Monday, 17 July 2017

#Pulse36 Day 12: Ogwuta Lake has an interesting story

Ogwuta Lake has an interesting story

One lesson about hosts: Your host in every city will almost always determine the type of things you'll find.

One lesson about hosts: Your host in every city will almost always determine the type of things you'll find.

Amoto is our host in Owerri. He's a medical student on posting.

Our plan for the day was to try out whatever food we could find, and also, check out Oguta Lake.

The first thing we learn about Owerri is that this tiny city has the highest number of hotels in the entire Southeast. Coincidentally, or not, the highest HIV rate in the east, is also from Imo.

Add highest rate of female genital mutilation to that.

The most popular bus stop in Owerri is Control. It’s where you'll see the most iconic church in the town, the one that greets you as you arrive into Owerri from Onitsha.


Before heading for Oguta, we found a solution to our morning hunger in a tiny restaurant at Control.

“What's your name?”

“Uju which soup do you have?”

“Egusi, Oha, Draw…”

“Gimme Oha Soup.”


There’s something quite interesting about Oha Soup. The leaves aren't sliced with a knife. They are plucked by hand. Uju said it's so the flavour isn't lost. Someone I know once said it’s really just because slicing is more difficult.

None of that mattered the moment the Eba and soup landed in front of me.

Less than 30 minutes later, all four of us; Chris, Amoto, Jesuloba and myself, were headed for Oguta.

Fast forward to us reaching Oguta, then taking a bike to the Lake itself.

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The first thing you notice is that while you visit this lake as a tourist, for the people it's a means to life.

There are people being ferried to the other side carrying everything from handbags to farm produce.

On one side of the banks, you'll probably see a fisherman setting his nets. On the other side, you'll find women washing.

This is Ekene.


He's the boatman we settled for. He's 26, has two kids and a free spirit.

It's from him that we learn that Oguta Lake has some Civil War significance. But I’ll get to that.

Our first stop on the Oguta Lake is the place where two waters don't mix.


According to Ekene, the two rivers were male and female; brown being male, green being female. Husband and wife.

But they had a quarell, and have been separated ever since. In fact, there are two separate shrines where their worshippers go. Although according to Ekene, you can call on any of them from any of the two shrines.

“So they've been separated all these years and can't find a way to make up?”

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“Yes,” Ekene said.

“They are petty,” I said jokingly.

Next thing I know, Ekene was looking right into the water, saying in Igbo how the lake should forgive him, because he's just a boatman trying to make a living.

I shut up after that.

Moral of the story: Respect tradition in communities you visit.

We headed back, and made a stop first at what appeared at first to be an 18-hole golf course.


But right under this abandoned golf course is Civil War bunker used by Biafran Forces.

The entrance looks like this, but the people we met there said it's so large, the next exit is at a road we couldn't even see from where we were.


The problem we now had was that the bunker has now been blocked.

According to the people, the state government had the entrance of the bunker blocked, because kidnappers were using the place to hide their victims.

Herdsmen were passing through with cows and we took the chance to speak with one of the herdsmen.

His name is Garba.


He's from Kebbi State, but the cows aren't his. They belong to an Alhaji who lived in Owerri. He seemed to get along really well with the people we met at the golf course, and they called him friend.

We had to leave and head back to the banks where Ekene picked us from.

We got there, took a few photos.


And some more.


And off we went, back to Owerri. And then we thought, wouldn't it be nice to just drop by at the mosque to see the city's Imam? It sounded like a solid plan. This is a predominantly Catholic state. They rever priests more than anything else. Would be interesting to get some perspective on religious co-existence.

The Imam, Dauda Onyeagocha.


He's Igbo.

“When the king of Owerri sits down at an event and is offered kolanuts, it is first passed to my family. My family is responsible, traditionally, for first eating from the kolanut.”

Even more interesting is the fact that he was born Muslim.

It's pretty common for Western media to paint Nigeria as Christian South and Muslim North, when that's really just lazy thinking.

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We asked about how the predominantly Christian Owerri people treat them.

“Igbo people don't have any problem. Do your own, I do my own.”

He even told us of when a non-Muslim contributed to the building of the mosque. 50,000 naira.

That says a lot.

Now, this doesn't mean there still won't be bigots. It just means tolerance trumps it.

There really wasn't a better way to end the day. With hope.

Read previous episodes HERE

*All photos were shot on the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

from - Nigeria's entertainment & lifestyle platform online

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