By Mark Longyen
Rosalyn Carter, a former United States First Lady once said: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
Thus, the hallmark of a great and true visionary leader is his ability to think outside the box, design a blueprint for the future, and execute it to the letter, in such a way that it yields unprecedented and enduring dividends for the benefit of the ruled.
The above assertion succinctly illustrates and underscores the personality and leadership qualities of Rt Hon Dr Simon Bako Lalong, the Executive Governor of Plateau State, North-Central Nigeria.
Lalong cuts the picture of a man who knows where he is coming from, knows where he is and definitely knows what he wants and where he is taking his state to.
At home and abroad, whenever and wherever he speaks about his plans, dreams and desires for Plateau State, the Governor usually exudes a rare combination of self confidence, conviction, commitment, determination, passion, panache, tenacity and sincerity of purpose.
All these are eloquently clear manifestations of a leader who clearly knows his onions and is determined to stop at nothing to leave his footprints on the sands of history.
Just a handful of legendary world leaders like Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, China’s Mao Zedong, France’s Charles De Gaulle, the USA’s Abraham Lincoln, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, the United Arab Emirates’ Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, et al, belong to this exclusive club in which Lalong has found membership after barely two decades in politics and three years in office as a state governor.
Indeed, his small physical frame and unassuming nature both combine to belly his intrinsic boldness, die-hard convictions and lion-heart personality. He carries his physique, which is just ideal for an ex-football freak that he is, with the gait and agility of a teenage athlete, although he has since metamorphosed into a golf maestro.
As Governor Lalong clocks the golden age of 50 plus 5 today, he deserves more than a trillion tributes, for he has become an enigma and a phenomenon of sorts, a statesman, a sought-after divine solution to national political puzzles, a political mentor to many and, undoubtedly, the new face of Plateau Politics.
Like a monstrous colossus and an unstoppable all-conquering warlord, the soft-spoken, easygoing, cool, calm and collected iconoclastic politician and father of two daughters and a son, walks with measured steps — just the same way he has subtly subdued his political opponents and has conquered and bestrode the Plateau State political landscape within a record time.
My close contact with the Governor over the years, up to when I became his Media Aide almost three years ago, has placed me in a vantage position to say authoritatively that Governor Lalong is a jolly good fellow, who obviously cherishes and values merit, integrity and friendship, in that order. This is evidenced in the cacophony of those who make the list of his strategic political think-tank, as well as other political appointees and close associates.
Engage him in a one-on-one political conversation and watch the manifestation of the lawyer cum politician in him as he unleashes on you his arsenal of knowledge, understanding and strong conviction with persuasive arguments to disarm you and make mince meat of your point of view.
Governor Lalong is a man whose word is his bond, and so he never promises and fails to fulfill. He is loyal, honest and sincere to a fault in whatever cause he believes in, and tolerant in equal measure. He is very meticulous with an uncanny knack for accountability and details, a good listener, slow to anger, and slow but firm in action.
No wonder these rare attributes combined to contribute to his having survived as the longest serving Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly for seven years.
Upon assumption of office as Executive Governor three years ago, Lalong quickly settled down to brass tacks and commenced the implementation of a Five-Point Agenda, which encapsulated virtually all sectors with a view to achieving developmental objectives in order to realize the Plateau State of his dream.
The Governor realized right from day one that all sectors were negatively affected by the common curse of multi-billion naira abandoned or uncompleted projects initiated by past administrations which litter the nooks and crannies of the state like a festering eyesore.
Hear him: “What it means is that if projects are abandoned, billions of Plateau monies are being wasted into non-functional projects, leaving the state and its people short-changed. What I am doing is what will benefit the state. We are making effective use of resources and knocking off waste,’’ Lalong had explained to newsmen on the occasion of his media parley to mark his first 100 days in office.
Pronto! Governor Lalong chose to break the jinx of the vicious circle of abandoned projects in the state.
He immediately declared a “State of Emergency” or zero tolerance for all abandoned and uncompleted physical projects and moribund state-owned industries, with some as old as the state itself.
His decision to complete and put to use, all projects abandoned by his predecessors, before embarking on his own, are clear testimonies that are evidential of the hallmark of his wisdom, prudence and accountability.
These efforts have, for instance, paid off with the completion of the Secretariat Junction Flyover Bridge, and the 22-kilometer Mararaban Jama’a – Secretariat Junction – British America Junction roads. Others are the resuscitation of the moribund Bokkos Fertilizer Blending Plant, the revived Plateau Bottling Company, the Panyam Fish Farm, the repurchase of BARC Farms, the revival of the abandoned Plateau State University, the Zaria Road Stadium, the Jos Main Market rebuilding effort, the efforts to complete three uncompleted General Hospital projects, etc.
Governor Lalong has also initiated and embarked on an ambitious new rural road Infrastructure project that cuts across all the 17 Local Governments of the state at a whopping sum of almost forty (N40) billion! Other new projects include the Miango-Wild Life Park – Rafiki road with a spur to Tudun Wada and Old Airport Junction, etc.
In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transport, the Governor has succeeded in resuscitating the hitherto abandoned Heipang Inland Container Dry Port, which is nearly completed, with the expected multiplier effect of boosting the export of fresh agricultural produce from the state, promote industrialization and commerce, employment and internal revenue generation.
The Governor’s wisdom in obtaining a N3.38 billion African Development Bank Loan, which was recently approved for the state’s Potato Value Chain, is one of his most ambitious moves aimed at bolstering the state’s agricultural potentials, boosting commerce and industry and turning around the state’s economic fortunes forever.
With the laying of these solid structures for Plateau State, among many others, it is no exaggeration to say that history beckons on Governor Lalong to become the best ever governor in the state’s history by the end of his second tenure in 2023. No wonder the Governor’s success story has not gone unnoticed as various organizations, including the usually skeptical cum vigilant media, have been falling over one another to give him one form of award or the other. This is in addition to his open-ended endorsement by numerous groups in the state that are taking turns to endorse him for a second term in office in 2019.
Longyen is the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Lalong.