Wednesday, May 29 2019, was a day of celebration in Plateau State as State Governor, Simon Lalong, was sworn in to serve for a second tenure of four years as Governor of the state.
It was an atmosphere of joy and a day of public acceptance as the Plateau State Governor gave State pardon to Mr. Evaristus C. Mozie, who was a prisoner in the state that was sentenced to serve a life sentence in Prison. It was indeed an occasion to remember. But before we begin to talk about the wonderful deeds and the not so wonderful deeds of the Governor during his first tenure, let us carry out a brief profile on Simon Lalong to know who he is.
The Man Called Simon Lalong
Simon Bako Lalong, was born on the 5th of May 1963. He is a lawyer by profession and later became a politician, currently serving as the Governor of Plateau State. He attended the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna State, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Law in the year 1990. He then went on to attend the Law School in Lagos, after which he called to the Bar. In the year 1996, he obtained a master’s degree in Law from the University of Jos.
Lalong began his professional career as an attorney in 1992 after graduating from Law School and it lasted till 1998, the year before the new political dispensation began in 1999. In this time period, he worked with a few law firms and he was the co-owner of one. He was appointed as the Deputy Scribe of the Plateau State Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association in 1992 and served in that capacity till 1994. After leaving the Law profession in 1998, seven years later, Lalong made his way back to the legal practice serving as the Principal Partner at Simon B Lalong and Co, till 2015 when he became Governor of Plateau State.
The political career of Lalong began in 1998 after he dumped his legal practice in 1998. He was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was elected as the member representing Shendam Constituency. The Plateau State House of Assembly elected him to serve as their Speaker, a position which he began serving in, in the year 2000. He served in that capacity until 2006, when there was a political turn of events in the house. The seven years which he spent as Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly made him the longest serving Speaker in Plateau State history.
Lalong threw in his hat in the Governorship race in 2015, but under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), this time around. He was not seen as the favourite at first, but Lalong was able to cause a political upset by winning the elections via a slim margin. He was eventually sworn in on May 29, 2015 to serve as Plateau State Governor.
In the 2019 elections, Governor Lalong polled 595,582 votes to again cause an upset as he defeated the powerful Jeremiah Useni who contested under the re-surging Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Useni was able to garner 546,813 votes in a keenly contested Governorship election. On the 29th of May 2019, Lalong was sworn in to serve as the Governor of Plateau State for a second term.
The Gains Of Lalong’s First Term Of Governance
Governor Lalong was able to make some great strides while at the helm of affairs in Plateau State during his first term in office, some of which we shall consider below.
Internal security: Under Lalong, the Plateau State Government carried out a successful mediation in the crisis which occurred between Berom Farmers and Fulani Herdsmen. This was especially so in the Barkin Ladi and Riyom local councils. This mediation went a long way in the minimisation of continuous killings which had until then seemed not to be abating.
Welfare of State Workers: The administration of Governor Lalong ensured that the backlog of salaries being owed to state workers as well as the eight months pension being owed pensioners were cleared. The Governor also made sure that he sustained the momentum as workers have not been owed since then.
Improved Economy: To the credit of the Lalong administration, a trade fair was hosted successfully in the state, for the first time in ten years.
Elimination of Ghost Workers: To ensure that there was no fraudulent collection of salaries by ghost workers in the state, Lalong introduced the Direct Data Capture Exersice, physical verification of staff and the use of Bank Verification Number (BVN), to eliminate ghost workers in the state.
Recovery of Looted funds: About N2.7 billion worth of looted funds was recovered from the State UBEC by the Lalong government.
The Failures Of Lalong’s First Term
Now let’s take a look at some of the failures of Governor Lalong to see areas where he would need to improve on in his second term.
Failure To Rebuild Jos Market: The Plateau State Government had promised to rebuild the Jos main market which was burnt down. The market had served as a major source of revenue generation for the state. However, this promise was not kept by the Lalong administration. He however promised again in April 2019 to rebuild the Jos Market.
Sack of Council chairmen: The Plateau State Government as well failed to honour one of his campaign promises that the duly elected council chairmen would not be sacked prematurely. However, almost immediately after Lalong assumed office, he removed the council executives over allegations of corrupt practices.
Minimum wage: The government found it hard to implement the former N18,000 minimum wage, but have promised to generate more funds so that the new N30,000 minimum wage can be implemented.
Lack Of Infrastructural Development: The major projects which were initiated by the former administration of Senator Jang have not been completed by the Simon Lalong administration, which in turn have affected the people of the state negatively.
Street Trading: Despite a ban which was placed on street trading in state capital Jos, there have been no improvement recorded, as the State Government have been unable to effect the ban on street traders.
In conclusion, the first tenure of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State can be said to be a mixture of both impressive feats and not too impressive moments. Let us however hope that his second shot at the seat of governance in the state will be in huge favour of Plateau State residents and turn out to be more impressive than not.
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