1967-1970: The Biafran’s Army Built A Bunker With Tunnel That Runs Under Lake Connecting Both Bank Of The Lake, Which Is Preserved Today As An Important Part Of Oguta lake’s History..–Reports New York[RR] Oguta–According to report by Tribune Newspaper,July 13, 2014, ‘Town in Imo State is a town blessed with different natural resources and great […]
1967-1970: The Biafran’s Army Built A Bunker With Tunnel That Runs Under Lake Connecting Both Bank Of The Lake, Which Is Preserved Today As An Important Part Of Oguta lake’s History..–Reports
New York[RR] Oguta–According to report by Tribune Newspaper,July 13, 2014, ‘Town in Imo State is a town blessed with different natural resources
and great personalities who have contributed immensely to the development of the community and Nigeria at large. SEGUN ADEBAYO,who
visited the town recently, reports that there is more to the bucolic town where it is believed that people hardly die young”, Republic Reporters has learned.
Tribune added that, “The sleepy but seemingly energetic town of Oguta in Imo State means different things to people. Apart from being the administrative seat of Oguta which once served as one of the first territories used by the British to move into hinterland, the town is also known for its rich cultural diversity and has a history that traces its foremost inhabitants to Great Britain…”, it said.
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The relatively small town is also home to notable personalities who have contributed in no small measure to the development of the
country. One of such personalities is the late legal luminary, Justice Chukwudifu Sylvester Akunne Oputa, whose demise caused
admirers, friends, family and kinsmen to come from far and within into the town recently, to pay their last respect to a man who lived a life worthy of example. The burial proved that in Oguta, the late Oputa lived as a king and was respected by the people even after death.
What may sound interesting and equally surprising to people is the gift of longevity arguably bestowed on Oguta people, particularly
those who reside in the town. To some of the residents, longevity is a blessing to them. From the interaction with those who spoke with Sunday Tribune, longevity has been part of their existence for a long time.
In a country where life expectancy, according to a report by the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) 2014, , stands between 50-55 years, the question on many people’s minds is how Oguta people manage to live long without adequate health facilities, affordable basic health care, good nutrition and clean water.
On a recent visit to Oguta, Sunday Tribune discovered that the residents are not overly disturbed about the parlous social
infrastructure in the town, which may have contributed to their living longer. Though there has not been power supply in Oguta for
months and social life in the town is practically at the lowest ebb, yet the people seem unperturbed about it as they go about their normal daily activities.
Fish, yam and cassava are some of the staples in the average Oguta man’s diet.The general belief in the town is that working hard makes them live longer. From the oldest to the youngest, working hard is their second nature. The maxim that no lazy man is entitled to food aptly captures the real nature of an Oguta man.
Farming and fishery are two major trades that thrive in the town. While an average Oguta man welcomes a stranger with an open arms,
women ensure that one’s stay is enjoyed in a friendly manner.
Despite the trend of kidnapping that has continued to ravage the zone and make the people to live in palpable fear, Oguta people are still considerably friendly. Anyone who can speak their language will instantly become their friends.
“We are not lazy people here. We frown on idleness and laziness. I am celebrating my 60th birthday in a few weeks and I am on my way to the farm now to work for another six hours. If that is why I will live longer, I don’t mind,” said a man, who gave his name as, Christian West.
It was a bit difficult to convince some of them about the mission of the reporter, but after much discussion, one Sunday Kenneth, who opted to take the reporter round the town, said, “If I don’t take you, I am sure nobody would be willing to take or speak with you. A lot of ‘things’ have been happening for sometimes so people are getting scared and more observant”.
With a surface area of approximately 2,025.75 square meters, simplicity is the watchword of the average Oguta man. No wonder then
that the late legal luminary was quoted in one of his interviews to have said, ” If you look at the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Give us this day our daily bread! Not ‘give me’. If the money given to you is given ‘us’ then you have got to be concerned with your neighbor’s plight. If you are so concerned and you are called to help, will you be rich?”
In Oputa’s community for example, the people could only boast of one viewing centre and cyber café. The café, it was learnt, only opens for three hours in a day owing to lack of power supply.
Sunday Tribune attempted to speak with the operator of the cybercafe, Mrs Chikodi Nwako, who also runs a restaurant not far from the café, but she appeared to had a busy day, as she was attending to customers who have either come to use the cyber cafe or buy drinks .
When he eventually spoke to Sunday Tribune, she said “People call me a workaholic and I don’t mind. I am the only one who caters for my family. My husband is indisposed and could hardly move out again, so I have to work extra hours to take care of the family while I pray that my husband recovers fast so that he can assume his responsibilities again,” she said as she hurried back to attend to her customers.
Unlike Lagos where pasting of posters on structures is an offence, the streets of Oguta are lined with posters and signboards of all kinds. But what was particularly interesting were the posters announcing the death of some of the town’s residents, who were usually very old people. One of such posters announced the death of one Chief Augustine Okonkwo, who lived to a very ripe age of 103 before death came calling.
[Description: http://www.tribune.com.ng/images/oguta-road2.jpg]Another of such obituaries bore the photographs of a man who died aged 108. Added to the colourful posters bearing the dead were campaign posters of leading politicians posted in strategic places in the town. All these created a collage that added a certain exotic appearance to the Oguta environment.
While some attributed the perceived longevity of Oguta residents to their simple lifestyles, others simply credited God for giving them long life, saying no man could actually add up to the number of years he or she was expected to live on the surface of the earth without God’s divine approval.
Prince Justin Obi, who is in his 70s, said, “I don’t believe you can increase the number of years you are to live. Anybody who tells you that he or she can live longer because he or she observes this or avoids that is not telling you the truth. As a Christian, I know that the Bible puts life expectancy of the children of God at 70 years. Any man who lives above 70 years of age has received the grace of God and if you don’t, it is still God,” he said.
According to Clement Okorocha, a traditional chief, Oguta is traditionally regarded as a haven. Even indigenes who live outside the
town, he claimed, are not excluded from the safety net that the town cast around its indigenes.
Asked who provided the protection and how he became convinced that the claim was indeed true, Chief Okorocha paused momentarily, then he said, “Let me tell you, if you try to trace the history of Oguta, you will marvel at the great people and things that have come out of our town,” pointing to the popular Oguta lake behind his house, “look at that lake over there, it is one of our major sources of protection in Oguta land. We have won many battles and wars because there is a goddess in that lake that provides protection,” he declared.
Sunday Tribune was informed that a “Mammywater” (mermaid) lives in Oguta lake and most of the populace believes in the existence and powers of the river goddess.
There are two shrines in Oguta where the people used to worship. But such a tradition appears to have been eclipsed by Christianity which the people have embraced in lieu of their culture.
The wife of the late Justice Oputa, Magaret, however, disagreed that Oguta enjoyed some divine preference that allowed its indigenes to live very long. According to her, “God determines how long every mortal He created will live. “My husband is late. He was the eldest man in Oguta. He was lucky to have lived longer than others. It was not because he was born in Oguta or because he lived here,” she said.
Sunday Tribune also gathered that despite the fact that Christianity is more pronounced than any other religion in the town, some people who believe their tradition should not be forgotten are determined to make sure it never dies. Sunday Tribune gathered Christianity and tradition are two different worlds that an average Oguta man belongs to. While he goes to church to worship God on Sunday, he returns to the shrine at night to offer sacrifices to his gods.
A traditional chief, who craved anonymity, said he believed that he would live long because his father and grandfather lived longer. “I am 73 years old now and I am sure I will live longer. My grandfather and father lived longer than 100, so I don’t see anything stopping me from living above 100 as well,” he declared.
During a visit to the Oguta lake, Sunday Tribune met with some people who came to swim at the river. It was obvious that the visitors didn’t care about the spiritual significance of the river. They could barely tell what the river represented for the people of the town or how long the river had been there.
A member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Oguta, one Ms Annie Chikodi, said she had lived all her life in the town and was never at any point told by her parents of any goddess living inside the Oguta Lake. She was, however, quick to say, “I know the lake has been there before I was born and I know that it means a lot to those who visitit often. But for me, I don’t go there. I have been told of different things about Oguta, but I have never asked what it means. I don’t also subscribe to insinuations that people in Oguta live longer than others. I lost my younger brother at the age of 55 few years ago,” she said.
Youths in the town have a different belief entirely to the issue as none of them could actually adduce reasons to why people live longer in Oguta. A boy, who gave his name as Johnson Edward, said that, “I don’t know what you are talking about. Do people live longer in Oguta? I have not even noticed it. Yes, I know my grandfather lived long before he died and I also lost a classmate when I was writing my final exams in school, so how can you tell me people live long in Oguta? he asked.
Another man in his 30s, Chukwu Obiora, said he was not sure if the lake or a (mermaid) was responsible for what he called the rare gift of nature, he added that he would not rule out the possibility that people in the town lived longer. “For me, I think it is neither here nor there. People live long and we have seen a lot of some people who died in their prime. But I will conveniently say that life in this place is considerably better than what you have in the city, may be that is why people live long,” he said.
Sunday Tribune also gathered that Oguta Lake and Golf Resort was established by the colonial rulers as their exclusive “get away” spot. During the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970, the Biafran’s Army built a bunker with a tunnel that runs under the lake connecting both banks of the lake, which is preserved today as an important part of Oguta lake’s history and still attracts a lot of visitors.
Every year, the tourist spot attracts thousands of local and foreign visitors who come to spend their holiday in Nigeria. The lake is neither salty nor harbours crocodiles hence it excellent for swimming and sight seeing. The spectacular confluence of the Blue Lake and Urashi River also in Oguta is a sight to behold. The Oguta Lake is blue in colour while Urashi is muddy in outlook but they never mix up. Any attempt of scooping water from one to the other will manifest a gradual separation of both.
Oguta has three sections: Oguta 1, the traditional centre of the town, situated at the east bank of the lake; and Oguta II, on the southern, housing the UAC, SCOA and other European firms as well as Aro quarters, Kalabari beach etc. Oguta III is on the northern bank of the lake and is separated from Oguta1 by the Okposha inlet. Oguta III offers a pleasant view of Oguta Blue Lake, as it is called or Ogbuide. It is said to be the second largest fresh water in Nigeria after Lake Chad.
Credit: Tribune, Chukwuemeka Akanno, Prof.