alabi (2009) identified intra-legislature crisis as one of the major institutional weaknesses of legislatures in Africa. For him, unstable legislature experience rowdy sessions, low participation, absenteeism, inter alia.

Theoretical Model of Analysis

This study is contextualised by the Big Five Personality Model (BFPM). The BFPM is a variant of Trait Factor Personality theory represented by the works of Allport and Allport (1921); Ryckman (2008), among others. Trait theories are one of many attempts by psychologists to explain how leadership personality is measured. The proponents of the trait factor theories focus on traits as the building blocks of personality (Pretorius 2008). Personality traits are the observable behaviours of an individual that is consistent and can be measured over time. Its existence is inferred by observing the consistencies in a person’s behaviour (Ryckman 2008).

Thus the Big Five personality model defines human personality as one or more of five traits and it is adopted in this paper to explain leadership personality traits of Senator David Mark, the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly from 2007 – 2015. The five traits are dual in nature and seek to explain personality from the measure of each of the traits on either side of the pole. Each big personality factor has the low and high traits that predict the outcome of an individual’s leadership personality. According to Costa and McCrae (1992), five factor traits determine personality and human behaviour. The specific components of the Big Five factors include Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (OCEAN).

Openness to Experience: High measures on this trait have been associated with transformational leadership. Openness refers to creativity and originality of the leader and reflects a leader’s ability to create new ideas and reception to new experiences. It is a strong predictor for intelligence, perceptiveness, analytical, inquisitive and imaginative mind. Openness has been characterized as a method for identifying with the world through dynamic creative energy, tasteful affectability, mindfulness to sentiments, inclination for assortment and scholarly interest (Costa and McCrae 1992). Under this trait, there are explorers (high openness), moderate and preservers (low or no openness). The explorer gets easily bored, creates new ideas, very imaginative and reflects a high level of curiosity. The preservers live at the end of the pole and love to stay within familiar territory and are comfortable with repetitive activities. They are narrow in thinking and hardly buy into creative or innovative ideas. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who did well as political leaders (former Presidents of the US) were reported moderate correlation among all presidents within the openness to experience dimension (Jerrold 2003)

Conscientiousness: According to O’Neil (2007), conscientiousness is the most significant predictor of leadership effectiveness. Leaders with high conscientiousness are organized, responsible, reliable and practical while the opposite is undependable and negligent. A person with high conscientiousness tends to be on time or early for appointments. Such individuals are also highly responsible and work toward long-term goals with little or no supervision. Spencer (2007) held that low conscientiousness affect performance at work and strain personal relationships. Leaders who score high on this trait respect constitutional authority.

Extraversion: Extraversion seeks to explain behaviours towards others as a leader. There are extraverts and introverts within this dimension. High measures on extraversion define leaders who are extroverted, energetic, talkative, enthusiastic, bold, outgoing, noisy, enthusiasts, sociable and functioning. An extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. They are also friendly and chatty (Miller 2003). Such leaders tend to dominate others in conversations and fail to listen to other perspectives. An extravert leader will have good public image and media delight. He or she will be loved by colleagues and may also have good results. On the other end of the pole, introverts avoid noise, serious, work alone, considered loners and mostly of private persons. Leaders with low measures on extraversion are introverts who are usually portrayed as calm. They are energized by being alone and most effective in leadership positions more than extroverts.

Agreeableness: This refers to consideration of other people’s needs and ideas through negotiation, agreements or adaptability. A leader submissive to external controls and creating harmonious relationship within and outside an organization or institution is largely dependent on his/her measures on agreeableness. This trait is found in individuals who are warm, kind, cooperative, unselfish, and polite; who strive for intimacy and solidarity in groups they belong to that provides emotional rewards. The lower end of the pole is selfishness. Agreeableness and extraversion have been tested to positively predict transformational leadership (Alkahtani, Abu-Jarad, Sulaiman and Nikbin 2011). A leader with this trait would not be antagonist to executive policies or performance especially when there is shared values. Most conflict situations arise from failure to agree on issues. Hence this trait is positively related to legislative-executive harmony.

Neuroticism. This refers to the emotional performance of a leader. Personalities with this trait are easily angry, tensed, nervous, envious and unstable. The opposite is emotional stability, calmness, relaxed, at ease and stable. It is believed that Neuroticism is unequivocally connected with truant conduct (Cox, McPherson, Enns and McWilliams 2004). The three levels of neuroticism include reactive (high), responsive (medium) and resilient (low). The high and medium measures are negative to leadership development and work place stress management. Whereas, the low measures in this trait signifies a leader who can absorb stress, manage emotions and calm in the face of challenges.

It must be noted that critics of the trait factor theory claim that the theory fails to take into account environmental factors in shaping leadership behaviours. Nevertheless, the Big Five Personality Trait model has been found must suitable in contextualising this paper. Analysis from the TIPI shows that Senator David Mark is medium high on Extraversion, low on Agreeableness, high on Conscientiousness, low on Neuroticism and medium high on Openness to Experience. The results indicate that Senator David Mark scored the highest in Conscientiousness and lowest in Neuroticism. Conscientiousness and emotional stability manifested in David Mark’s ability to be disciplined and focused on goals. His leadership qualities translated into his penchant to always pursue and achieve harmony within the National Assembly and by extension between the National Assembly and the executive branch of government. This development has seen cooperation and agreement between the federal legislature and the executive on many policy issues. A good example, is the consensus between the executive and the National Assembly to hold a National Conference in 2014.

Profiling Senator David Mark

Senator David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark was first elected to the Senate in 1999, after an eventful and successful military career in the Nigerian army. He was the 12th and 13th President of the Nigerian Senate and the third of Benue State origin since independence in 1960. In 2007, he was elected as the President of the 6th Senate and re-elected in 2011; making him the first Presiding Officer of the National Assembly to have served for two consecutive term of four years each. He was also the only President of the Senate to have successfully completed a four years tenure since 1999. David Mark is still a member of the Nigerian Senate, representing Benue South Senatorial District for the fifth consecutive time. By the end of the 8th National Assembly in June 2019, Senator Mark would have served in the National Assembly for 20years.

Senator David Mark, the first Senate President with a military background attended military primary and secondary schools before he joined the Nigerian Army. He acquired further education with the Nigerian Army in Bradford, Washington and Boston. Senator Mark was governor of Niger State for two years (1984-1986) and Minister of Communications in 1987 before retiring from the Army as a Brigadier (Benue State Government 2018). He also held several leadership positions in the military which exposed him to leadership and decision-making roles. The military background gave him unique opportunities and hedge over other career politicians who may not have headed well-disciplined professional offices such as the military. It would not be overstatement to say that Senator David Mark was adequately prepared to lead.

Analysis from the Modified Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) scale shows that Senator David Mark is medium high on Extraversion, low on Agreeableness, high on Conscientiousness, low on Neuroticism and medium high on Openness to Experience. The results indicate that Senator David Mark scored the highest in Conscientiousness and lowest in Neuroticism.

Senator David Mark measured high on Extraversion, Openness and Conscientiousness. Tuner (2007) and Smith (2009) identified Extraversion, Openness and Conscientiousness as predictors for leadership emergence. The measure on Extraversion indicates that Senator David Mark is sometimes an introvert but also extroverted. He enjoys the company of others but is not opposed to spending time on his own. Senator Mark can handle some teamwork and have no problem attending social gatherings. However, he likes to be alone in small groups most of the time. According to Tuner (2007), high traits on Extroversion helps people to be notable, but do not necessarily lead to leadership effectiveness. David Mark also scored medium high on Openness to Experience which allows one to expand mental horizons through adventures. He is moderately curious and seeks out novelty. Alkahtani, Abu-Jarad, Sulaiman and Nikbin (2011) in a related study revealed that managers who enjoyed openness to experience tend to use consultative leadership style.

In the same vein, McGreal (2015) argued that US Presidents who were generally considered successful were more open to experience. Openness also produces transformational leaders as a trait that seeks to create new things, attempt to solve puzzles and uncomfortable with routines. David Mark is reputed to have introduced the Doctrine of Necessity in 2010, to resolve the constitutional impasse created by the refusal of former President Musa Yar’Adua, to transmit a letter to the National Assembly to empower former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan act in his stead when proceeding on medical vocation. The National Assembly under David Mark was also the first to successfully carry out constitution alterations with far reaching reforms on the Electoral Act. When leading the review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Mark reportedly urged his colleagues to focus on the interests of Nigerians and not their personal interests (Zimbo 2013).

Senator David Mark measured the highest on Conscientiousness. He scored 7 points on the scale. The average norm for this trait is 5.4 established by the proponents. This means the former Senate President is highly reliable and disciplined. He has natural tendency to be responsible, rule-abiding and engaging in strategic thinking. Spencer (2007)argues that low Conscientiousness affect performance at work and strain personal relationships whereas O’Neil (2007) asserts that Conscientiousness is the most significant predictor of leadership effectiveness. In his first inaugural speech as President of the 6thSenate, David Mark exhibited great passion for the rule of law and mastered the doctrine of separation of powers – a factor responsible for the entrenched harmony in relationship with the executive arm of government. The former political adviser to Senator Mark, Mike Omeri, revealed that Senator Mark’s daily schedule is unbroken. He begins his day by attending Church Mass and attending to visitors before going for plenary and from the office he goes straight to play gulf at the gulf’s club.

Senator David Mark measured low on Agreeableness and Neuroticism. Tuner (2007) and Smith (2009) observe that Agreeableness and Neuroticism do not influence leadership emergence or effectiveness. Measuring low on Agreeableness indicates that the Senator is independent minded and may not be easy to approach. He scored as low as 2 on the TIPI index. This is below the norm score of 5.23. In a similar study, McGreal (2015) using the Five Factor dimensions model found that agreeableness has a modest negative correlation with greatness. In other words, people scoring high on agreeableness rarely achieve greatness even though they are easily approachable. Measuring low on Neuroticism also means that the Senator is not beclouded by emotional impulses and has the ability to make rational decisions even under pressure.

A study of past U.S. Presidents (from George Washington to Bill Clinton), using the Big Five Factor Traits Model show that all past U.S. Presidents adjudged to be great scored high on all five traits, except two who measured low on Openness. All of them tended to be more Extraverted and less Agreeable and more open to Experience than most ordinary people (McGreal 2015). The performance of Senator David on Extraversion and Agreeableness are consistent with leadership styles that promote stability and independent thinking. Perhaps, this was a factor that account for the relative stability of the National Assembly during his two tenures as President of the Nigerian Senate.

Senator David Mark and legislative stability in the 6th and 7th National Assembly

The return to democracy in 1999 and the inauguration of the National Assembly after many years of military rule and several failed transition to civil rule programmes presents not only an exciting moment for many Nigerians, but a period of high expectations about the prospect of building a virile democracy, economically stable and prosperous nations. But no sooner than later, these dreams dissipated as the country most important symbol of democracy, the National Assembly, became engulfed in series of internal strife, controversies and recurrent conflicts with the executive arm of government. These developments rubbed off negatively on the integrity and legitimacy of the country’s supposedly most hallowed institution of democracy as well as its capacity to deliver on good governance and forge national unity.

Following the inauguration of the 6th Assembly in June 2017, and the election of the Senator David Mark as the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, the situation took a dramatic turn in a positive direction. Senator David Mark was one of the ranking members of the Senate having been elected to the National Assembly for the third time under the platform the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which control majority seats in the Senate. He combined his legislative experience and military training to entrench stability in the National Assembly and fostered a harmonious working relation with his colleagues. David Mark was able to take charge of the National assembly even when at a time, a significant number of members of his party, the PDP in the National Assembly defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC). As a member of the PDP, he was seen as reference point and commanded great respect amongst fellow legislators’ friends and party members.

In fact, for scholars like Ossai (2018); Mudashiri (2018); Esebagbon (2018) and Ede (2018), in their different views all shared the position that David Mark’s personality impacted positively on legislative stability of the 6th and 7thNational Assembly. Specifically, Ossai (2018) pointed out that “Senator David Mark contributed tremendously to the stability in the federal legislature and between the legislature and the executive due to unique leadership style. With his wealth of experience and leadership skills, as President of the Senate, he was able to successfully steer the ship of the National Assembly to the extent that there were no significant public dissent or disagreements amongst the Senators during his time”. The observer ratings on Senator David Mark show his leadership personality as a democrat, independent and respecter of others. He values his colleagues, worked as a team and was open to new ideas. He was also emotionally stable with significant measures on introversion.

Mudashiru (2018) pointed out that “the 6th and 7th National Assembly were more stable, assertive, independent and focused on its legislative activities than previous sessions of the National Assembly since 1999.” He attributed the achievement to the dynamic leadership qualities of Senator David Mark, which he described as inclusive, matured and strategic. The 6th National Assembly, for instance, focused on critical developmental issues such as the electoral reforms, the review of the 1999 Constitutions, pro-poor legislations, among others. The first successful alteration of the 1999 Constitution was achieved in 2010 and 2014 by the 6th and 7th Assembly after two failed attempts to amend the constitution in 2001 and 2006, respectively (Okidu 2015 and Mark 2011). The electoral reforms led the to the introduction of significant amendments to the Electoral Act 2010, which was used to conduct the 2011 as well as the 2015 General Elections which was widely acclaimed by domestic and foreign observers to be credible, free and fair.

The 7th Assembly continued with the constitutional review process culminating in the passage of the 2015 Constitution Alteration Bill. However, former President Goodluck Jonathan could not sign the Bill into law before his exit on 29th May 2015. The 6th and 7th National Assembly also passed several pro-poor and public accountability Bills such as the Freedom of Information Act 2011; Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007; Public Procurement Act 2007; Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act 2007; National Health Act 2014; Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014 and the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011. Most of the successes recorded were due to the relative stability and sense of common purpose by legislators in the upper chamber of the federal legislature. David Mark himself corroborated this position in a statement in 2007 that “the Senate of the Federal Republic is one and it shall remain one united family.” And on stability he said “we would achieve this by achieving stability in the Senate” (Mark 2011).

In a rather divergent perspective, Oyeniyi (2018) argues that leadership personality is not the only factor responsible for legislative stability in the 6th and 7thNational Assembly. While admitting that the Senate President’s leadership personality contributed immensely to legislative and national stability, he noted that “both chambers of the 6th and 7th National Assembly were all led by one party, the PDP, which made it easy to achieve political stability.” Nevertheless, it is important to note that the PDP commanded a clear majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 4th and 5th National Assembly just as it controlled the executive arm of the government in the same period, yet, the National Assembly was prone to internal instability, crisis and frequent conflict with the executive arm of the government.

Although, there was generally relative political stability in the 6th and 7th National Assembly than previous sessions, all of which the PDP was in control, the Senate was however more stable than the House of Representatives. As Oladapo (2018) rightly notes, “the House of Representatives in the 6th and 7th National Assembly was more volatile and prone to instability than the Senate. The Senate enjoyed a unique and matured leadership provided by Senator David Mark, which was lacked in the House of Representatives.” The political stability in the Senate was evident in the re-election of Senator David Mark as President of the Senate in the 7th National Assembly. In the House of Representatives, the situation was different leading to turnover of presiding and other principal officers including the Speaker.

In similar vein, Obidima and Obidima (2015)and Godswealth, Ahmed and Jawan (2016) observed a significant improvement in executive-legislative relationship in the period under review. David Mark’s qualities of independence and partnership were key in the development of cordial relationship with the executive arm of the government. In his inaugural speech following his election as the President of the Senate in 2007, he stated that “it is my vision that the Senate must collaborate with the other arms of government” (Mark 2011). Indeed, there were many areas of cooperation between the 6th and 7thNational Assemblies and the executive arm of government. These included among others, the National Political Conference set up by the executive in 2014; the adoption of the doctrine of necessity by the National Assembly that entrenched significant stability in the executive branch of government; the resolution passed by the National Assembly in 2010 empowering the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan to be the Acting President.

Notwithstanding the improvement in executive-legislative relations in the 6th and 7th National Assembly, there were notable cases of fallout in relationship between the executive and the federal legislature. For instance, the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker, House of Representatives in 2011 against the preferred choice of the ruling PDP caused a severe strain in the relationship between leadership of the House and the PDP controlled executive arm of government throughout the 7th Assembly. Similarly, a review of Bills passed between 1999 and 2015, shows fewer Executive Bills were passed in the 6thand 7th Senate than in other legislative sessions (Dan-Azumi and Gbahabo, 2016), despite its cordial relationship with the executive. But, in spite of the strained relationship between the leadership of the House of Representatives and the executive arm of government in the 7th National Assembly, it however did not degenerate into major issues affecting the harmony between the two arms of government due to the leadership provided by Senator David Mark.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Between 1999 and 2007, the National Assembly suffered high level of internal instability and frequent disharmony with the executive arm of government in Nigeria. This development not only affected the capacity of the National Assembly for discharging its constitutional mandate of law making, oversight and representation, but also impacted negatively on national political stability and development. However, since the emergence of Senator David Mark as the President of the Senate and Chairman of the 6th and 7th National Assembly, the federal legislature witnessed unprecedentedly high level of vertical and horizontal stability. This stability was attributed to the leadership qualities of Senator David Mark, as President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly.

Given the antecedence of political instability in the National Assembly and the need to ensure political stability necessary to meet the ever-growing demand for accountability by the electorates, it is important to profile personality of members of the National Assembly, particularly, contenders for the office of the President of the Senate and Speaker, House of Representatives. In other words, legislators should choose individuals who score high on relevant personality variables such as high on Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience. In this regard, there is need for more research to be carried out on all past presiding officers of the National Assembly in order to profile their personality appropriately. The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) should provide the lead in this direction. Furthermore, the Institute should in addition to its routine orientation programmes for National Assembly members, develop detailed programme content on the role of leadership personality in legislative stability and performance.

Uge is of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), Abuja while Ngara is of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, National Assembly,  

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here