The Bible tells us ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
In peacemaking, truth-telling and truth-seeking are honored, integrity is valued, and trust is given because it is earned, and is a refuge, a safe haven from the incivility and nastiness of conflict.
And so Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State clock 58 years on May 5, Lalong’s modesty, nature, and humility keeps him away from hugging the limelight, unlike his more aggressive and socially astute contemporaries.
Governor Lalong has been tirelessly interfacing with relevant individuals, groups, and institutions towards restoring the legacies of the founding fathers of the North particularly the legacies of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto.
Governor Lalong chairs the meeting of the Northern Governors Forum in Kaduna. The election of Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State by his colleagues to succeed the former Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, to chair the Nigerian Northern States Governors Forum, did not come to many as a surprise.
This is because he has demonstrated leadership that is forward-looking and seeks to unite people and resolve conflicts while pursuing development.
His strides in Plateau state that saw the restoration of peace and accelerated development provided a very good example for the entire Northern States to put their trust in him to lead them.
He has liaised seamlessly with President Muhammadu Buhari and other institutions of the Federal Government in pushing the interests of the Northern Region and spearheaded the development of a new blueprint for economic revival of the Northern Region.
As Chairman of Northern State’s Governors Forum, he has pushed for the adoption of community policing by the Northern States, he also spearheaded the adoption and implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Programme by the Federal Government and Northern states.
Simon Lalong coordinated the Response of the Northern States in the fight against COVID-19, lobbied for the payment of entitlements of employees of New Nigerian Newspapers and mediated in many disputes between various interests and groups in the North, he also facilitated timely intervention and reconciliation among parties on national issues towards restoring confidence and understanding and spearheaded the final return of Almajiri children to their states of origin.
Gov. Lalong, through the Northern Governors Forum, further assures Nigerians of all ethnic, religious and political persuasions of their constitutional rights to pursue their legitimate businesses wherever they choose within the region and appeal to the people to resist any attempt to lure them into any activity that can threaten the peace and tranquility of the region and the nation at large.
He has incessantly called on citizens to shun and jettison divisive policies, rhetoric, and body language so as to ensure sustainable peace in the country.
For the record, Simon Lalong temporarily suspended legal practice to join the political bandwagon in 1998. Under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he successfully contested the seat of the member of the Plateau State House of Assembly representing his native Shendam Constituency. In October 2000, he became the speaker of the assembly, occupying that position till the year 2006, following a political storm within the House. The seven years he served as the Speaker of that assembly made him the longest-serving speaker of the House in the history of Plateau State. During that period he was two times (2001–2002) elected as the Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of the 36 states of Nigeria. In the year 2015, as the second tenure of the serving Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, neared its end, Lalong joined the contest to succeed Jang. This time, he did so under the All Progressive Congress (APC) political platform. His chances seemed narrow at the beginning, but the capricious nature of politics tipped the balance eventually, favoring him by a slim margin. He was sworn in as the new Governor of Plateau State on May 29, 2015. He was re-elected as the Governor of Plateau State on May 29, 2019.
His swearing-in 2015 as the 5th Executive Governor of Plateau State ushered in a new vista of hope and expectations considering the state of affairs in Plateau at that time.
With a genuine need to change the narrative, he remains one of those few modest Nigerian personalities quietly serving his country well and without fuss, in a country where the commonest rhetorical question revolves around self-recognition and self-propagation.
In his first term, the Governor’s Rescue Mission operated under a 5-Pillar Policy Thrust, namely: Peace, Security and Good Governance; Human Capital Development and Social Welfare; Agriculture and Rural Development; Entrepreneurship and Industrialization; and Physical Infrastructure and Environment. After re-election in 2019, he streamlined the vision to Peace, Security and Good Governance; Infrastructural Development; and Sustainable Economic Rebirth.
Venturing into partisan politics despite his enormous successes in profession and businesses had been largely informed by the desire to turn things around for his people.
In 2019, the people of Plateau State were impressed with the first term performance and genuine efforts of the Lalong administration that they decided to overwhelmingly take the Rescue Mission to the Next Level by giving the Governor and his Deputy, another four years.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Lalong administration inherited so many problems and amidst limited resources, high expectations and competing demands, the government settled down for business under the purposeful leadership of Governor Lalong.
Lalong believes and sees politics as a call to serve and not to be served. He has a strong view that power should be used for the transformation of the society and development of the people. His view for seeking power is a consistent and relentless search for transformational ideas and policies that will transform the lives of the people.
He has touched the lives of his people positively by bringing to them the dividends of democracy.
A man who always thinks much about Nigeria and less of self, Simon Lalong tries as much as possible to impact his wealth, both physical and human, to touch lives. He has used all means available to him to help the needy, the State and the country at large. He does not discriminate based on religion, sex, or tribe.
A bridge-builder and a grass root politician who has the capacity to build consensus in the political process and is viewed as a charismatic and strategic leader.
No matter what detractors may want to say, Lalong is a gentleman to the core. His love for the masses is extraordinary, for he is a noble, detribalized and humane Nigerian who worked endlessly for the transition to democracy.
Little wonder other opinions have described him as a behemoth bestriding the political landscape of Nigeria like a colossus.
If within this short time as Governor he has etched indelible imprints in the sands of time to the admiration of his legion of fans and supporters, and become a voice to be reckoned with, then we can rest assured that the future would be greater.
Lalong is convinced that service and a passionate desire to positively affect lives are also part of the motivating factors for him to join politics.
Love him or hate him, Simon Lalong has no doubt added colour and sophistication to the celebration of people of quality, achievement, distinction and honour.
Thus, without an iota of doubt, we call on Nigerians to continue to pray for the leaders like Gov. Simon Lalong as they tackle the various challenges facing the nation.
Makut Simon Macham, PhD. is the Director of Press & Public Affairs to the Governor of Plateau State.