The mention of the name Simon Bako Lalong simply evokes different feelings and meanings to different people.
Whenever Lalong is mentioned, the name resonates in different quarters differently.
Some say, can anything good come from Ajikamai? Similar to what was said of Jesus of Nazareth! Though such a question is rhetorical, the answer is obvious to whoever might raise it! While some genuinely ask such questions in marvel to what God can do to and with whoever he pleases, others ask the question albeit derogatorily.
Prior to 29th May, 2015 when Simon Bako Lalong was sworn in as Executive Governor of Plateau State, despite the fact that he had held positions to be reckoned with, elective for that matter, he was seen as an underdog, someone that can and will not put up a fight of any kind.
Many people did not even believe that he will make it to Rayfield as Chief Executive of Plateau State not even the person he took over from. It is said that his predecessor was sarcastic at a campaign in 2014/15 referring to Lalong when he symbolitically raised a bunch of keys and said “We cannot build a house and one stranger will bring brooms and pile in it!” That is the level which he (Lalong) did not matter in any way then.
However, destiny came knocking and like God told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:4-8 thus:
“The word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young’. But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you; declares the Lord,’’’-(NIV).
Lalong, like many, was mirrored differently from the way God looked at him. As a matter of fact, I am tempted to add to his name Jeremiah thus Right Honourable (Dr.) Simon Jeremiah Bako Lalong, KSGG!
Sooner had he assumed office he faced the issue of insecurity that had engulfed the state of no known dimension and nipped it in the bud to the consternation and surprise of many pundits and pessimists alike. The crisis, insecurity, reduced drastically. Little wonder he was called and consecrated by the Lord himself. Otherwise, he would not have removed us from the situation of hatred against each other.
Like Jeremiah, it is possible that Lalong had looked down upon himself as too young and if that be so, God must have rebuked him not to and went ahead and consecrated him. As a matter of fact, news had it that even people close to him taunted him.
And indeed to their consternation he became governor in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019. And not only that, he was also saddled with the responsibility of leading the 19 Northern State Governors of Nigeria as its Chairman, irrespective of political party and other considerations.
Every human being has two sides. And for Governor Lalong, people only know the seeming weak side of him which is a source of strength for him.
What do you expect of someone whom the Lord has consecrated? The Lalong we do not know is strong-willed, focused, target oriented, resilient and unassuming. This is a man that listens more than he speaks and whenever he chooses to speak, wisdom exudes from his lips. An encounter with him changes your opinion of him for good.
He has ably led the 19 Northern Governors creditably. One of the high points was last week when he led the 13 of the 14 northern Governors of the All Progressives Congress party to insist that the presidency of Nigeria should go to the South when the opposition appeared to have jettisoned zoning and some interests in the ruling party were towing the same line. It takes a man full of wisdom who is focused and who is respected by colleagues to boldly lead this kind of endeavour that has moved our dear nation forward. Equity and justice demanded so and this was demonstrated by the 13 wise men led by Lalong who spoke for national unity, peace and progress. They stood tall in the hour the nation needed them.
What the foregoing means therefore, is that Lalong is God-sent. And if that be so, there is still a lot to be expected from this unassuming, humble, simple and kind son of Ajikamai who does not pride himself on anything apart from God.
Already the people of the Southern Zone of Plateau State have bestowed upon him a higher responsibility beyond the shores of Plateau State to represent them in the Senate in 2023.
With the emergence of the APC standard bearer Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Lalong’s name has again resonated among likely candidates to be considered for Vice President.
While he has not said anything about these insinuations, the loud clamour for him to be considered speaks a lot of his personality, achievements and the grace of God upon him. One thing is certain that if he has done it all at the state and regional levels, he can also do it at the national level having been Speaker, Governor and practiced law for many years.
*** By Dan Manjang