Gov Simon Lalong: Setting the template of unity in diversity by Yakubu Dati

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu

Gov Simon Lalong was at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Wednesday, to appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari for the many good things he has done for the government and people of Plateau State recently.

Specifically, the Governor was in the Villa to appreciate the President for approving several projects in Plateau State includinga Cancer Centre for the University of Jos and the over N3 billion approved for the purpose; the establishment of an orthopaedic hospital in Jos; the establishment of a Federal Medical Centre in Wase; the Federal Polytechnic Shendam, the conversion of the Federal College of Education, Pankshin, to a Federal University of Education; establishment of another Federal College of Education in the state and the establishment of a zonal campus of the Nigerian Law School for North-Central in Jos.

This, the governor made clear to reporters who tried to ambush him with barrage of questions while coming out of the villa, but not so surprisingly given the nature of Nigerian politics, it was his response on the issue of his acceptance to lead the Tinubu/Shettima Campaign Organization that was not only given prominence but made to overshadow all issues with his comment being twisted in the social media to give it a different meaning.

Welcome to Nigerian politics where opposition elements must ply their trade: Downplaying major milestones and confusing otherwise straight narratives through the promotion of self serving angles is the new low.

The slant given to Gov Lalong’s response on his acceptance to lead the presidential campaign falls in this category and is meant to obfuscate these achievements by throwing up sentimental issues that tend to divide the populace.

But one wonders why some are always ready to bring up the religious and ethnic cards when citizen cohesion and nation building as demonstrated by the Governor in highlighting the projects approved for his state, should be the focus.

According to research, there exists about 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith grou, tribes, cultures, movements and ultimate concerns, which at some point will be countless. The Rwandan genocide that led to the slaughtering of about 800,000 persons in just 100 days, has according to a BBC report been traced to the exploitation of existing fault,-lines between the Tutsi and Hutu.

These imply the very intricate and diverse sentiment that prevail as far as religion and ethnicity are concerned, and why rather than use these fault lines to divide, they should form the basis for integration and peaceful coexistence which should be championed by all men of goodwill.
To paraphrase Gen IBM Haruna, on an ARISE TV interview “Why does the mass media think only of failure?”

Gov Lalong is rising above the fault lines of religion and ethnicity to project appreciation of religious tolerance and steer the nation away from plunging into the tenterhooks of war, to setting the building blocks for harmony and peaceful coexistence.

Lalong would, rather than dwell on what divides citizens, draws from his personal experience where his kith and kin are made of a fine mix of Christians and Muslims living in harmony, to build on.
Back to the villa interview.  In response to a question about his acceptance to lead the Tinubu/Shettima campaign, the Governor used the analogy of the most respected Vatican potentate to underscore his proud religious heritage to promote the cardinal attribute of peace.
He said: “I hold a Papal knight and as a catholic, everything we do, we do it and send the advice to the Pope. The Pope has not told me that what I’m doing is bad – as a catholic, we take that direction.”

The attempt by conflict merchants to confuse his metaphoric reference to his  Knighthood of KSGG, is being weaponized  for political mileage with the intention of plunging the most populous African country to war.

But the bid to misinterpret this analogy is dead on arrival, as many have come to understand the context it was used.

The Catholic Church has, over the years made it a policy to explore ways of opening avenues for interreligious harmony  and the reference by Governor Lalong is an enunciation of this pursuit and his belief in peaceful coexistence.

As one whose worldview is shaped by unity in diversity, the Governor is driven to replicate this win win experience for national cohesion.

Therein lies his motivation to defend peaceful coexistence and promote the Tunubu/Shetima APC presidential ticket without fear or intimidation. While his political traducers resort to exploiting the Freudian slip to ply their trade, men of goodwill will dig deeper and appreciate his internal train of thought that means no harm.

Yakubu Dati, a Commissioner from Plateau State can be reached on Yakubudati@gmail.com

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