Olajumoke Morenikeji is the Director, Zoological Garden, University of Ibadan and a lecturer in the Department of Zoology of the institution. She speaks with AYODEJI AYODELE on life as a child, her career, the challenges and marriage. Excerpts:
How would you describe your four years as the head of the zoological garden?
When I came into office, my vision was to raise the zoo to international standard. The first thing I did was to start talking with people. I spoke to companies, individuals, management, everybody who cared to listen, including visitors who came in. I thank God because He was with me. Every single person I spoke to was willing to help. Some donated money in millions, some facilities, while others were responsible for some projects. Through these supports, we got new signposts for the zoo and had the front view painted. A buttery called ‘Taste and Bite’ was opened to take care of visitors to the garden. I also brought in “You and I”, an eatery into the garden. These added colour to the place. I also wanted a place where children would come, learn about animals in the garden and other animals that can’t exist in the tropic. I spoke to the management headed by the vice chancellor, Professor Isaac Adewole. I proposed quite a number of things for the garden, including a workable vehicle. The garden needed to be fenced round. Before, there was no fence. There were only barbedwires and they were bad. We also have the children’s zoo for the first time. Now, our reptile house is like an educational unit itself. When you enter the reptile house, you are not just seeing all the cages that are filled with snakes and turtles, but you also get educated. Many animals have been added to the zoo recently. The garden is vibrant and moving on. We have also donated some animals to other zoos to cheer them up.
What are the challenges so far?
Well, one of the challenges for any zoo is funding, but God has been good to us. In UI zoo, it is a season of open heaven, because everybody I spoke to concerning funding were just eager to help.
Would you say it’s been easy combining your duties as a wife and mother with the demands of your job?
I will say it’s not. I have to give lectures and supervise projects of both undergraduate and post graduate students. I also have to attend to the Ph.D. students. At the garden, seeing to the welfare of the animals and the workers there is paramount. And of course, I have to be a wife and mother too and these, I’m sure you know, you don’t take a break from. In addition to these, I’m also a pastor in my church and this comes with its responsibilities. I don’t think anybody can do all these without the strength of God. I have been able to cope by His grace. SEE MORE ON PAGE2