By Frank Meke
Ibrahim Musa Goni, Nigeria’s Chief Conservator General is an uncommon natural resources conservation evangelist.
He barely engages in vain discussion, thus picks his words with deliberate caution whenever he does engage those who love to share is vision. His choice by President Muhammadu Buhari to revamp and restore the lost glory of Nigeria’s protected areas, rekindled the hope and prayers of conservation enthusiasts and observers that Nigeria may again show forth strength in the global quest to secure the earth and its abundant flora and fauna resources at the mercy of aggressive and mindless poachers and their sponsors.
As the third Conservator General of the National Park Services (NPS), after the revered founder, Alhaji Lawan Marguba and Late Tanko Abubakar, Musa Goni who grew through the ranks knew that time has come to move NPS out certain developmental inertia and refocus the Federal Conservation Institution to brace-up for fresh challenges and understanding. To drive this revolution, Goni moved swiftly to arrest the low and depressing work environment of the animals and forests conservators, making the weak to be strong thus, enthroning the restoration of the patriotic zeal for Nigeria fresh narrative on conservation.
As a successful and testimonial graduate of the best growth and development administrative timelines to which NPS was founded, Ibrahim Goni knew without motivated and well trained conservators, the mission to protect Nigeria nature goldmine would be in vain. He knew further that walls must be broken to engage professionals outside the conservation community to appreciate the national desire to win the battle against conservation education and empowerment. Though his agenda towards this end is predicated on getting funding support for capacity building and restoration, the near poor budget outlay for this critical aspect of our national development initially left him “breathless” for a while. It is still not uhuru on funding for NPS.
A very strong believer in growing effective relationship and partnership desirable for national development, Ibrahim Goni first of all, did away with certain wasteful over weight in financial management, convinced that every kobo would count in getting NPS to rebound. From foreign embassies, local and foreign non-governmental organizations with natural resources mandates, Ibrahim Goni created and linked the operational goals of his administration to the true desire to engage lovers of the mother earth to good intentions and aspiration of President Mohammadu Buhari’s conservation vision for Nigeria.
Through “greet and meet” initiatives and conference interactions, the message of Goni’s capacity to restore Nigeria’s position as a leading nature conservation destination was better appreciated. Indeed, it is not out of place to say that this emerging new generation conservation enigma has done well so far in his stride to reposition NPS and Nigeria conservation expectations and mandate.
While many people thought Goni would soon run out of ideas and into storms due to the many challenges facing National Park Service, Goni has surprisingly maintained a steady rise and rise in energy to trumpet the attention of Nigeria Army to help appreciate and mentor the needed synergy between NPS and the frontline national security influencers.
From a well tailored visit by Army Chief of evaluation and standardization, Gen Adekunle Sodunke, the seed of an enduring classroom and open field engagement on regimentation and enforcement platform for Nigeria’s protected areas was launched, with fun fare. It was no mock game but a strategic birth and solid empowerment of Nigeria’s protectors of flora and fauna never seen in the history of protected areas management in Africa.
After an intellectual “show of force” at Army Headquarters in Abuja, General Brutai’s men led by evaluation Chief, General Shodunke moved into the forest areas of Cross-River and Kainji Lake National Parks as the first practical training curve to expose the army to the many advantages of supporting conservation security.
This exposure to “gorilla warfare” protection initiative surely re-established and re-engaged the true desire of NPS under Ibrahim Goni as an institution which must be funded and empowered to protect not just Nigeria’s natural resources but also to help protect rural communities where the very best of our fauna, flora and cultural resources are located.
This synergy with the octopus Nigerian Army is a wining edge no doubt, so what lies ahead of Ibrahim Goni in his strides to better the fortunes of NPS portend great endings that must be supported by the government of President Mohammadu Buhari. Indeed, the sky cannot be the limit to the vision of this great son of Borgu Kingdom to write his name in sand of Nigeria conservation history.