Ibrahim Goni happened on the scene of an agency of government no one in his right mind would want to superintend.
Ibrahim Goni, Nigeria’s Conservator-General, is not only a man of courage but also full of faith in our country in these trying times. He speaks little, a man of measured words, a strategist who knows he has a date with the history books. A year ago, he made himself available to reform and rebuild the National Parks Service, custodians of our protected flora and fauna frontiers.
I have known this enigma of immense talent and humanist for over a decade; a young conservationist who grew through the ranks with uncommon passion to succeed at any given assignment to nation and pride to family history. As Nigeria’s chief conservator of the forest ecosystem and its inherent value chain of intangibles, Ibrahim Goni happened on the scene of an agency of government no one in his right mind would want to superintend. A place where our leaders and people do not bestow any special socio-economic consideration.
Across the globe, from Yellow Stone National Park in the United States, where the concept of strategic protected areas gained focus and spread over many decades ago, Nigeria’s experience and national aspiration in this quest has met with the most negative stumbling blocks from the elite and the very rural poor whom the dreams were established to benefit.
Ours is less than a 20-year experience and would have blossomed just like its older contemporaries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia, if Nigerian leaders had done the needful to fast-track and encourage a national forest and wildlife protected environment.
Yes, protected areas all over the world are saddled with diverse challenges, our experience particularly in the past 10 years has been a dead outpost showpiece.
From Cross River, Taraba/Adamawa, Oyo, Edo, Kaduna, Borno and Niger states, where these veritable biosphere and wildlife hotspots are located, Nigeria and our political leadership have lived in denial of the importance of these critical central bank of our national natural resources and their roles of ameliorating climatic burst-ups and futuristic benefits to balancing the very negative misuse of nature through uncontrolled urbanization, over-population and the unbridled desire of our people and government to swallow anything in sight.
And of the most profound and troubling of this sad narrative in our quest to check the rabid bid to wipe Nigeria out of the global forest and wildlife management rankings lies the near zero funding and national budget cover to help arrest the tragic consequences of the trajectory in this area and, above all, the painful malaise of absolute debilitating ignorance and lack of awareness on the gains and impact of national park enclaves in our country.
Our state governors do not see the sense in encouraging the growth of forest and wildlife resources within their domain and where the federal government; through NPS; presents a foothold of strategic feature, both constitutional and mundane arguments are fronted as agricultural and green tourism afterthoughts, which also heralds the most elementary fear unimaginable.
It is under this climate of uncertainty that Goni was called forth by President Muhammadu Buhari to make uncommon change in NPS. Indeed, but for providence and some of the good works done by founding fathers of NPS and unity among all levels of management over the years in the system, this all-important natural national treasure base would have gone to the hawks whose agenda is to depopulate
the wildlife community for bush meat, lucrative export of gem resources, the flora catchments for timber and wood, not minding the sinister hidden agenda to sell the massive landmass of the parks for fanciful estates and farmlands.
The burden on Kognan Borgu, a seeming traditional title bestowed on Ibrahim Goni by the late influential Emir of Borgu, Dr. Haliru Dantoro, foresaw a creative approach by this young and unassuming conservator-general from Niger State whose dream is to leave an enduring mark in the administration and survival of NPS.
And after just a year in office, four weeks ago, Ibrahim Goni has lifted the spirit of NPS workers, tending to their welfare, particularly the rangers, men whose lot is to keep poachers away from the parks. This he has done with little funds, confirming his “right nail on the head” appointment by President Buhari to help change the narratives of NPS and restore it “gamefully” to champion the protection of our flora and fauna ecosystems in order to drive national development.
Also from the strategic breaking of barriers between NPS as a paramilitary agency and other visible and older security agencies in Nigeria, Ibrahim Goni has also reached out to foreign embassies in Nigeria to help address challenges on training and retraining of NPS workforce, build capacity for synergy in sharing information, research windows and invitation to visits for nature and wildlife experience.
Though it is a long way to Uhuru for NPS under this amiable nature task-buster, there are signs that NPS would regain its lost glory and enjoy the confidence of the President and the doubting Thomas elite, nature adventure-loving Nigerians and the media. On this score, Goni can be trusted. It is just one year, like yesterday, for this humble conservator of immense courage and vision.