By Peter Dibia (08137847696)
It is often said that when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse becomes inevitable, although many will agree with me.
It is a well-known fact that Imo State Zoological Garden and Wildlife Park Conservation, located at Old Road, Nekede Community, Owerri, is the only surviving Zoo in the South East, but in the time past it has been neglected by past governments, not because there was no money to manage or maintain it.
Because of greed and the pull him down syndrome of some rulers, the Zoo has remained backwards and if nothing was done, it might not have been improved.
I do not want to dovetail into how past governments had shied away from developing the Zoo. As a practising journalist, who believes in balanced reporting, fairness and objectivity, it was bad to see media publications accusing the Imo Zoological Garden General Manager, Dr Francis Abioye, of financial mismanagement.
That was the reason for visiting the Zoo, to justify my writing, as well tell the public that the allegation bothering on financial mismanagement of Imo Zoo against the General Manager was baseless.
To my chagrin, I was like Waooooooo, do we have such a place in Imo State? A place called Zoo which is now transformed. This is good.
Etymologically, Zoo (short for Zoological Garden, also called an Animal Park or Menagerie), is a facility where animals are housed within enclosures, cared for, displayed to the public and in some cases bred, thereby generating revenue for the managers. But records have it that Imo State, being the only State housing the only surviving Zoo in South East, should be respected with the General Manager being commended for giving the Zoo a professional touch.
I met Dr Francis Abioye in 2018, as a student of Mass Communication, Imo State University, Owerri, where I won an award as one of the best students, who maintained honesty and integrity at the examination hall. Yes, Dr Francis Abioye is the founder of an NGO, Africa Imitative Against Corruption and Examination Malpractice, which gave me the award. This recognition brought me closer to him, whom I have studied and found out to be a man of integrity and honesty, a virtue that reflects in his dealing with people even as the General Manager of the Imo Zoological Garden.
Upon my visit to the Imo Zoological Garden, I discovered that there are human beings who are guru in what they do. One can agree with me that passion in anything, be it trade or profession, will make one to give his or her best. And Dr Francis Abioye is one of such gurus.
Dr Francis Abioye came to Imo State as a corps member during the administration of Dr Achike Udenwa. After the Three Weeks Orientation Course, followed by posting to his Place of Primary Assignment, where he distinguished himself after one year and he was retained.
Dr Francis Abioye’s outstanding performance in his Place of Primary Assignment endeared him to the then Governor who employed him into the State Civil Service with a view to putting his wealth of experience to bear in order to revamp the Zoo, an effort which is nearly actualized today.
Being a man of grace and favour, Dr Francis Abioye, found favour in the sight of the then Governor, Dr Achike Udenwa.
I reliably gathered that, the Imo Zoo, as of then, only had 112 animals, but today, it is on record that the Zoo now houses more than 400 animals. All thanks to the man who hails from Osun State and transformed the Imo State Zoological Garden and Wildlife Park Conservation to international standard.
Instead of being encouraged by Imo people, especially those working in the same ministry with him, what he gets is petitions upon petitions. This is bad and it needs to stop.
At the Zoo, I saw on a wall, boldly written of his vision and mission for the Zoo, all to the glory of God. 85 to 90 percent of his vision has been achieved today.
At this point, my good people of Imo State, I want to bring to you most of Dr France Abioye’s vision and mission as “to uplift Imo Zoo from one of the poorest Zoos in Nigeria to an acceptable standard by improving, rehabilitating all collapsed animals collections, improve feeding of the animals and improvement on animal collections. To ensure that all empty cages are not only renovated, but also stocked with fascinating animals. To digitalize the operation system of Imo Zoo with a modern administrative building, event center, modern ticket office, eatery, gift and digital ticketing with CCTV camera viewing of the entire park.
“Creating Wildlife Park with existing ex- situ Conservation. Construction of modern electric fence animal paddock, with semi-intensive free range management system with game viewing vans to move tourists within the park. Acquisition of rare crowd-pulling species such as Gorilla, Zebra, Giraffe, Elephant, Eland and Buffalo and others. Development of adult and children amusement facilities for fascinating tourist attraction.
“Establishment of agro-preneurship skill acquisition center through the development of indigenous bio-technology. A tremendous increase in the Internally Generated Revenue for the growth of Imo State”.
Of a truth, this is worthy of note and highly commended. I laud the Rebuild Imo Government led by Hon Emeka Ihedioha, who saw the vision and queued into it. Today, Imo State Zoological Garden and Wildlife Park Conservation is transformed with a lot of animals and modern facilities in place.
Your Excellency, with the alluded visions which is in line with your 3R agenda, the Imo State, is capable of generating billions of naira per year which will aid you in salaries and pension payment and above all on developmental projects in the State for the benefit of Imo people, if only you could continue the good work of the former governor, Emeka Ihedioha, as government is a continuum.
Just like in London, Zoological Gardens, which were opened for scientific study in 1828 and to the public in 1847 and the United States alone, Zoos are visited by over 181 million people annually and this generates more billions of dollar for the government.
Dear Governor Hope Uzodimma, I am of the opinion that, the vision of Dr Francis Abioye is not for his personal interest, but for the state and for such to be encouraged, your visit to the Zoological Garden to see things for yourself is needed.
Some of the animals and things I saw at the Nekede, Old Road Zoo are pythons, birds, all kinds of monkeys, crocodiles both big and small, lions, hyenas, cubras snakes, birds, lionesses, fisher dryer, children swimming park, plants and many more.
This simply means that your Excellency, with your quick intervention in upgrading the only surviving Zoo in the South East, Imo State can be one of the highest states in the country in terms of internally generated revenue.