Anambra village where man and crocodiles live in harmony
June 12, 2013
By HENRY UMAHI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Crocodiles are not known to be man’s friend. One of the deadliest killing machines and ‘nocturnal hunters’, they attack and eat animals as well as human beings.
According to Wikipedia, “crocodiles are ambush predators, waiting for fish or land animals to come close, then rushing out to attack.
Crocodiles mostly eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs, birds, reptiles, mammals and occasionally cannibalize on smaller crocodiles. What a crocodile eats varies greatly with species, size and age.
From the mostly fish-eating species like the Mecistops and freshwater crocodiles to the larger species like the Nile crocodile and the saltwater crocodile that prey on large mammals, such as buffalo, deer and wild boar, diet shows great diversity.
“All young crocodiles hunt mostly invertebrates and small fish.
Gradually moving onto larger prey. As cold-blooded predators, they have a very slow metabolism, so they can survive long periods without food.
Despite their appearance of being slow, crocodiles have a very fast strike and are top predators in their environment, and various species have been observed attacking and killing other predators such as sharks and big cats pretty much anything that will get close enough to the water to be dragged in.
Crocodiles prey on wild boar, kangaroos, water buffaloes, goannas, birds, horses, zebras, yaks, barasingha, deer, bats, gaurs, sharks, domestic livestock, monkeys, and dingoes”. Special breed But there is an exception to the rule.
The crocodiles at Aguku Lake in Aniocha Local Government Area of Anambra State are different in many ways. Numbering about three hundred, the crocodiles are human friendly. Indeed, they are gatekeepers of the community, so to say.
Hence they do not kill but rather protect the people. They also hear human voices and hearken to them. So, the crocodiles are regarded as sacred beings and cannot be killed. At noon, they appear at the bank of the lake basking in the sun to get the temperatures they desire.
According to Mr Sunday Ogu alias Ayaka, a traditionalist, it is sacrilegious to kill a crocodile at Agulu Lake. He volunteered that anyone who does that even in secret will be beset with problems of unimaginable proportion.
“Anybody who kills a crocodile at the lake will suffer in several ways whether he was seen or not. For instance, if the person is a billionaire, he can become a beggar within a short time. In fact, anything can happen to the person.
So, nobody dares to do that,” he stated. Ayaka explained that anybody who kills a crocodile must atone for the sacrilege before he can be set free. The nature of penance, according to him, will depend on the demands of the deity. Myths and mysteries Indeed, there are many myths and mysteries swirling about the lake.
For instance, it is a taboo to go fishing in the lake so as not to disturb the peace of the crocodiles that are revered by the locals. It was gathered that in the past, the crocodiles had saved the town from foreign invaders hence they are highly regarded.
A local source said: “We learnt from our forbearers that the crocodiles saved Agulu people from powerful enemies who came to eliminate them. During wars, the crocodiles transformed into beautiful ladies and lured the enemies into the lake where they drowned. Another side of the story had it that the enemies disappeared without trace”.
Even today, Agulu Lake remains an uncommon development. It is home to traditional worshippers who use it for various spiritual exercises such as making sacrifices and exorcising evil spirits from people.
The water is also believed to contain healing property for all manner of ailments. It is also the source of Idemili River, which serves different communities in Anambra State. Inside crocodiles’ conclave Daily Sun was at the rare and extraordinary location recently and got a special welcome from the sacred reptiles.
It was like a fairytale, like a stranger than fiction kind of tale. On arrival in Ogidi this Thurday morning, the reporter and his guide were directed to a priest, Mr Chukwudi Nwanweke Nkwalu whose shrine is located close to the lake. By way of introduction, he described himself as “the Akajiofo Idemili Diodo Umuowele, Agulu. I am the head of Idemili, the person looking after the lake.
I met some of our forbearers such as Obi Echenya, Nkenke Enyi, Nwankwo and others. They were the people who handed over the ofo (mantle) to me. They were the people who said that I should forge ahead; that I would neither stumble nor fall. Whatever that is been done in Agulu Idemili Umuowele, I must be the head or leader.
No one can come out and challenge my headship. Even all those who employ it into one use or another, they still come to me and I will say how things will be. I am addressed as Akajiofo and Ewelata Ozo in Umuowele”.
When told that my mission was to see the mystery crocodiles that hear and hearken to human voices, the youthful priest said that certain items should be provided before one could be taken to the lake.
The items were kolanuts, few days old chick, nzu (clay) and white fowl. After these items were presented, the priest took the small group to the bank of the river. Time was about 3.00pm. On getting there, the priest stepped into the lake and began to speak to the crocodiles. No crocodile was in sight and the river was placid.
He told the crocodiles that some dignitaries were around to see them, urging them to come out and welcome the guests. Telling them that the guests brought gifts for them, he broke the kolanuts and threw the portions into the lake.
He also broke the native clay and the pieces into the river. Suddenly, a crocodile appeared from the distance and started coming towards the priest. After a while, it went under the water, out of sight. The priest went to another side of the lake and called out to the crocodiles, telling them that they had an important visitor.
Yet another crocodile came out and moved toward the priest. When it moved close enough, the priest threw the fowl, with its head wrapped with the feathers, into the lake. The crocodile picked the fowl, lifted its head perhaps in salutation and drifted to a corner to have its meal. Indeed, it was a spectacular scene: Crocodiles hearing and obeying the voices of human beings was beyond the ken of men.
“This is unbelievable. I’ve heard about this before but I thought it was one of those unsubstantiable tales created by people. Now I’ve seen this wonder with my own eyes,” Mr Onyeka Njoku said, with a glint in his eyes and excitement in his voice.
Interestingly, shortly before the crocodiles emerged, a woman was seen coming out of the lake in a relaxed manner. She showed no sign of apprehension whatsoever.
In fact, she could be said to be at home in that environment. There was also a dead goat floating in the corner of the lake but the crocodiles did not touch it. Perhaps they do not touch such ‘unclean’ things. Offering insights into the lake, Nkwalu, who spoke in Igbo, explained: “Agulu Lake is owned by Idemili. Idemili diodo is the head of Agulu Lake. We are in its domain right now.
There are many things happenings in its domain.” He added: “One can come to the crocodile for a number of reasons. For example, if one is troubled by the Ogbanje spirit and needs to be exorcised of such spirit, the person can be brought here and if the crocodiles accept such journey they will come out but if they do not accept the journey or visit, you won’t see them.
They come out now to welcome you because, I the chief priest and their king, called them out. That is why they came out and you saw them. It is not everyone that calls them that they obey. To call them out now, I used kolanuts, nzu (clay), a chick and white fowl. But it was after they had come out and listened to what I had to say before I gave them the chick and fowl”. While there, the reporter saw people going and coming in the direction of the lake.
And while there, people were seen taking their bath. So, what was their mission? The priest answered: “They are people coming to make sacrifices in the lake. But before anyone come to make sacrifices in Agulu Lake, he or she must first go to Idemili and I will make the preparations and tell the person to go to the lake that it shall be well with them. And after the sacrifices, it surely must be well with that person”.
Are they things forbidden by the lake? Hear the priest: “The lake forbids so many things. A woman who is menstruating ought not to step into the lake. Women who newly put to bed are not supposed to enter the lake.
A man cannot enter the lake immediately after having sexual intercourse with a woman. Such a man must have a thorough bath so as to be clean before coming to the lake because it is a holy place.
“Again, Idemili does not accept evildoers such as murderers and thieves. In fact, anyone who is involved in the things the land forbids is not welcomed by Idemili”. Can the Idemili crocodiles harm or kill?
He said that any transgressor who comes inside the lake would meet his waterloo. “Anyone who transgresses against the crocodile will have to contend with them if he enters Idemili. Of course, the crocodiles kill but they do not kill good people.
They only kill bad people. If you do not offend Idemili, even if you mistakenly fall into it and you are not a good swimmer, it will throw you out. The lake is very deep but if you are a good person, someone with clean hands, if you throw yourself into the lake and you do not know how to swim, it will throw you out. You won’t drown.
But if anyone whose hands are not clean enters the lake, he will contend with forces.” Celebration It was also gathered that Idemili enjoys its ofala festival between January and February every year. During the festival, different kinds of masquerades will be on parade, including the Ijele, Izaga, Odum, Agaba, Ogarachi, Ololo, Anuka ndiogbu, Abiito, Oduwarigwe and Akpala. It is usually a massive festival, which attracts many people from far and near.