As Buhari Visits, Plateau Hopes for Lasting Peace

Muhammadu Buhari

Ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Plateau State, many are hoping that his visit will help to deepen the peace process initiated by the state governor, Simon Lalong, writes Mark Longymen

President Muhammadu Buhari is today paying a one-day historic working visit to Plateau State. The president’s visit provides, among others, an opportunity to underscore Governor Simon Lalong’s scorecard, in view of the number of projects earmarked for commissioning by the president.

Some of the road projects that the president is expected to inaugurate include the Mararaban Jema’a -British America Highway, the Low-Cost Road network, the Rantya-Rafiki Road network, the Rukuba Road network, the State Secretariat Flyover, the Angwan Rogo Road network, the Tudun Wada-Kabong Road network, among many others.

These include multibillion naira projects the governor inherited from past administrations and completed for the overall benefit of the entire people of the state, and similar multibillion naira projects he initiated and completed in record time, thus ending the culture and impunity of abandoned projects in the state.

Also included in Mr President’s itinerary is the inspection of some of the ongoing rural roads infrastructure projects, which contracts were awarded at the cost of nearly forty billion naira (N40bn) and spread across the nooks and crannies of all the 17 local government areas of the state some of which are near completion. However, due to time constraint, the inspection may be restricted to those within the Jos-Bukuru metropolis.

Mr President will inaugurate the Tractor Hiring Scheme, a mechanised farming scheme for massive food production across the state, another pacesetter of the Lalong administration in which dozens of brand new tractors were acquired for hiring to interested farmers and cooperative societies. The scheme which is to take off fully this farming season is in line with the governor’s decision to diversify the state’s economy to agriculture as the driver and mainstay of the state’s economy following the fall in oil revenues.

Buhari is also scheduled to hold a historic town hall meeting with the people of the state where issues agitating the minds of the people will be poured out for the president to respond to them.

The president is also slated to unveil the Plateau Roadmap to Peace, a model 5-year peace action plan for the state, which is the brainchild of the Plateau Peace Building Agency, (PPBA), created by Lalong on assumption of office to ensure that the state’s hitherto legion of crises are proactively nipped in the bud and peace is perpetually engendered, maintained and sustained in the state.

The roadmap is a model peace master-plan for ensuring peace and security over the next five years and was developed through a benchmarking exercise that brought together a wide-range of stakeholders, civil society organisations, security agencies, experts, international donor agencies, international non governmental organisations, the academia and the media.

This aspect of the president’s visit is particularly significant, especially considering the avalanche of security challenges the nation faces. This unfortunate scenario accounts for the drafting of the armed forces to no fewer than 32 states of the federation to maintain or restore a seemingly elusive peace that has been disrupted by insurgency, farmers-herders clashes, kidnappings, militancy, self-determination agitations, occult killings and other forms of violent crimes. Plateau is like an island surrounded by insecurity, especially considering the crises in surrounding states.

Many are hoping that the president’s visit will reassure all the ethnic nationalities in Plateau that the peace process enjoys his support.

Joseph Lengmang, Director-General of the PPBA, while recently giving a synopsis of the roadmap said the federal government stands to benefit a lot from the model if it replicated same at the national level.

He said, “what we did through all this process was to identify the gaps in the post-conflict peace building process on the Plateau and the idea was to see how to develop and design a framework for engaging issues of conflict and ways of resolving them toward promoting a peaceful society in Plateau State”.

He said: “The agency has, through the roadmap gone ahead now to develop a 5-year Plan of Action on how to proactively engage issues of conflict and to innovatively transform them as the demonstration of its commitment to delivering peace and security to the vast majority of its citizens,” he added.

The establishment of the PPBA has, no doubt, underscored the determination with which Lalong’s administration has taken the issue of peace. The plan among others, aimed at building confidence among the ethnic nationalities living in the state, as this has also culminated in the multiplier effect of rekindling hope and the possibility of having a peaceful state built on the foundation of equity and social justice through deliberate policy of inclusive governance.

Patrick Dariem, Special Adviser to the Governor on Finance and Investment, while speaking on Lalong’s efforts at diversifying the state’s economy through agriculture, the reviving of hitherto moribund state-owned Industries, foreign direct investment, tourism, among others, said that investments in the state had tremendously increased with the hope of an unprecedented socio-economic growth.

Dariem said: “The importance of the prevailing relative peace in the state since this government came on board cannot be over-emphasised. As you can see, we have become the preferred destination for investors.

“Our attention to agriculture is not unconnected with where we feel we have comparative advantage. You know I am an accountant, so we have to bring investments that would benefit us more. The state has purchased tractors and fertilizers for farmers. But most importantly, the administration has showcased willingness by reviving our own Bokkos Fertilizer Blending Plant, which will go a long way in helping the farmers get fertilizer when needed and at affordable rates.”

Another critical area of developmental stride that Lalong has handled with uncommon zeal is women and youth empowerment. Prior to his assumption of office, youths were in a chronic state of despair, disenchantment and disillusionment due to wanton neglect by past administration. The governor keyed into the Federal Government’s Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, SMEDAN.

To this end, he immediately sent an executive bill to the state’ house of assembly to establish the Plateau State Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (PLASMEDA). The agency has employed and empowered thousands of women and youths since its establishment.

The governor has impressed even members of the opposition with his uncanny courage and ability to run the affairs of the state like a colossus and getting positive results in the process.

For instance, a former Deputy Senate President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Ibrahim Mantu while at a recent consultative stakeholders meeting organized by the governor, said that he initially pitied governor and did not give him a chance to succeed looking at the financial quagmire and other challenges the state was faced with.

Mantu said he was marvelled by Lalong’s magic wand which drastically solved the innumerable problems, stressing that the governor’s ability to tame the security challenges of the state alone had earned for him a pass mark.
Many are hoping that the president’s visit will reassure all the ethnic nationalities in Plateau that the peace process enjoys his support.

Longyen is he Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State