President Muhammadu Buhari will today pay a one-day historic working visit to Plateau State, the “Home of Peace and Tourism”. The President’s visit provides the best opportunity to assess Governor Simon Lalong’s scorecard exemplified by the plethora of projects executed in past three or so years and ready for commissioning by the August Visitor.
Some of the road projects that the President is expected to inaugurate include the Mararaban Jema’a-British American Highway, the Low-Cost Road network, the Rantya-Rafiki Road network, the Rukuba Road network, the State Secretariat Flyover, the Angwan Rogo Road network and the Tudun Wada-Kabong Road network.
Other projects include multibillion naira ones the Governor Lalong inherited from the past administrations and completed for the overall benefit of the entire people of the state, and similar multibillion naira projects he initiated and completed in record time, thus ending the culture and impunity of abandoned projects in Plateau State.
Also included in Mr. President’s itinerary is the inspection of some of the ongoing rural roads infrastructure projects, which contracts were awarded at the cost of nearly N40bn and spread across the nooks and crannies of all the 17 local government areas of the state, some of which are near completion. However, due to time constraint, the inspection may be restricted to those within the Jos-Bukuru Metropolis.
Furthermore, Mr. President will inaugurate the Tractor Hiring Scheme, a mechanized farming scheme for massive food production across the state, another pacesetter of the Lalong Administration in which dozens of brand new tractors were acquired for hiring to interested farmers and farmers cooperative societies. The Tractorization Scheme which is to take off fully this farming season is in line with the Governor’s wise decision to diversify the state’s economy by refocusing on agriculture as the backbone of its revenue generation following the fall in oil prices in the international market.
President Buhari is also scheduled to hold a historic Town Hall meeting with the people of the state where a myriad of issues that has been agitating the minds of the people will be poured out for the President to respond to them directly. He will also unveil the Plateau Roadmap To Peace, a model 5-year peace action plan for the state, which is the brainchild of the Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) created by Governor Lalong on assumption of office to ensure that the security hiccups in the state are proactively arrested and/or nipped in the bud so as to engendered lasting peace that earned the state the epithet of “Home of Peace and Tourism’.
The Roadmap is a Model Peace Strategic Plan of Action for ensuring peace and security over the next five years and was developed through a benchmarking exercise that brought together a wide-range of stakeholders, civil society organizations, security agencies and experts, Non-Governmental Organizations, NGOs, international donor agencies, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), the academia and the media.
This aspect of the President’s visit is particularly significant, especially considering the avalanche of security challenges currently bedeviling the nation. This unfortunate scenario accounts for the drafting of the armed forces to no fewer than 32 states of the federation to maintain or restore a seemingly elusive peace disrupted by insurgency, farmers-herders clashes, kidnappings, militancy, agitations for self-determination and other forms of violent crimes against the citizenry.
Relatively speaking, Plateau is right now like an island caged by insecurity, especially considering the level of insecurity in the neighbouring states even in the face of measures so far put in place by government to stem crises.
Joseph Lengmang, Director-General of the PPBA, while recently giving a synopsis of the agency’s Peace Roadmap, which many have called on the Federal Government to borrow a leaf from, said the Federal Government stands to benefit a lot from the Plateau Peace model if it replicates same at the national level.
He said, “What we did through all this process was to identify the gaps in the post-conflict peace building process on the Plateau and the idea was to see how to develop and design a framework for engaging issues of conflict and ways of resolving them towards promoting a peaceful society in Plateau State”.
The establishment of the PPBA has, no doubt, underscored the seriousness and sheer determination with which Lalong’s administration has taken the issue of peace aimed at building confidence among the ethnic nationalities living in the state, culminating in the domino effects of rekindling hope and the possibility of having a peaceful state built on the foundation of equity and social justice through his deliberate policy of inclusive governance.
Governor Lalong’s giant strides in governance have not gone unnoticed by critical stakeholders in the state. For instance, while commenting on the Governor’s great achievements within the last three years, a group under the aegis of Plateau Youths for Change (PYC) stressed that the Governor’s scorecard is second to none in the area of inclusive governance as evidenced by his ability to carry along all of Plateau State’s 53 ethnic nationalities in the governance of the state.
Patrick Dariem, Special Adviser to the Governor on Finance and Investment, while speaking on Lalong’s efforts aimed at diversifying the state’s economy through agriculture, the reviving of hitherto moribund state-owned industries, foreign direct investment, tourism, among others, told newsmen recently in Jos that investments in the state have tremendously increased and raised the people’s hope of an unprecedented socio-economic growth under Lalong.
Dariem said: “The importance of the prevailing relative peace in the state since this government came on board cannot be over-emphasized. As you can see, we have become the preferred destination for investors.
We have been able to get investors for the hitherto abandoned Panyam Fish Farm and buying back our BARC-Farms sold out about 30 years ago. So with these two large scale farms now being revived, you can only imagine the economic benefits the government and the people will enjoy in both the short and long run.
Another critical area of developmental stride that Governor Lalong has handled with uncommon zeal is Women and Youth Empowerment. Prior to his assumption of office, the youths were in a perpetual state of despair, disenchantment and disillusionment due to wanton neglect by the immediate past government. Their parents were not paid either their salaries or pensions and, as a result, many of the youths were not going to school. For some, their schools were permanently shut and there were no jobs for them, especially the graduates among them.
However, Governor Lalong, never one to be intimidated by seemingly intractable challenges, took the bull by the horns by keying into the Federal Government’s Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN).
To this end, he immediately sent an Executive Bill to the State House of Assembly to establish the Plateau State Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (PLASMEDA). The agency has employed and empowered thousands of women and youths since its establishment.
Governor Lalong’s support for the youths also saw to his total commitment and support for the state-owned Football Club, Plateau United, leading to their exploits in the 2016/2017 Nigerian Professional Football League, culminating in their lifting for the first time the highest and most prestigious club Medal in Nigeria when they were crowned the winners of the 2016/2017 NPFL trophy.
Even the most ardent members of the opposition in the state are no less bewildered by Governor Lalong’s stunning courage and ability to run the affairs of the complex state and getting positive results in the process. Corroborating, distinguished Senator Ibrahim Mantu, a former Deputy Senate President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, while speaking during a recent consultative stakeholders meeting organised by the Governor, said that he initially pitied Governor Lalong, and did not give him a chance to succeed in view of the financial quagmire and other challenges that were staring him (Lalong) in the face ab initio. He, however, said he was marveled by Lalong’s magic wand which drastically solved the innumerable problems, stressing that the Governor’s ability to tame the monster of insecurity in the state alone has earned for him a pass mark.
Like Senator Mantu, many of Governor Lalong’s critics and opponents have been compelled to bury their initial skepticisms in view of the Governor’s tremendous achievements despite the avalanche of daunting challenges that he faced ab initio.
And since seeing, they say, is believing, President Buhari’s visit will provide the golden opportunity for the whole world to catch a glimpse of Governor Lalong’s footprints on the hills of plateau as the president inaugurates some of his landmark projects.
Mark Longyen is Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State