The US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr William Symington, has called on Nigerians to be proud of their values, heritage and culture to propel the country to a greater height.
Symington made the call in Abuja on Friday during his courtesy visit to Alhaji Ibrahim Goni, the Conservator-General of the National Parks Service (PKS).
He said Nigerians should love their country and everything it stood for, stressing that if they failed to preserve the nation, no one would call himself or herself a Nigerian.
“Although there is great trouble, and it has affected many, but if you like being a Nigerian, you must protect its symbols and resources.
“These symbols include your values, culture, water; trees, animals, natural heritage etc because in these symbols, you will find a point of reference, a point of pride as well as of common interest.
“As you think about the country it is nice not just to have an appreciation of the people of the country, it is also nice to have an appreciation of the country itself.’’
He said that the idea of the National Parks was a very welcome development that would add to the economic development of the country.
“Think of ways people can make a living from things that are beautiful in your parks.
“There are people around the world who will pay thousands of dollars a day to go to places like your parks, stay overnight and be guided to look at the natures at the park.
“What I have seen here is extraordinary, it is like a stream that never runs out, it is like a land you farm in a way that it can continue to regenerate forever.’’
According to Symington, any Nigerian can talk about what he has but, most importantly, must talk about what he must have as Nigerian.
“It is your job to protect the values and what you have as a nation. It is not about the past but the future and the preservation of both the present and its future.
“Give people reasons to be proud of their natural endowments by God at your parks without destroying them.
“Preservation of nature is like working in an incredible factory, producing extraordinary goods and saying I am not going to destroy the factory I am going to add value to it and leave it for generations to come.’’
He advised the parks service to share its experience with the people of Nigeria to understand and appreciate what they have to offer.
“I think that the future of Nigeria depends not just on Nigerians being proud of being Nigerian, but of Nigerians being proud of where they are, what they have and what you preserve.
“They cannot be proud of what they do not know, so bringing them to the Parks is the key,’’ he said.
Responding, Goni thanked the Ambassador for the visit and for the approval granted to three officers of the service to attend an investigative wildlife trafficking course in Botswana.
He also solicited for more patronage and partnership with the US to elevate the parks to international standard and improve revenue generation.
Some of the highlights of the visit were the planting of a tree by the envoy to commemorate his visit, sightseeing of the mini-park and an inspection of guard of honour.