The governor of Plateau state, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong unveiled his policy agenda for the next four years on 12 June 2016. Apparently, the previously Five-pillar policy agenda of the rescue administration was scaled down to three: Peace, Security and Good Governance; Physical Infrastructural Development and; Sustainable Economic Rebirth.
I am particularly excited about this development. But it will take more than an iron-clad political will to translate these beautiful ideas into reality. So much is involved in the process. Moreover, second-term governors inevitably confront problems both unexpected and familiar. Governor Lalong’s case will not be any different. But does the past hold any clues about how he can overcome?
The governor’s victory and policy framework may feel like déjà vu to some people, but the election season that got us here has been different in many important ways, and those changes could shape not only the next four years of this administration but the nature of our politics.
For a start, election anywhere, and in most cases, often work on divisions. But after the election comes the question of governance which can only be achieved when it is based on unity of purpose and rule of law. Thus, the first and most important task before the governor is to unite; heal the wounds of the past and reconcile our people.
This is the sub-structure upon which the success of his governance superstructure in the second term is predicated and here, I mean the implementation of the three-policy agenda he unveiled some few days back.
In many respects, one could argue that Lalong’s re-election is not only an endorsement of his vision for the state but a stunning vote of confidence on his inclusive and down to earth leadership style. He must be encouraged to continue on that path. There is nothing that stabilizes societies in transition, or gives democracy its distinctiveness in a multi-plural society like ours as the question of inclusiveness.
It is the ultimate glue that holds the center.
Next, would be his choice of commissioners, special advisers and other aides who are expected to help him drive the implementation of the revised policy framework. I am confident that his choice in this respect will not be informed purely by political considerations alone, but also expertise. He can and must muster the political will to do just that.
Again, not only should experts be brought in, but professional advice heeded. Yet, this should also not be misconstrued as a call for the hegemony of technocrats. Far from it.
Yes, political decision-making is crucial. But it is not just about getting good and competent lieutenants, it is also about equipping them with the right set of tools to deliver results. In this sense, the governor is not only expected to set the agenda but cherry pick people who have both the personal and professional competencies to translate his policies into implementable programs and projects.
The capacity to meet expectations and timelines is very key here. I doubt if there is any better way for the governor to avoid pitfalls of the past or reinvent the wheels. His determination to leaving behind a lasting legacy should not be negotiated on the altar of high politics.
And talking about legacy, throughout history, people have known that their lives and deeds were chapters in a saga connecting them to those who had come before and to those who would come after. And as the concept of intergenerational equity holds, assets or wealth do not belong exclusively to those who have created them but also those who will inherit them and will, partly as a consequence of their inheritance, live somewhat better or improved lives than those who came before.
Broadly speaking, legacy is like an annuity. It pays dividends in the actions of others. The legacy of good leaders is one that creates a prosperous and purposeful future and this is the challenge before our governor.
I am among those excited about the prospect of the on-going Lalong legacy projects. Curiously enough, not many people seem to know much about these projects or where they are sighted. For a fact, these massive projects include the construction of-
• 22 major roads in each local government across the state; six comprehensive hospitals in Wase, Mangu, Bokkos, Jos-East, Barkin Ladi and Shendam LGA’s;
• 6 gigantic model secondary schools in Riyom, Kurgwi, Dengi, Pankshin, Bassa and Jos South;
• 9 comprehensive primary schools in Yelwa-Shendam, Jos South, Jos -North, Kanke, Mikang Langtang north and Langtang south.
I understand some of these projects are currently being implemented and financed under the local ISPO. But additional funds are also in the process of being mobilised from the capital market on private placement which will ensure their completion in record time.
The High Court complex which is almost at the point of completion will most likely be commissioned in the month of July 2019. In addition to the legacy project is the reacquisition of the BARC farm and the ongoing effort at rebuilding the Jos main market, two important projects to which the Plateau man and woman have deep emotional attachments to.
Yet, if these projects and many more in the pipeline are to see the light of the day, then the need to review the financial management system of the state has never been this urgent. Areas of strategic interest and payment priorities needs to be set or lucidly defined ab initio.
Success is also contingent upon a robust IGR mobilization strategy and especially one that goes beyond the traditional Personal Income Tax or the PAYE. There is so much revenue to be generated from ground rents within the greater Jos metropolis alone.
Similarly, it is in our strategic interest to identify one or two key areas of comparative advantage in the agricultural sector and invest heavily in terms of technology, processing and storage. Enough of the back-breaking farming practices which is only good for subsistence. Similarly, providing five to ten bags of fertiliser to local farmers is no substitute for a deliberate policy framework and a massive investment required for the modernization of a sector with such a huge potential of being the main stay of our economy.
I am glad that the governor has taken the resuscitation of the ASTC as a major priority in this second term.
Going forward, the government must carry out public service reforms as a prerequisite for attracting international development cooperation. The governor is already doing that in the water sector, health and in the ministry of finance. The prospects are quite high so long as we are able to put our acts together and pursue these things systematically. Its time to scale up and replicate such reforms in other critical sectors.
We should also join in the trend to invest in building smart cities of the future through land use planning. This a process in which land is allocated between competing and sometimes conflicting uses in order to secure the rational and orderly development of our state in an environmentally sound manner.
The idea is to create sustainable human settlements especially within the metropolitan centers.
The current arrangement looks more like an organized chaos and therefore not sustainable. The city of Jos and its environs is gradually being transformed into a glorified slum and this must be stopped.
In conclusion, our governor has a golden opportunity to bequeath a gift of a sound and positive spirit coupled with humility and grace. His role is to inspire our people and prospective future leaders with a firm belief in the high destiny, peace, unity and development of our state.
Indeed, the question of leadership really comes down to example. It’s not what a leader says as much as what he/she does. When it comes to development of others, people remember those who helped them learn and grow their skills.
They also recall, sometimes with a wince, the times when the leader called them out when they are wrong. Such errors could sometimes be less about the quality of their work but more about how they had treated, or even maltreated others. If they paid any attention, they learned from their mistakes and even become better or adept at managing and leading others.
Overall, the focus must be to consolidate on the gains of the last four years as well as rekindle the old Plateau spirit of unity, cooperation, solidarity and development.
After all, the legacy of a good leader is one that creates a prosperous and purposeful future.
This is indeed the biggest challenge before our amiable governor.
I know he will triumph.
Joseph Lengmang is the DG, Plateau State Peace Building Agency, Jos.