BY NKECHI ODOMA
President Muhammedu Buhari is a leader famed for measured steps and decisions. He is not even a trip freak. For nearly three years, the President has paid official visit to really very few states in the federation. He has demonstrated that he has no business wasting his time in states without impact of leadership.
So, when he opted to pay an official visit to Plateau state, last week, political pundits, knew Mr. President noticed something extra-ordinary about the leadership style of Governor Simon Bako Lalong. The President could independently verify Governor Lalong’s sound vision, which has transcended mere verbal rhetoric to solid and uncommon competitive upliftments of the state in all sectors of the economy.
A flashback to yesterday, before Lalong’s ascendency to the throne, would reveal a thoroughly disenchanted and disgruntled people of the Plateau. The wrath and frustrations stemmed from years of wasted leadership, resources and fortunes of the state.
The people of Plateau wailed interminably with dearth of public infrastructure, infectious insecurity and imposed poverty, reflected in months of unpaid salaries and contractual debts burden to local contractors. These malaises were hatched and ensconced in deep-seated ethnic animosities in a state, with diversed ethnic configuration like Plateau. Exclusivity, instead of inclusiveness in governance became the official creed of government and the people had cause to be angered.
Governor Lalong knew he inherited a state in dire need of an urgent leadership surgery and immediately set into action. He was convinced that Plateau was not beyond redemption and, if the appropriate therapies are applied, peace, honour and dignity would naturally creep into the state. So, he enunciated a clear vision and mission to rebuild and regenerate Plateau State. He knew optimistically that Plateau can work again for the good of the people, if stakeholders are purposefully mobilized to embrace the new agenda.
Therefore, he romanced and brought every interest aboard the ship of governance. And in less than three years of his leadership, there are posted verifiable transformations of the Plateau to a speedily developing state; a land consummating its milk and honey and a people savouring the niceties of peace, harmonious co-existence and security, regaining its discoloured appellation of “ Home of Peace and Tourism”.
Upon assumption of office, the Governor realized the quiet bug sapping the state through months of unpaid salaries. It caused the discontent in homes, offices and communities in the state.
A deeper dissection of the problem laid bare the discovery that disenchanted and disillusioned citizens are veritable threats to security. Lalong frowned at the alarming prevalence of youth unemployment which he also believed could easily serve as catalyst to crisis.
So, his first major preoccupation was to restore confidence in the people about the existence of a government, willing to prioritize and patronize their welfare and security concerns. His government set in motion a machinery to clear the about 11 months backlog of unpaid salaries to public servants.
The gesture did put smiles on many faces, who instantly knew a new dawn has really berthed in the state, in the “Change” administration under Lalong. He has continued to maintain this record of prompt payment of salaries and pensions, thereby, provoking confidence in the people about a fresh aspirations as well as peace in individual families and communities.
Governor Lalong adopted and amplified the idea of SMEDAN, to arrest youth unemployment and its spiral restiveness. He domesticated and legalized President Buhari’s SMEDAN policy into the Plateau State Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (PLASMEDA). And thousands of youths and women have been empowered to eke their dignified daily bread and live decent lives, away from tormenting trouble and violence.
Simultaneously, while tackling the immediate causes of the violent eruptions on the Plateau, the Governor established the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) and mandated it to tackle the perennial insecurity in the state, particularly, the farmers/herders conflict. It worked perfectly as it doused tension. The inclusion of all stakeholders in the search for peace, as an antidote to inclusive development terminated the monster of insecurity in the land to the applause of all and sundry, including opposition elements who have yawningly praised his ingenuity repeatedly.
And Governor Lalong is leaving nothing to chance in sustaining peace on the Plateau, despite the recent efforts to renew violence in the state, pushed by political mercenaries, by the undisguised attempts to resurrect the old rivalry between farmers and herdsmen in state. In his usual proactive style, he has demonstrated leadership by evolving measures to bury its resurgence.
Through the PPBA, a five-year roadmap to peace has been initiated to proactively handle any flash of crisis in the state in order to sustain the prevailing peace and security. It sees every soul on the Plateau as sacred. Therefore, it is already engaging and dialoguing with all stakeholders, including security agents and working ceaselessly to protect every life on the Plateau regardless of ethnicity, religion or any other affiliation.
Part of the design is to bring to justice anyone who commits such atrocities against humanity without partiality. And all inhabitants of the state are hailing the passion of the Governor in proving to be a true leader and father of all.
Governor Lalong has stunned his critics and antagonists in infrastructural development of the state. Even in the era of dwindling oil revenues, his government has made a practical statement that prudent management of meagre resources could be quite rewarding. He explored internal avenue to shore up internally generated revenue.
To this end, Lalong has been able to break the jinx of abandoning multi-billion naira capital projects inherited from predecessors. He reviewed these contracts and cared less about whether an opposition member is the beneficiary now. He gave to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God, what is God’s. His only concern is about Plateau people.
Furthermore, the Governor also awarded contracts on fresh projects. These have collectively gulfed several billions of naira. Yet, his government has been able to fund these projects concurrently, some of which were commissioned during President Buhari’s state visit in Jos-Bukuru metropolis.
The third tier of government has not been left out in the patronage of projects. There are ongoing work on rural roads infrastructure projects, which have netted about N40 billion, covering all the 17 LGAs of the state. Work has reached advanced stages of completion.
Industrial development has surfaced in the resuscitation of moribund industries in the state as a means of diversifying the economy of the state. This sector is actively backed by the revival of agriculture.
Economic investments in the state have impressively picked up, with targets of attracting additional revenues through foreign direct investments and tourism. The initiative resonates louder through agricultural schemes such as the on-going revitalization of the Bokkos Fertilizer Blending Plant; the promotion of dry season rice farming in Kalong, Shendam LGA; the re-engagement investors for the Panyam Fish Farm as well as buying back of the state-owned BARC-Farms.
Therefore, Governor Lalong remains a reference point in infrastructural development. So, Mr. President could not resist the temptation and invitation to visit Plateau. He came and has testified that Plateau under Lalong has taken a different dimension by its revolutionary strides in infrastructural development in the North central region as attested by his commissioning of a few of these projects in Jos –Bukuru axis.
And to complete Mr. President’s joy, the excited faces of fairly and equitably treated people, without owed salaries, who trooped out to welcome him gladdened his heart. Plateau is indeed, moving with the speed of light under Governor Lalong, a very focused, proactive and transparent leader. Some states in the region should emulate his leadership adroitness.
Odoma, a public affairs analyst sent in this piece from Abuja.