SPEECH BY THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF PLATEAU STATE RT. HON. (DR) SIMON BAKO LALONG, KSGG, AT A ONE-DAY ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION WITH COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS TO COMMEMORATE NIGERIA’S 60th (DIAMOND) INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY HELD AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE RAYFIELD JOS ON 1ST OCTOBER 2020.
1. Fellow compatriots, it is with immense joy that I address you on this auspicious day. A day that marks sixty years since Nigeria’s journey as a sovereign entity began. Certainly, the day calls for celebration as well as a deep reflection on how we have fared so far.
2. Indeed, the last 60 years of our journey to nationhood have not been without some challenges. Nevertheless, it is heartwarming to know that we have made great achievements as a people having weathered the storm to forge a common destiny for ourselves.
3. Our ability to always bounce back, even stronger, each time we are knocked over by socio-political or economic trials speaks volume about our abiding faith, hope, resilience and determination to keep a date with destiny.
4. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you will agree with me that at the dawn of independence in 1960, those aspects of our public life that united us as a people were more pronounced and better appreciated than those that seemed to have appealed to our sectional or primordial interests today.
5. Presently, the story of Nigeria may not reflect what our founding fathers had in mind when they fought for independence, but I firmly believe that the present challenges confronting us as a country is a passing phase that is crucial to building a virile, peaceful and united country at the long run.
6. We must therefore not despair but rather see this as a clarion call to deploy our human and material resources for the common good of Nigeria. As we “think” and “act Plateau”, we must also think and act Nigeria! It is the only country we have and nobody can develop it for us or better than us.
7. As you are already aware, the first cardinal objective of the RESCUE Administration in Plateau State is to ensure “Peace, Security and Good Governance”. The choice of this policy thrust was deliberate.
8. It was conceived with the aim of tackling head-on the myriad of security challenges and civil unrests that characterized the better part of the last decades in the State. When we came on board, we came with a pre-conceived mindset to end the violence and break the conflict gap
9. It was against this background that we established the Plateau Peace Building Agency as well as took several other steps to arrest the vicious cycle of violence that militated against the socio-economic development of our people.
10. The fundamental role of the Peace Building Agency is to engage with long-standing issues of conflict while also acting proactively to de-escalate tension through the facilitation of systematic dialogue between conflict parties or communities.
11. It is the earnest desire of our administration to bequeath an enduring legacy of a stable and prosperous Plateau by the end of our term in office. To achieve this objective, the Peace Building Agency has enjoyed the support of government and partner organizations in its operations.
12. This has endeared the Peace Agency to a wide range of stakeholders. It has also accorded it the needed impetus to leverage on its expertise and sense of neutrality to build consensus over thorny and often divisive issues of conflict within its few years of existence.
13. That is why today, Plateau State is gradually regaining its status as the choice destination for visitors, investors, and residents from within and outside the country. Just this Monday, we flagged off the inaugural flight by Max Air from Abuja to Jos which testifies to the confidence that is being rebuilt in our State.
14. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, certainly more needs to be done and that is why we chose this auspicious event of the commemoration of the country’s Diamond independence anniversary to rub minds on ways to further deepen the peace in our dear State.
15. Although we now enjoy substantial Peace, we are not living under the illusion that all the conflict issues in Plateau state have completely been resolved. On the contrary, we are very much aware of the security threats emanating from the legacies of decades of violence which are being exploited by the merchants of evil to create chaos at all cost and at the expense of the lives of innocent citizens.
16. As a government, we have vowed that we will never budge in our duty towards protecting the lives and properties of our people. No amount of blackmail and desperation will deter us from this task. We have drawn the battle line with criminals and together with security agencies remain steadfast in securing our State.
17. This explains why for example, arrests have already been made over the recent incidences relating to killing of a Traditional Ruler in Foron District, Barkin Ladi LGA; the Killing of a DSS operative in Shendam; as well as the killing of 5 people in Vwang District of Jos South Local Government among others. These perpetrators and their sponsors will soon be brought before the law.
18. The choice of today’s roundtable discussion: “Building Peaceful, Safer and Secure Communities in Plateau State” could not have come at a better time. This is because the goal of achieving a stable, peaceful and prosperous society is one that calls for the cooperation and continuous collaboration of all and sundry.
19. You have been invited here today as community stakeholders to assess the current level of peace and social cohesion in the state with a view to developing a common agenda and understanding for mitigating against the risk of violence as well as deepening peace through community partnership and cooperation.
20. Using the theme of the 60th Independence Celebration which is “Together We Shall Be”, we have the opportunity at this roundtable to discuss and explore pathways in which the State Government can work with you and other critical stakeholders to entrench the ideals of sustainable peace.
21. We must work together to promote positive relations characterized by mutual respect where cultural diversity is celebrated and people can live, learn and socialize together, free from prejudice, hate and intolerance in all communities.
22. Let me again use this moment to commend all those who have dedicated their time and resources to building the peace we are currently enjoying across the state. Your efforts and sacrifices over the years have greatly impacted our communities and have helped in the no-small measure in consolidating the gains we have recorded within the last five years.
23. Moving forward, the Government will continue to work with you and all other stakeholders to mitigate violence through an inclusive and community-driven process devoid of ethnoreligious or political considerations.
24. Nigeria and indeed our dear State are faced with enormous developmental challenges which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world. If there is a time that we need to be united, this is the moment.
25. Let me use this opportunity to especially thank our Keynote Speaker Professor, Danny McCain who has devoted much of his writing, teachings and programs to promoting peace and harmonious co-existence in Plateau state.
26. Finally, in the spirit of Nigeria’s Diamond Celebrations and in the exercise of the powers conferred on me under section 212 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic as amended, and on the recommendation of the State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, I hereby grant pardon to the following convicted persons for good behaviour.
i. Obinna John, initially sentenced to death by hanging. Having served 8 years, his death sentence has been commuted to 21 years imprisonment.
ii. Lengka Kurji, earlier sentenced to 36 months imprisonment, having served 2 years and 9 months, has been granted an absolute pardon.
iii. Buhari Abubakar, initially sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, having served 2 years and 10 months, has been granted an absolute pardon.
iv. David Luka initially sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, having served 2 years and 11 months, is hereby granted an absolute pardon.
v. Ya’u Bala initially sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, having served 2 years 8 months has also been granted an absolute pardon.
27. It is hoped that the affected persons will take advantage of this opportunity to chart a new course for themselves and work for the progress of the nation.
28. On this note and with great pleasure, I officially declare this event open and wishing you all a Happy 60th Independence Celebrations.
Long live Plateau State!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG
Executive Governor of Plateau State &
Chairman, Northern Governors Forum.
October 1st, 2020.
Photos; Josiah Jenvulu