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Senator Simon Lalong at 61: Enjoying the blessings of a meek heart

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Senator Simon Bako Lalong

By Makut Simon Macham, PhD.

The word meekness connotes various meanings and interpretations depending on the context one applies it. More often than not, the wide usage of the word is associated with the “Beatitudes”, a teaching by the Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry as captured in Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the Meek, for They Will Inherit the Earth”.

Many scholars have explained the use of the word meek in the verse to mean power under control and refusal to inflate one’s self-estimation. It is also seen as reticence to assert one’s self more than he ought to, and considering oneself as a servant leader rather than one to be elevated and praised for the grace of God in his life. Moses in the Bible was described as the meekest man on the earth (Numbers 12:3) despite the enormous powers he had and inspite of his access to God.

Born 61 years ago to a humble family in Ajikamai, Nyak – a rural fishing village in Shendam Local Government of Plateau State, Senator Simon Bako Lalong like many children never knew where the journey of life will take him to, but consistently trusted and depended on God to order his steps.

Undoubtedly, his upbringing as a Catholic ensured that he imbibed the Christian values of dependence on God, humility, meekness and considering the interests of others above personal aggrandisement.

It is very evident that such values guided his conduct particularly when he had opportunities for public service. Starting from his election into the Plateau State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2003, Lalong demonstrated that he was more dependent on the grace of God rather than human efforts to succeed. He ended up serving as Speaker for 7 years, the longest to hold that office till date.

Apart from serving his people to the best of his ability, Lalong as Speaker defied greed and ambition to reject the lure and pressure of power and money thrown at him in order to betray the then Governor of Plateau State Chief Joshua Dariye in a phantom and unconstitutional impeachment attempt. Rather, he chose detention, psychological torture, embarrassment and intimidation in EFCC gulag for 40 days. At the end, he was vindicated as a true Defender of the Plateau Heritage when the Supreme Court thrashed the so-called impeachment carried out by some 6 willing colleagues.

It was therefore not surprising when in 2015, Lalong was rewarded by the Plateau people with the position of Executive Governor.

From 2015 -2023, Lalong again did his best and showed his capacity for meekness by using the privilege of power to build, unite and develop the entire state rather than favour one group above another or even misuse the power to selfish ends.

He was more conciliatory and accommodating in his approach to governance first by resisting the temptation to jettison inherited and abandoned projects of his predecessors. Thus, the 8-12 months baglog of salaries, pensions, withheld allowances among others were cleared. He was instantly nicknamed “Governor alert” by workers and given an award by the NLC National leadership under Comrade Ayuba Wabba.

On projects, Lalong completed many abandoned projects including the Mararaban Jama’a to Murtala Mohammed expressway. He also completed the Secretariat Junction Roundabout as well as the flyover all inherited. Many other roads within the Jos-Bukuru metropolis were done in addition to the street lighting that illuminated the city and enhanced its status.

Inspite of the meagre resources, Lalong ensured spread of projects across the State ranging from the British-American Flyover in Jos, to construction of the longest bridge in Plateau State, the Kalong-Angwan Dadi Bridge in Shendam among others. Hundreds of schools were constructed or renovated while the Plateau State University Bokkos which was closed down by his predecessor was brought back to life and successfully graduated students who were mobilised for national service. As a lawyer, Lalong ensured that he built an Ultra-modern High Court complex for the Plateau Judiciary before leaving office. He also implemented full financial autonomy for the Judiciary and Legislature, one of the very few Governors of his time to do so.

Perhaps one area that Lalong scored high was the taming of insecurity through dialogue, proactiveness and intelligence gathering. Although his efforts were not perfect, they nevertheless brought a lot of relief to the citizens who experienced far less ethno-religious crises like in the past. Despite the propaganda mounted by his opponents, the Peace Building Agency he pioneered provided the fulcrum for peace and security.

Towards the end of a successful tenure in Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong who had led the Northern Governors Forum was again projected into national politics by his appointment as the DG of the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign Council.

Although many particularly from his faith disagreed with him and even called him names, Lalong put on his garment of meekness to patiently explain that politics and passion for service went beyond sentiments. He never faulted anyone with a differing opinion on the matter, but pleaded with all to give time the opportunity to vindicate. Today, having successfully delivered the ticket, even those who stood against his quest are scampering to benefit from the ticket they vehemtly rejected. Again, Lalong holds no grudges, but continues to embrace all.

Because he holds nothing to heart and carries on with child-like demeanor, Lalong seems to have received with little efforts what many politicians and ambitious people sweat for. Shortly after President Tinubu came into office, he appointed Lalong as Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, a position he held for barely five months before fate beckoned on him to move to the Senate, having been declared the legitimate winner of the Plateau South Senatorial Seat.

Today, Lalong serves in the Red Chambers with a clear vision for continuing his developmental strides for the Plateau South Senatorial District as well as pushing forward the Plateau Agenda at the national stage.

While many would describe him as the most decorated politician in Plateau State, Senator Lalong as always prefers to remain quiet, gentle and focused on serving the people, knowing fully well that God gives power and privilege for service rather than self benefits.

More than ever, Lalong as the leader of the APC in Plateau State is always willing to turn to God for help, for direction and for inspiration to be able to discharge the burden of leadership with utmost excellence, humility, courage and fairness.

Happy 61st birthday, Distinguished Senator Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG, CON.

Dr. Macham is Special Adviser (Media) to Senator Simon Bako Lalong, Plateau South Senatorial District.

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