In the past six years, Plateau State under the leadership of Governor Simon Bako Lalong who clocks 58 today has been enthralled by purposefully driven governance, developmental projects under a serene and placid atmosphere. In all ramifications, his 58th birthday is a worthy and fulfilled milestone that should be commemorated with pomp and wide jubilations.
The reasons are instructive and obvious. For more than two decades in politics, Lalong has been playing active roles in the development of Plateau State. His stint in politics right from 1999 when he was elected into the Plateau State House of Assembly and later became the longest-serving speaker in the State, up to 2015 when he was elected the Governor, has been trailed by amazing footprints and legacies.
Governor Lalong exudes uncommon attributes and leadership skills which include humility, discipline, forthrightness, and tolerance. He abhors bigotry under any guise. His passion for peace has even been misunderstood by some as a weakness while the discerning praise him as a bridge-builder and Apostle of peace. He took over Plateau State in 2015 when there were religious and ethnic tensions, especially in Jos as a result of ethno-religious crises. But today as a result of his non-partisan and forthright approach to issues, the tension and apprehension have since been diffused and many of the old barriers dismantled.
To tame the orgy of violence inherited, Governor Lalong established Plateau Peace Building Agency to promote the culture of dialogue, forgiveness, and conflict prevention that has gingered peace and harmonious coexistence among the diverse ethno-religious groups in the state. Presently, there is clear evidence that the situation has improved tremendously over the last five years with better community relations and less tension and fear. Plateau State is again the melting pot of Nigeria and the Home of Peace and Tourism.
It is strongly believed that at 58, Lalong’s leadership skills have similarities with those of the global acclaimed visionary leaders such as Nelson Mandela who strongly believed in peace as a tool for development. Lalong has been exploring all plausible avenues to consolidate the prevailing peace. Apart from supporting security agencies, Operation Rainbow, a hybrid force established by the state government was strengthened by his administration with a clear mandate for intelligence gathering and response to pave the way for community policing.
The Governor’s regular consultation with stakeholders in the state including members of the State House of Assembly has led to many positive developments. For instance, the passing of the anti-land grabbing law which criminalizes forceful occupation of land by some unscrupulous elements has since stemmed the tide of land grabbing in the state especially in the Northern zone of Plateau State.
To some people, an ideal leader looks like a superhero –strong and brimming with confidence. But humility holds greater power, albeit silently. Studies on humility in leadership have posited that humble leaders make the best leaders and easily disarm even their opponents. One of the virtues you cannot take away from Governor Lalong is humility. In spite of his position, his sense of humility is not only attractive but infectious. He treats everyone with respect regardless of their position, role, or title, making him a quintessential leader who gives his all to a course he believes in.
The Governor has continued to demonstrate his affection for his people, task after task, no matter the cost. In spite of the economic crunch in the country, his administration since coming on board decided to complete all the abandoned projects inherited from his predecessors. Governor Lalong equally initiated and completed many projects with others still ongoing such as the mega projects dubbed “Lalong Legacy Project” which are mostly in health and educational sectors in the 17 local government areas of the state. The Governor recently assured of completing the projects when he said “Having inherited quite a number of abandoned project and completed many of them, I don’t intend to leave any project uncompleted. The legacy projects will be completed before the end of my tenure God willing.”
Governor Lalong’s Rescue Mission is fundamentally about service and fairness in the distribution of scarce resources and development projects across the three geo-political zones of the State. Above all, his cognate experience and exposure as the longest-serving Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly; Chairman, Conference of Speakers Executive; Lawyer and Activist; Community Development Specialist among others prepared him for governance early.
To set his administration apart from the previous ones, the 1990 law graduate of the prestigious Ahmadu Bell University Zaria created an ICT Agency christened “Plateau Information and Communication Technology Development Agency” PICTDA. He recently declared thus: “Our goal is that before we leave office, we would like to have most, if not all our governance processes driven by information and communication technologies”.
The prevailing industrial harmony on the Plateau is a result of a cordial relationship with the state civil servants. In the past six years, workers have been receiving their entitlements as and when due. When it comes to payment of salaries, pension, gratuity, and other emoluments, Governor Lalong stands out nationwide. This has earned him the indelible name of “Governor Alert” bestowed on him by no other than the state civil servants. The Governor recently told the civil servants that his administration was working towards acquiring land in all local government areas of the state to build affordable housing for them.
The vision of the governor to transform Plateau State into an industrial hub is manifested in the high number of MoUs his administration signed with both local and foreign partners to resuscitate moribund government-owned industries such Jos International Brewery, BARC Farms, Highland bottling Company among others which have been lying comatose for a very long time.
Another main thrust of Governor Lalong’s administration is the provision of qualitative education for its citizenry. In the tertiary section, he injected life into the State-owned University, Plateau State University Bokkos which was gasping for breath before his election as the governor of the State due to sheer neglect and reckless abandonment driven by politics. Apart from this, other tertiary institutions such as Plateau State Polytechnic, College of Education Gindiri among others were also given a new lease of life.
It comes as no surprise that in the course of his service and purposeful leadership over the years, his colleagues in the 19 Northern States unanimously elected him to be their Chairman. Since his election, Lalong has been providing purposeful leadership, championing the cause of the North, and intervening in critical national issues. Apart from this, Lalong had won several laurels, received commendations, and got a pat on the back for excellent performance both at home and abroad.
Speakers at a launch of a book on Disaster and Conflict in Abuja recently showered accolades on Governor Lalong for his peace efforts that have restored confidence and mitigated human disasters associated with violence and conflicts in Plateau State. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Duties Senator George Akume at the occasion said Governor Lalong has proven to be one of the few examples of leaders in Nigeria who can be relied upon to galvanize people to live in peace and harmony in spite of their diversity and differences of faith, ethnic and political differences.
While felicitating with the governor on the occasion of his 58th birthday and wishing him many more years of selfless service to Nigeria and humanity, it goes without saying that this humble visionary achiever, peace Ambassador, dependable ally, compassionate personality, and fearless intercessor is set for greater impact in Nigeria in the years ahead. For remaining steadfast and relentless in the pursuit of happiness for the entire people of Plateau State and the Northern region, he has demonstrated his love for the country and capacity to devote his life for a better Nigeria.
As you deservedly celebrate this glorious day, may God Almighty who has richly prospered you and ordered your every step in this past half-century, continue to bless you with good health, wisdom, and knowledge to serve and fulfill the purpose for which you were created.
Congratulations to Governor Alert!
Makut Simon Macham, Ph.D. is the Director of Press & Public Affairs to the Governor of Plateau.