Simon Bako Lalong: The peaceful man of development on the Plateau


It is very simple to know a great man. A great man does not come like wild fire burning in the harmattan. He does not come as a loquacious and boastful soul. The great man theory is a 19th-century idea. The theory expounds that history can be largely explained by the impact of great men, or heroes; highly influential and unique individuals who, due to their natural attributes, such as superior intellect, heroic courage, or divine inspiration, have a decisive historical effect.

The theory is primarily attributed to the Scottish philosopher and essayist Thomas Carlyle who gave a series of lectures on heroism in 1840, later published as “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History”, in which he states: “Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here. They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these”.
Carlyle stated that “The history of the world is but the biography of great men”, reflecting his belief that heroes shape history through both their personal attributes and divine inspiration.

In his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, Carlyle saw history as having turned on the decisions, works, ideas, and characters of “heroes”, giving detailed analysis of six types: The hero as divinity (such as Odin), prophet (such as Mohamet), poet (such as Shakespeare), priest (such as Martin Luther), man of letters (such as Rousseau), and king (such as Napoleon).

If the current governor of Plateau State, Right Honourable Barrister Simon Bako Lalong had lived in the era essayist Thomas Carlyle, he (Lonlong) would have surely fitted into the examples of the great men of the time. This is because of the modest development the Plateau has witnessed in the last five years.
For us to better appreciate Governor Lalong, it is commensurate for us to take a look at the situation of the state before his assumption of office. Simon Macham who critically examines the situation is very clear that “prior to the election of Rt. Honourable Simon Bako Lalong in 2015 under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Plateau State was bedeviled with all manners of crises and misdemeanor which were given all sorts of colouration translated and captured in political, religious, ethnic grounds etc”.

“It could be recalled with gloomy nostalgia that this unfortunate development ultimately forced many residents living, especially in the Jos and Bukuru metropolis, to relocate to other states in the country.

Similarly, many business owners who felt their investments were no longer safe were not left out in the exodus from the state that has historically been the melting pot of Nigeria”. Also the administration on assumption inherited over N222 billion state debt, myriad of abandoned projects and the over seven month salary arrears owed the civil servants.

Based on the foregoing scenario, one can only but imagines the kind of expectation that the people of Plateau were enveloped. Therefore, they were looking for that great man; highly influential and unique individual who has natural attributes, such as superior intellect, heroic courage, or divine inspiration and a decisive historical effect. And with Lalong on the ballot, he was overwhelmingly voted.

As someone who had the trust and confidence of the people bestowed on him, Governor Lalong has shown that the people made no mistake in voting him into office. One of the first things he did as governor was to make sure that peace returned to the once “home of peace and tourism” since no meaningful development can take place where there is no peace.

To achieve this, the governor quickly established the Plateau Peace Building Agency headed by a pragmatic leader Mr Joseph Jenner Lengmang with a mandate to explore all avenues to return Plateau on the path of sustainable peace. Mr Lengmang until his appointment was a lecturer with the Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies, University of Jos.
This agenda the agency has committedly pursued leading to the unveiling of the Plateau state peace roadmap and the establishment early warning signals to halt such violent attacks and unnecessary loss of lives and valuables.
In the quest to rebuild the State from the ashes of the past towards peace, reconciliation and forgiveness, Governor Simon Lalong, declared 7th February, 2020, as the Plateau State Forgiveness and Reconciliation Day. Furthermore, the governor had in 2019 graciously approved a peace week celebration with the theme: “Climate Change for Peace, Promoting Healing, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Plateau” and activities held from September 16 and end on September 21.

It should be noted the near collapse of law and order in Plateau State were orchestrated by security challenges and in order to bring about and maintain peace, the Governor Lalong led administration has continued to prioritize the security of lives and property in the state by strengthening the security architecture and apparatchiks in the state. Recently, following the footsteps of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration through the office of the Inspector General of Police to implement Community Policing, Governor Lalong pragmatically inaugurated the State Community Policing Advisory Committee to tackle activities of criminal bandits in the state.

The Committee which has CP Edward Egbuka, Plateau State Commissioner of Police as Chairman and His Majesty, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, Gbong Gwom Jos and Chairman, Plateau State Council of Chiefs and Emirs – Co-Chairman will in a long way consolidate the peace Governor Lalong has laid a solid foundation for in the state.

Since the administration of Governor Lalong has only workable five point agenda namely Peace, Security and Good Governance, Human Capital Development and Social Welfare, Agriculture and Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Industrialization, Physical Infrastructure and Environment, the administration in the last five years has never rested on its oars to in fulfilling its promises to the people. This is strategically and consciously executed through the legacy projects that are scattered evenly in all the seventeen local government areas of the state.

Considering the shortfall in oil revenue, Governor Lalong administration has demonstrated through action that there is no alternative to agricultural revolution. This is even more so for the fact that the state is blessed with a resourceful people, fertile arable land and favorable climate conditions which have endowed it with comparative advantage in agriculture.
Therefore, the administration through a PPP with SOLBEC Ltd resuscitated the Panyam Fish Farm which is the largest in Nigeria with a land mass of 309 hectares and a capacity to produce 10 million fingerlings and 4.9 tons of fish annually has been resuscitated through PPP with SOLBEC Ltd. more so, in order to facilitate irrigation farming of potatoes and other vegetables, the administration has procured 1,500 irrigation water pumps to be distributed to farmers across the 17 local government areas of the state of which 500 of those water pumps have been distributed in March 2020 during a ceremony at the premises of the Plateau Agricultural Development Programme (PADP), Dogon Dutse, Jos in Jos North Local Government Council.
Still in the area of agriculture, the Plateau State government has commenced its post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan with the re-acquisition of the Brewery Agro Research Company (BARC) Farms in Zallaki village of Bassa Local Government Area. So far, the government has paid one billion naira for the re-acquisition of BARC Farm shares, representing about 70 per cent of the total sum, and hoping to complete the balance before the end of the year.

In the area of Education, over 300 primary and secondary schools have been renovated and more than 2500 teachers employed. Governor Lalong had also ensured the accreditation of all existing courses in the Plateau State University, the Plateau State Polytechnic, College of Education and the School of Agriculture.

“There is no doubt that the simmering conflicts and violent attacks over the years in Plateau State has retarded harmonious interaction and rapport among the various ethnic groups in the state that was once a reflection of its slogan (Home of Peace and Tourism), also, these conflicts can be rooted to settlers-indigenes disputes, unresolved political differences, perceived social and economic marginalization, bad government policies, high level of unemployment, poverty and inequality in the state’s socio-economic relations, etc” writes Mpaka Numbere, an environmental resource manager.

However, the good news is that since 2015, a great man who cherishes peace above all other considerations has restored peace to the once troubled state and has been conscientiously and aggressively developing the Plateau.

It is important to state unequivocally as noted by Numbere that “indeed, Governor Lalong has proved that his heart is after his people and with the developmental drive he has put in towards the betterment of the rural populace, peace and security of lives and properties of rural dwellers cannot be compromised by anybody or group of persons…one will only wish and pray that the efforts of the executive Governor will once again return Plateau on the path to a sustainable peace where residents across all local government areas will carry out their legitimate business without fear of any kind and to return Plateau to the good days of Home of Peace and Tourism”.
Many years after 2023 when His Excellency, Simon Lalong must have left office, and the restoration of peace history would be written, even his political opponents will remember and accept him as the man of peace on the Plateau.

Semaka is a public affairs analyst and writes from United kingdom

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