By Yakubu Dati
According to the popular former American President, John Kennedy, ” Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures ”
Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State appears to be translating this sage saying into reality. Little by little, he is building structures towards sustainable peace. From the regular payments of emoluments to the civil servants, to the injection of 24,000 metric tones to farmers at subsidized rates, and the establishment of two zonal police commands in Bukuru and Pankshin, the underlying message is one – peace building.
The just concluded maiden Joscarnival made a strong statement on the return of peace on the plateau. In more peaceful climes, very few public officers can take a walk round their immediate constituency without fear of the unknown. Gov. Simon Lalong alongside his quite and caring wife, Regina walked eight long kilometers in the heart of Jos to grace the carnival. Apart from the physical fitness so apparent from this exercise, a bold message of return of peace reverberates the land. As he waves back at residents from rooftops and windows, it is clear that he is the man of the people.
Peace has indeed returned.
While labor unions in other climes, are in the trenches embarking on aluta continua for workers salaries, Lalong’s Plateau has become the darling of comrades. Recently, he was presented with an award for payment of workers and pensioners by Ibrahim Khaleel, National President of local government unions (NULGE). Shortly after, The Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) has also shortlisted Gov. Lalong for award at its 10th quadrennial conference. According to its spokesman, Comrade Bunmi Ogunkolade, he is among the six out of the 36 governors and who do not owe pensioners in their states. For Trade Unions known for bringing states to a standstill, such commendations are not based on logistics.
The return of peace is manifest from the influx of people into the State. Jos is not only regaining its lost glory as land of peace and tourism, but is becoming a favorite destination for conferences and retreats. In the past few weeks for instance, Jos played host to 3,000 participants for a weeklong event organised by the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN). Similarly about 200 children were at the Rayfield Golf Club to participate in a weeklong Children’s Golf tournament. Furthermore the state is still savoring the weeklong retreat by Sokoto State led by Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Sultan of Sokoto, members of the State Executive council, boards and parastatals. These guests, their drivers, their friends and their cars require upkeep. Hoteliers, taxis and food vendors are smiling to the bank. As the visitor’s needs for shelter, food, leisure and recreation are catered for; the city’s informal sector is brimming with activities. The petrol stations, fruit vendors, mai suyas, are all scrambling for a piece of the action.
The upsurge of human traffic and patronage is stretching the capacity of the 120 hotels in Jos to its limits. Little wonder, more hotels are springing up everyday as vehicular traffic has replaced the former ghost town.
The attraction to the city as a result of the peace, alongside timely payments of salaries has culminated into a boisterous local economy. These economic activities generate employment opportunities for the teeming youths. Those with entrepreneurial attributes also find expression from the multiple business opportunities so provided. Most observers attribute the peace being enjoyed in Jos to the engagement of youthful energies into profitable enterprise. When the youths are engaged therefore, it diminishes their attraction to criminality and deviant behavior.
To many observers, the superlative performance of the Plateau United football club on top table of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is not by accident. The peace at home has provided a great tonic for the boys to do exploits on the field of play. As a sportsman himself, Gov. Lalong knows how it works.
The rousing reception received by Efe, winner of Big BrotherNaija, by the Government and people of Plateau has redefined Plateau as home of peace and tourism.
As Gov. Simon Lalong marks another birthday, his vision of making Plateau a haven for peace, tourism and hospitality is being achieved one step at a time.
Yakubu Dati, was a former Commissioner in Plateau can be reached on [email protected]