Oguta Lake: In a corner of Imo, two angry rivers flow without ever coming together
One half of the lake is a brownish colour; the other half flows clearly and almost appears green. They have never come together.
They are those structures that both impress and confound us, enough to command a kind of respect that almost feels like reverence and put them in a class of their own; a class that preserves them into classical antiquity.
In many ways, these wonders, especially those made by nature’s hand, are mysteries, more than anything else.
Like the Northern Lights or Tanzania’s 260 square km wide Ngorongoro crater, they are unexplained phenomena that arouse our curiosity, a desire to know more and questions that we try ever so hard to answer with science or religion.
One of such wonders is hiding in Nigeria, in Imo state, within the rainforests of the Niger-Delta.
In Oguta Lake, two angry rivers flow side-by-side without ever coming together.
It has been this way for as long as the people remember.
Oguta Lake is a lean finger lake formed by deposits of clay, sand, and silt that dammed the lower Njaba river.
At 8.05km long and 2.41 km wide, it is the largest natural lake in Imo, and the entire South-East of Nigeria.
Water flows into it mainly from the Njaba river and to a lesser degree, the Uju, Awbana and Urashi rivers.
It is two of these rivers that flow side-by-side, parallel to each other, without ever coming together.
You can see it almost immediately on the surface of the lake.
One flows in a shade of green, the other is brown.
As part of #Pulse36, their trip across Nigeria’s states, Fu’ad Lawal and Chris Chukwuedo visited Oguta Lake to see this sight for themselves and learn more about the stories behind the unique lake.
There, they met Ekene, a boatman, and tour-guide of sorts. He led the way.
According to Ekene, locals believe that the two rivers were male and female, man and wife. The green water is Ogbuide, believed to be the female. The brown water is the male, Urashi.
The stories claim that they had a quarrel, since then, they have flowed separately.
Nowadays, the two are deities; man and wife have become god and goddess.
There are two separate shrines where worshippers invoke and offer supplication to them; one on each side of the river.
The quarrel does not affect places of worship, and worshipers can call on either deity from any of the two shrines.
But those liberties do not extend to every area.
Even as it stays hidden in a corner of Imo, Oguta is a major attraction and every year, thousands come to visit, including some who do not understand the efficacy of its legends.
Sometimes, the couple is taken for granted and the inexplicable happens.
While they were on Oguta, ever the inquisitive one, Fu’ad asked Ekene some questions about the lake.
“So they’ve been separated all these years and can’t find a way to make up?”
“Yes,” Ekene said.
“They are petty,” he said jokingly.
“Why are they quarreling?”, he asked again.
Next thing he knew, 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, not one who would say things he knows nothing about.
Fu’ad shut up after that.
Ekene told Fu’ad of a time not too long ago when some students came to the lake to see its wonders.
One of the students, after taking in its size, stood up and proclaimed that the lake was small, small enough for him to swim.
He asked the boatman to turn around so he could jump in the lake for a swim. As the guide maneuvered, he fell out of the boat and into the lake. His body was never found.
Stories like these may scare visitors and for good reason. It never hurts to respect local beliefs and traditions.
The people of Oguta and the communities that surround it, know the lake as a source of transport, food, and sustenance. For them, the natural wonder is an integral part of their lives.
As Fu’ad put it, for them, it is a means to live.
On any random visit, you are likely to find women on the bank doing laundry or selling anything from souvenirs to dried fish.
On one side, you will likely find a boat man waiting for visitors and fisherman getting their nets ready to be cast into the lake’s depths.
At any point, there are people being ferried to the other side, carrying everything from handbags to farm produce.
Ogwuta Lake is also home to some relics of more recent times, particularly the 70s when the area was one of the many theaters in the Nigerian civil war.
Not far from the lake, there is what appears to be an abandoned 18-hole golf course.
But move closer to the course and you will see it, right there in the bushes; a bunker used by Biafran forces during the civil war.
The mouth of the bunker has been blocked off because kidnappers, in the past, used the bunker to hide their victims from prying eyes.
The lake was also used as a base by the Nigerian Navy during the war. There are reports that remnants of old Biafran war boats can be found in various areas of the lake.
It is things like this that make Oguta lake unique.
Now, as a new generation lives around the lake, the mystery of the two rivers, its history as an important part of the Biafran war and many unanswered questions about its past remain.
They are why Oguta Lake and its immediate environment deserve a facelift if for no reason, to preserve one of the many wonders that Nigeria is so blessed with.
Until that happens, Urashi and Ogbuide continue to flow in the same lake, side by side, without ever coming together.
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