Lalong swears in council bosses, warns against ethnicity, religious bigotry
Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong has sworn in the 17 local government chairmen and 325 councilliors who were elected on Saturday.
Speaking at the ceremony held at Victoria Gowon Hall, Little Rayfield, Government House, Jos, Lalong said the people have every reason to thank God for the successful transition from one Local Government tenure to another after the elections that took place on October 9.
For the elected council chairmen, the governor challenged them not to see their victory as one of glamour, but as a call to service and an opportunity to serve the people.
He said, “From today, you have ceased to be leaders of your parties, religious or ethnic groups only. You are to work for all citizens, including those who did not vote for you. Furthermore, your victory is for the people and not an opportunity to settle scores with anybody or enrich yourselves.
“I use this opportunity to commend the people of Plateau State for their exemplary conduct, resilience and patriotism throughout the exercise.
“I also congratulate the Plateau Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC), for conducting one of the best elections in the history of the state, adjudged to be free, fair and credible. Despite the legal fireworks that persisted up to few hours before the polls, they were able to carry out their constitutional mandate according to law.
“Without doubt, this is a very significant achievement in our democratic journey and the efforts to build a Plateau that is inclusive, egalitarian and progressive. I am happy that all political parties and candidates had equal opportunity to participate in the process from the beginning, while those who had issues within their parties exploited all legal options to ventilate their grievances rather than resorting to taking laws into their hands. This in itself is a threshold in deepening democracy.
“As the tier of Government closest to the people, the expectations are very high for delivery of basic services that will improve the living standards of the people. Therefore, you must take this assignment as a challenge for you to bring to bear your wealth of experience and make a difference”, he said.
According to the governor, “In the course of your campaigns, you made various promises to the people which you must work hard to fulfill. You are coming at a time when the Nation and our State is still suffering from the impact of the Corona Virus pandemic, which has adversely affected many facets of life, including finances of the Local Governments.
“However, in developing your blueprints, you must think outside the box and explore other sources of revenue generation that will enable you carry out people-oriented projects. You must key into the new joint revenue drive between the State and Local Governments, which commenced last year in order to ensure that we tap from revenue sources that have been neglected over the years.
“Also take advantage of the full Autonomy currently being enjoyed by the Local Government System in Plateau State to do more for your people. This means that you must embrace prudence, accountability and accord priority to the programmes and projects that have direct bearing on the lives of the people. Prioritise on projects that are economically viable and can yield revenue. There is no time for wasteful spending and financial recklessness. You must be fair to all and ensure that you avoid any action that can divide the people.”
Lalong reminded them that when there is injustice, unfair treatment and selective distribution of projects and services, “your popularity will fade fast and peace will be difficult to sustain. Without prejudice to your right to choose and appoint people you can work with, endeavour to carry along all interest groups in your appointments especially people living with disabilities and women.
“Also endeavour to work harmoniously with members of the Legislative Arm, Traditional Council and relevant groups to proffer solutions to immediate challenges especially those related to peace and security. We have worked hard to restore substantial peace throughout the State, especially after the recent attacks, which enabled us to hold the elections peacefully that brought you on board.
“There is no greater appreciation you can give back to the people of the State than to work to consolidate this peace in your areas using all options at your disposal. Already, we have laid out the foundation for grassroots policing using the vigilante, Community Policing, as well as synergizing with the conventional security apparatus.
“While I congratulate the APC for emerging victorious in the polls throughout the 17 local Government areas of the State, I call on members of other parties who have any complaints arising from the elections to avail themselves the legal channels already provided to seek redress. Prior to the elections, we saw how the Judiciary stood firm to dispense justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. Let us continue to keep faith with them and allow the rule of law to prevail.”
He therefore used the avenue to once again advise political, religious, traditional and other leaders against reckless utterances that seek to incite and provoke people to violence and intolerance.
“We must shun hate speech, fake news and exploitation of available conflict fault lines such as ethnicity and religion to heat up the polity. Specifically, I want to express my displeasure on the conduct of some conventional and social media users and proprietors who threw caution to the wind during the process.
“They allowed politicians and their foot soldiers their platforms to freely propagate and disseminate content that sought to incite people against one another and also pitch them against Government. This is most unfortunate and highly regrettable.
“Let such persons beware of the dangers they are exposing the State and its people to, and also realise that there are consequences for every action. We should always exercise caution and adhere to the rules of the game. When we destroy the State, there will not be any opportunity for contest or politics.
“I call on citizens to put behind all differences and work together in building a better Plateau that will yield its prosperity and endowments to this generation and the generation to come. Election is neither war nor an avenue for division and disharmony. Those who do not succeed today can emerge victorious tomorrow.
“In the same vein too, as the Chairmen and Councilors settle down to business, I urge individuals and groups not to exert unnecessary pressure or demands on them that could affect their focus and divert their attention from delivering the dividends of democracy to the generality of the citizens. Since you have elected to work, please allow them do the work.”