A rewarding leadership is visibly felt and it shadows endlessly wonder around the vicinity of its jurisdiction like a stubborn ghost. It meets you at home, in the office, on the farm, the road, garden or any other conceivable place.
It generously donates happiness, wipes away tears and sorrows of the afflicted. The testimonies of its enduring impact, streams from the heart of voices of the ruled, irrespective of political camps, ethnic or religious affinities.
Even birds of the air chirrup liberation songs and trees dance to its alluring breeze in nodding approvals. And freed captives sing songs of freedom on rooftops and around bonfire carnivals, as they erect tents in reverberating joyful rhythms.
It has been the experience of the people of Plateau these past three years under the leadership of Governor Simon Bako Lalong, whose vision was aptly captured as “Rescue Mission.” He has not occupied the airwaves singing praises of his achievements or announcing or attempting to patch his conscience with failed promises.
Rather, the beneficiaries of his stewardship yearn to catch a glimpse of his shadows, to no avail. He operates like a political talisman; less visible on the scene, but posts positive results in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
The attention Gov. Lalong has accorded peace and security on the Plateau, tourism, the multi-ethnic and multi-religious components of the state and the dosage he administered on a comatose and asphyxiated economy are legacies which have remained reference points among states in the Middle Belt and beyond.
Nigerians who visit Plateau state now, conduct business in a serene environment, unmolested and return back safely to their destinations are perplexed to infinitum at the sudden relief. In fairness, the violence and bloodletting on the Plateau lasted longer than expected.
Quite shamefully, even most of the indigenes of the state migrated to other safer parts of the country. And the phobia of attacks by armed militia imposed a restriction on visits to country homes. Plateau, a state which prides itself with the epaulet, “Home of Peace and Tourism,” and favorite destination for tourists, morphed overnight into the most dreaded tourism destination in Nigeria. Government lost critical revenues and investment opportunities.
The foresight of Gov. Lalong in initiating the Plateau Peace Building Agency, (PPBA),chaired by Mr. Joseph Lengmang when he took over the reins of power provided the needed antidote that has quelled the blaze on the Plateau. PPBA unfolded the “Plateau Roadmap To Peace,” a 5-year model peace action plan, which the Governor conscientiously and painstakingly supervised.
It comprised the diverged interests in the state ranging from ethnic, religious, civil society organizations, conflict resolution experts, international donor agencies, security agencies, Nongovernmental organizations, (NGOs), the media and the intellectual community.
The peace action plan was faithfully adopted and implemented, as the PPBA, which is still waxing stronger, maintained 24-hour vigilance; identified budding crisis points and instantly resolved the contentions to the satisfaction of all feuding parties. It has significantly impacted on peace and security on the Plateau as experienced today.
With peace and security entrenched on the Plateau, private investors who hitherto abandoned their investments and the state, relocated back to the state and revived their businesses. The State Government also found conducive environment to address the industrial challenges of the state through direct investments or Public Private Partnership (PPP), with an eagle eye on economic diversification.
As first step, the Governor invigorated the Plateau State Investment and Property Development Company (PIPC). Its principal mandate was to cause the revival of all state-owned industries/companies which had gone extinct.
And Gov. Lalong has resuscitated a number of them. These include; the comatose Fertilizer Processing Plant, Bokkos, which is managed by Bejafta Fertilizer in partnership with the state government. Life has been injected in the Plateau Bottling Company at Barkin Ladi, also in partnership with Highland Bottling Company Ltd, 25 years after its closure.
Also, Solbec Ltd a foreign firm in partnership with the state government has revived the Panyam Fish Farm, famed as West Africa’s largest fish farm, but shutdown decades ago.
The Jos Main Market, razed in the heat of the Jos crisis 15 years ago is being revived under a PPP arrangement. State-owned Plateau Hotel, Jos is undergoing repairs which are nearing completion; just as BARC FARMS, a state-owned enterprise sold 25 years has been reclaimed by the administration of Gov. Lalong. The Jos International Breweries, (JIB) is also on the path of resuscitation.
To add fillip to economic diversification, Gov. Lalong caused the approval of the Federal Executive Council for a N3.38 billion loan facility from the African Development Bank (ADB) in 2017. The loan has been disbursed to farmers in the state, who have massively cultivated Irish Potatoes in the State. And Plateau plans to process and begin the exportation of the commodity as finished products by 2019 to earn foreign exchange for the state. Thousands of youths have been gainfully employed through these industrial and agricultural initiatives.
Indisputably, an appreciable percentage of the economy of Plateau state was serviced by earnings from the tourism sector. But this vital source of revenue inflow into the state coffers was curtailed with the sustained violence on the Plateau as tourists and holiday makers avoided the state.
With nearly 12 tourists sites adorning the landscapes of the state, a peaceful Jos played host to local foreign tourists regularly. However, Lalong’s restoration of peace on the Plateau and the re-beautification of the tourists sites, visitors are once again back to the state to savor its treasures.
The administration of Gov. Lalong is also in partnership with some Chinese companies in the bid to revive the Pandam Game Reserve.
Additionally, the state State Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Hospitality has brightened the Annual Cultural and Entertainment events and Tourisms, to reenact the dissipating image of tourism on the minds of tourists. The Plateau State carnival, road show and music fiesta have been rebranded and fast gaining national recognition competitively.
An all-rounder in whatever vision he envisages, Gov. Lalong is now angling to promote tourism potentials of the state through tourism orientated sports. The Lamingo Golf Club’s tournament in Jos is already celebrated as well as the mountain hiking, high altitude sports and others within the realm of tourism sports are being elevated to national and international prominence.
Gov. Lalong sent a loud message to the globe about its desire to reclaim its famed tourism status when he hosted the 2018 Elective Annual General Meeting of the National Association Tour Operators (NATOP) in Jos, the Plateau State capital. Leaders and key players in the industry converged on the Plateau and experienced the prevailing serenity, peace and security.
But where the Gov. Lalong has earned the loudest ovations and accolades is his dexterity in reuniting and managing the delicate and complex mix of the ethno-religious configurations of the state. In the past, mutual distrust among ethnicities strained cordiality, resulting into most of the violent eruptions on the Plateau.
But the Governor has not only been able to excellently douse the tensions among the near 53 ethnic nationalities in the state, has cleverly managed the differences in religious faiths. He outlawed segregation and marginalization, which often sparked suspicions and crisis. His government equitably patronizes all in appointments, contracts and other forms of government patronage. It has inevitably descended the feeling of belonging and contentment among various groups.
In effect, Gov. Simon Lalong has demonstrated an enviable sense of leadership charm which has won and converted souls to the ideals of his kingdom on the Plateau. He “Rescue Mission” in the state was timely and he has undeniably delivered on conceived redemptive assignment, as Plateau is once again a home to everybody.
Every living soul on the Plateau – the indigenes and visitors alike are happy; and the tourists are happier, especially with the boom in real estate and hospitality business under his watch. The state economy is growing from strength to strength. Therefore, the loud voices resonating for the comeback of Gov. Simon Lalong in April 2019 streams from his beholding leadership manifestations.
Angula is Managing Director of a leading News Portal, TheNigerian.