The people of the temperate hills on the Plateau, North Central Nigeria may have made poor choice nearly over two years ago for electing one of the most controversial long standing political figures as governor. Barrister Simon Bako Lalong was a speaker of the state house of assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and almost served out 8-year of his tenure before he was blown away in a haze of political tempest and in a maze of corruption allegation that attended his leadership of the house.
Mr. Lalong became a household name in the state and perhaps in the country due largely to his election/selection as the chairman of the Nigeria Speakers' Forum in the early years of the Fourth Republic when the wobbling President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration was tottering on the path of dictatorship. At one time or the other, the forum issued press releases condemning Obasanjo's governmental policies and those adumbrations carried the signatures of Speaker Lalong.
Today, an average Plateau person has reasons to agonize about Lalong's failed governorship.
They clamored relentless on the streets of major towns and villages for the return of the (JJ) Jonah Jang type of government, or a PDP government that promises less and do more for them. A visit to the State's Ministries at the Joseph Gomalk Secretariat, Jos-North Local Government Area revealed the rot in the public service under Lelong's administration.
A female public servant in the ministry of information, a virtual decrepit structure, emptied of staffers, is one of the most dirtiest dilapidated structure one could ever imagine confided in me that the rot I met on ground is a result of Lalong's administration's failure to replace the retired members of staff who have left public service on account of old age and other redundancy imposed on the public service by Governor Lalong's government.
"Look at me. I'm a retiree. I have left public service since two years. I'm here assisting in my ministry because there is nobody to do the work. What stops the Governor from employing people to public service which he promised before he was voted into office nearly years ago, she quipped".
The same complaint amongst the youths is replete who were used as thugs for the election by the Governor. "All politician are the same. I was one of the foremost proponent of Governor Lalong's governorship since 2014 on the ground that he promised employment, infrastructural development, schools, hospitals and the revitalization of the comatose industries to strive, but today the reverse is the case. We are waiting for him in 2019 to repeat these broken promises for his reelection", Joseph Bako groans.
One Customs officer charges Governor Lalong to fulfill his electoral promises to the people of the state. "these few roads under construction is the handwork of for Governor Jonah Jang. Governor Lalong is merely rich in rhetorics but devoid of delivery the goods. Even if the governor is the one fixing one or two roads you saw, he is still far removed from the people and actual governance. What happened to job creation and the resuscitation of the ailing industries he promised the people".
Mr. Gyang Marvelous, an All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart, Jos-North castigated and accused the governor of ethnocentrism, saying the governor only appoint his people into political position as against the law stipulated by Federal Character Commission. "All the key positions in the state government under the governorship of Lalong are all from Jos-South, regardless of our immense contributions to his victory at the poll in 2015. What type of leader discriminates so intensely against his supporters to the extent of rejecting them in victory because they are not from the same ethnic stock as himself", he queried.
You may say the fortunate, Plateau State has been unfortunate to have Lalong as governor. Fortunate/unfortunate! Yes. Plateau is the twelfth largest state in Nigeria with a population of nearly four million people. The state is located approximately in the center of the country. It is geographically unique because its boundaries surround the Jos Plateau, having the entire plateau in its central and northern part. Plateau State is celebrated as "The Home of Peace and Tourism", an image that has been fractured in recent years by Muslim-Christian clashes.
There are innumerable intriguing monuments that constitute absolute comfort zone for visitors. The Wildlife Safari Park sits in the middle of 8 km2 (3.09 sq. miles) of unspoiled savannah bush, about 4 km (2 mi) from Jos. It offers a wide variety of wild animals within easy viewing. These include buffalos, lions, leopards, baboons, monkeys, Derby elands, pythons, crocodiles, chimpanzees, jackals and the rare pygmy hippopotamus, which is being successfully bred in the 'hippo pool’.
The park also boasts great, panoramic views of Jos city.The National Museum in Jos was founded in 1952, and is recognised as one of the best in the country. It is renowned for its archeology and The Pottery Hall has an exceptional collection of finely crafted pottery from all over Nigeria. The museum boasts some fine specimens of Nok terracotta heads and artifacts dating from between 500 BC to 200 AD. The Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture is adjacent, with life-size replicas of a variety of buildings, from the walls of Kano and the Mosque at Zaria to a Tiv village.
They offer opportunities to mountain climbers and hikers alike. Riyom Rock is a rock formation located 25 kilometers southwest of Jos, near Riyom town. Pandam Game Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary. It is a protected region of natural habitat and is home to hippopotami, crocodiles, and snakes of all types. Local park rangers track local game on foot and guide people to the best viewing areas. This area is still virtually unspoiled by human contact. It offers fishing and tourist accommodation is available in Kahwang Rock.
Formation is a set of basalt rocks, located in Bangai village of Bachi District in Riyom Local Government of the state, the Kahwang rocks have received tourists from different parts of the state, the country at large and on occasions, from outside Nigeria, who visit the site to see for themselves the wonders of nature.
This site is however, still awaiting the attention of the Plateau State Tourism Corporation to meet modern standards and to serve as another source of revenue generation to the state. Miango Rest House is a treat and conference center located in Miango established by missionaries (SIM Nigeria) in 1914. It is located next to Kent Academy, a non-denominational missionary school. The Rest House provides visitors with plenty of opportunities to hike in the surrounding area. The property also features a man-made dam, a farm and is located at the foot of small hill (Mt. Sanderson) that provides a beautiful view of the area.
The unfortunate aspect of Mr. Lalong's governorship has been that he is too naive and politically unequipped to tap the state's boundless resources to assuage the plight of his people, much the same way The Gambia, one of the smallest African country's leadership has excelled on a similar turf. The truth is that The Gambia, were it to be a part of Nigeria, would be one of the smallest states in the federation. With a population of only 1,800,000, it is less than half of the population of Plateau State with a population of almost 4 million people.
Yet, Gambia is an independent country, with a standing army, a working public service, a national university, television, radio and all the paraphernalia of a modern state. Even the president has a presidential jet! Unlike Governor Lalong and other Nigeria governors, the president of Gambia does not expect any manna to come monthly from Abuja. For him, there is no oil windfall. The Gambia's tourism industry receives over 100,000 visitors a year and is the second highest earner of foreign revenue. Tourists mainly come from Europe with package tour operators from UK making up over 50% of visitors. The remaining number of visitors arriving from Germany, Norway, Sweden & other countries.
Agriculture accounts for roughly 30% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 70% of the labour force. Within agriculture, peanut production accounts for 6.9% of GDP, other crops 8.3%, livestock 5.3%, fishing 1.8%, and forestry 0.5%. Industry accounts for about 8% of GDP and services around 58%. The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing.
The country is entirely surrounded by Senegal except the narrow opening to the Atlantic where the Gambia River empties into the sea. The country is entirely dependent on its groundnuts, its fisheries and its considerable tourist industry, thanks to Alex Haley, the author of the phenomenal book, Roots. That book traces the genealogy of the author, an American descendant of African slaves, to The Gambia among the Madinkas where a young warrior, Kunta Kinte, was captured and sold into slavery across the Atlantic. Kinte became the ancestor of Alex Haley.
The future of tourism in Plateau holds great potential, but its expansion and development depend on better transport infrastructure – including airline connections, roads, and railways – in addition, to open inter state roads, and improved marketing to niche sectors such as adventure and eco-travelers. The potential of Africa’s tourism is untapped, writes Mthuli Ncube, African Development Bank Group Vice-President and Chief Economist, in the foreword of the inaugural issue of the Africa Tourism Monitor, a joint initiative produced by the African Development Bank in partnership with the Africa Travel Association and Africa House at NYU.
“While Africa accounts for 15% of the world population, it receives only about 3% of world tourism,” writes Ncube. “To maximize Africa’s tourism potential, critical investments are needed in key infrastructure sectors (e.g. transport, energy, water and telecommunications).” In Plateau State, apart from the punishing drive to raise taxes, there are very few initiatives to turn the state's economy around. In many of Plateau State's towns and villages, you see the youth gathered at the market square peddling the vocation of idleness. Some of them have motorcycles which they use in the perennial and thankless okada trade.
Most of the youths would be waiting for the next train of politicians seeking one elective office or the other. Many of them, including the fortunate ones riding okada, are waiting for the next riot to happen. Plateau State is in a sorry state where the youths have no hope. The governors is in a position to rekindle hope in the people of the state with the abundant tourism potential and many other resources listed earlier, but sure cannot materialize with the like of Governor Lalong at the saddle. He's both blind to the plight of his people as much as how to navigate the state out of economic woes. The governor has been unable to create industries; institutions and avenues for the youths of his state to acquire skill they can market.
Nearly three years in office Mr. Lalong is yet to build any institutions in the state which he promised for the training of plumbers, tailors, electricians and carpenters.
One of the earliest proponents of Governor Lalong governorship, Alhaji Ali Shehu Akawu recently accused the governor of double faced for not fulfilling his electoral promises to rehabilitate the entire Jos-North roads, including a special consideration to Unguwar Rogo/Rimi road; to construct Unguwar Rogo/Rimi Road promptly, which were all captured in the 2016 budget. Ali also called the Lalong a failure for not creating more districts which he promised at electioneering.
Alhaji Ali categorized Lalong's other electoral promises like construction of market terminus, and a promise to build seven different companies are all pipe dreams. The most undemocratic is the government failure/refusal to conduct local government election. For the fourth times, the governor has either replaced or extended the tenure of the Local Government caretaker management against his avowed promise not to repeat the error of the past administration. Alhaji Shehu harps on the dirtiness of the state capital as a major policy somersault of the governor. "The State Capital, Jos has become so dirty that the usually beautiful Ahmadu Bello way and the Bukur Park have become pitiable site of degradation", he said.
While the people of the area longing for Governor Lalong's failed promises, there is a ground swell of opposition mounted by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the venerated former Governor Jonah Jang, who the people of the state celebrate at every corner of the state as Messiah. As 2019 draws near, we hope the people of Plateau State make the right choice other than the colourless and arid rule of Mr. Simon Lalong.
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