By Frank Meke
He is an uncommon Ranger on a mission in a troubled nature enclave. Tesleem Kareem does not leave you in confusion or doubt of his mission to die protecting “mere trees and animals” under his watch in Okomu National Park, the smallest but one of the richest biosphere in south west cum mid west of Nigeria.
He is a friend to those who love his protected kingdom for Flora and fauna resources and enemy to those who dare hurt or intrude in the bowel of the nature wonderland. Certainly, I must assure you, this uncommon Ranger has no fear of death or threat his life.
Here in Okomu National Park and over nine support zone communities, the name Tesleem Kareem is on every lip, dreaded and held in awe not because of his Ranger uniform, or his well polished military boots but due to his unexplainable covenant with the creatures of the earth. He just simply love their presence and would dare anyone to harm them.
Tesleem Kareem reputation trails and sticks with him. From other places, the national Parks of Ghashaka Gumti in Taraba/ Adamawa states, Chad Basin in Borno/ Yobe states, kamuku in kaduna,state, kainji lake in new Bussa, Niger state and Cross River national park particularly its troublesome and dread okwango division in Cross River State, poachers and loggers usually do not forget the many court convictions and huge fines they paid for daring to cross part with this committed conservator from Oyo state.
Indeed his exploits of making life very difficult for nature thieves and rapers, bestrides his mission in the national Park system in Nigeria and to which caught the eagle eyes and attention of his superiors, particularly the current conservator General of National Park, Alhaji ( Dr) Ibrahim Musa Goni, who is also a notable nature crime buster in his young and active days in the field.
Having known and closely worked with the CG, Ibrahim Musa Goni, it appears Tesleem Kareem shares same blood and a no nonsense attitude to work, particularly in getting rid of poachers and nature despoilers.
Back to Okomu, this enclave has been on the wrong side of conservation news for a long time. Faced with danger of exctintion and destruction due to unmitigated habitat destruction and uncontrollable logging, communities indifference, and coupled with the Pontius Pilate attitude of Edo state government, began a sad shift from the gains of this natural resources strategic hold.
Tesleem Kareem, confronted with this challenge, not excluding militancy of the youths, many resulting in fatal encounters with the Park protecting team, something must give way. It’s either the Park survives or the troublers brought to justice.
Getting the troublers of the Park out of the way is a self sworn agenda for the very unassuming conservator of Okomu but wisdom must drive the process because no nature enclave is an island to its fullest manifestation. Okomu belongs to the people and is held in trust by the federal government for the people.
Yes, punitive measures, arrests, confiscations and the dreaded days in prison awaits offenders yet Tesleem Kareem dreams of reconnecting the people to this nature enclave which has brought both Edo state and federal government international attention, support and ranking as one of the unique ecosystem in the world.
Its endemic white throated monkey can’t be found anywhere else in the world, the Buffalos, short sprouted ear elephants, the wonderful lakes, surrealistic vegetation covers, green, thick and healthy and the famous 140 feet high Tree House built on a silk cotton tree, are just the icing on the touristic attractions in Okomu.
To this and many more, this uncommon Ranger and conservator was deployed to arrest the rapid decay and destruction of Okomu, an assignment to which he has sworn to uphold without fear and favour.
He told me that apart from his fears for the lives of officers and men under his watch, nothing counts as the battle to restore the glory of Okomu National Park rages.
” Am not afraid for my safety, God sees my heart and is my refuge. Since, I resumed here late last year, no one is left in doubt that it cannot be business as usual in Okomu and I dare anyone to try.” he explained with the confidence of tested conservation general.
Despite initial threat and resentment by support zone communities and the militant youths, Tesleem Kareem’s combination of grit and wisdom has brought a new life line to the survival of Okomu National Park.p
While the traditional rulers, the youths and sawmillers have signed a fresh commitment to support the rebound of this natural ecosystem, the position of Edo state government through the state forestry authorities, is still hanging on uncertainty.
Significantly, all the stakeholders had sent red card the Edo forestry authorities to keep their itching fingers from the Park or be visited with “shame and expose” public protest.
Tesleem Kareem knows the days of Okomu enemies are numbered and with the support of the various stakeholders, particularly the traditional rulers and the “Generals” of the youths, Okomu is sure back on world map as one of the best protected nature enclaves and hotspot for green tourism in the world.
Indeed, it is gratifying to note the love and patriotism Tesleem Kareem has brought to change the history of Okomu but also of note to the archives of conservation in Nigeria, is the single minded determination and Midas touch the Conservator General, Dr Ibrahim Musa Goni who has brought visible and verifiable transformation to the entire seven National Parks in Nigeria and also propagating a refreshing conservation education with people in view.
Tesleem Kareem deserves our support and prayers. A man incorruptible, refusing the tempting offers merchants of nature and daring the intimidation of raging exploiters of our natural resources. Tesleem Kareem has come to stop the looting of Okomu National Park and it’s over for the community of nature robbers.