MY ENCOUNTER WITH BINI-OTU, AT THE OXBOW LAKE YENAGOA, BAYELSA STATE.

By Mangrove Don

The dull sun of the January evening nest above the quiet lake, casting tired gleaming rays over the golden waters.

A solitary canoe tears through the water as the woman dips her paddle in measured rhythmic motion. The water hyacinths float in the still lake.

I sit here in deep thoughts with my faithful companion, a not too cold bottle of Legend. I stare at the water in dazed tranquillity.

There is something ominous, something mysterious, others at the Oxbow Lake with uncultivated senses could hardly decipher. The lake is speaking to me with an inaudible voice.

Growing up in the creeks, I had been trained by nature to listen and understand the sometimes beautiful and sometimes weird language of the river.

Now, this lake is talking from the depth of the water not with the voice of Binikurukuru or Osain, the gods of the river.

As a child I had the strange believe that I had spirit companions in the river. And my grandmother would threaten me that one day I would be captured by bini-otu, the water creatures, after I had been swimming for many hours and my eyes had turn red with the effect of salt water.

I had expected that kidnap, but as the years stretch into decades, I had come to reason with myself that perhaps grandma was barely playing on my childhood fantasies and fears. Now as I sit out on the shore of the Oxbow Lake in my quest for solitude to wake my imagination, I could hear their nymph-like voices rebuking my flight away from the mangrove that had defined my existence!

I gaze at the still water in a mesmerized incredulity that seems to disorganize my rationality and Christian persuasions. Could anyone be speaking from that water?

I could feel the sensations of a strange presence, that overpowering feeling that you are in midst of something mysterious beyond your immediate perception, yet formless in a void you will never admit exist.

I glance around me to make sure I’m still in reality and not fairyland. When I regained myself I told the water creatures in our silent correspondence that I had never been away from my root, I’m a mangrove man and the mangrove still means many things to me.

Then they became bitter like my bottle of extra stout that I sit here drinking beer while for many years the oil companies had waged a brutal and relentless war of ecological genocide on their abode which had threatened the survival of their race.

They narrated their sad and frightening ordeal that they had lost millions of their water companions to the merciless destruction of the rivers and creek. I sit in cold dejection in the gripping horrors of the narratives of my water friends.

“If you can fight the oil people for us we will give you one mammi water to marry!” One of the Bini-otu finally said and they started to swim away in the gathering dusk in a rainbow of alluring aquatic colours. I know they had come a long way to deliver their message.