It is a story stranger than fiction but it is true that there are strange occurrences and paranormal encounters in this world. This is the story of a town in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, where one of its sons was married to the sea goddess for a very long time.
The esoteric story of Elder Festus Igweinimeseiworima Iyaye.is one that is eerie enough to make the hair stand and get the goose bumps sprouting on the skin of the adventure seeker. Elder Iyaye the story goes, was married to a Mermaid, the water deity known by the people as Owuamabo (nymph) but which to an average Nigerian is known as ‘’Mammy Water’’.
According to the narrative as recorded in oral history, Elder Festus Igweinimeseiworima Iyaye was married by the water goddess and would spend weeks, sometimes running into months in the sea. According to our guide, when he finally emerged from the water, no human being could touch him. As he came out, buckets of boiling water had to be poured on him before any earthling could approach his presence. The water never scalded his skin nor hurt him in anyway. As far-fetched as this story, Elder Festus Igweinimeseiworima Iyaye married other wives among the living on earth and had many children, some of who are still alive till date. His generation lives on and the tale is passed from one generation to another of the handsome man the water goddess picked from among the living to betroth. Such was his uncommon handsomeness say the people…however, looking at the people in this interesting town today; it is easy to assimilate why Mammy Water found them appealing.
Where Exactly Did This All Happen?
One thing that strikes a first visitor to Ogu, a fast developing town in the Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area of Rivers State is the rapid rate at which development is racing. What amazes the tourist however are not the new edifices springing up all over the town but a defined network of rustic, windy but calm pathways that lead the adventurer into an old town which seems to have welcomed development long before the rest of the nation caught on. The Wakirikes a tribe of which Ogu is one of the most picturesque communities have a unique feature in their various War Canoe Houses which distinguishes quarters and families.
You will not find names of streets nor sign posts in Ogu Old Town. The description of family names and compounds form the address for a visitor or missive bearer. This very intriguing town, (It would be a sin to refer to such historic location as a village) has its fair share of War Canoe houses and their chiefs, and are spewing with monuments, landmarks and soil rich in tales, folklore, traditions and culture that goes back into hundreds of years of rich genealogy.
A house built by Mrs Charity .I. Nangibo in 1932 remains standing till date. This house is a living testimony of a gender friendly society. As the story goes, Mrs Nangibo was a merchant dealing in Palm Oil and later ventured into slave trade. She is famed for selling as many as 16 slaves and owning six of her own, a most uncommon feat in those days. In today’s world she would perhaps be some sort of a super hero, like a Bola Alakija of her community for she was a very rich woman by all standards.
Mrs Charity Nangibo erected this landmark brick building in honour of her late husband, Chief Alexander Nagibo who died in 1915.
As the tourists meanders the curving alleyways of the Ogu War Canoe Houses history hits him in the face on all angles. A large Cenotaph of Chief F.D Ali, former deputy Comptroller General of Customs is a sight to behold. Chief Ali who retired in 1977 is famed for the feat of making the Ogu community a host community to the Wharf.
The 3rd Burnt Brick house is another historical site to look out for. The house, built in 1932 is the center piece of the Ofiamani Compound.
Standing tall and regally erect is the pride of all Ogu citizens the proud structure of the community’s first storey building built in 1896. The well preserved structure remains one of the largest buildings in its community, though some additions have been added to it, such as staircases, this house still has been occupied for as long as it stands and houses till date generations of the Derefaka family.
As the visitor sinks in so much history and tradition still existing in a rustic Nigerian town, he is indeed led into the world of the supernatural when he comes face to face with the handsome presence of an all-white statue of a most dignifying looking man with his walking stick and bowler hat. Regal and proud.
The average Ogu man is known for his brevity. Communal clashes with neighboring towns have tested these people and they are feared and respected by surrounding communities for their courage and intelligence.
A Unique People
The uniqueness of a people can be linked directly or indirectly with the characteristics which bind them as one. Ogu is undeniably progressive. One common feature in this beautiful community is progress which seems to spring from the waters by which it is surrounded.
If you cared to ask any Ogu man or woman the secret of their progress and development in the social, cultural and infrastructural pedestal, the reply is the same, from one end to the other, stretching to the four corners of the town – Unity… the Ogus present a united front at all times. Theirs is a classic example of strength in unity which also extends to love for one and all. An attestation to this fact and indeed one of the reasons for rapid development being witnesses in the town is a sand fill reserved for all citizens where they can get sand to build their house. There is really no poor man in the sense of the word in Ogu community. A people so proud cannot stoop to begging or stealing. The calm and peace witnessed in the community is traceable to this fact. It would interest the world to know that TRADE BY BATTAR still goes on in this community. Fish is exchanged for other goods and vice versa.
This has resulted in a contented people who in the real sense of the word have all they need.
NO WONDER THE PEOPLE ARE BOLD TO SAY: GOD CREATED OGU AND THE PEOPLE MADE IT!
Next time you meet an Ogu man, be sure to show some respect for this still advancing community is an example to learn from.