Revealing Stories of the Pilgrims At Olokwu River.

The ancient community of Ụmụaja in Ukwuani Local Government Area of Delta State plays host to at least 1000 pilgrims and tourists each month. The community which shares boundaries with Umutu and Obeti is home to a totemic gigantic "Akpụ Tree" (Cotton tree).
The huge tree which is over 70metres tall is the fountain of the sacred Ethiope River. This is the source of River Ehiope, a unique river reputed to be the deepest inland waterway in Africa. The development of Ụmụaja pond as tourists site is not just about the eco-tourism and cultural setting of the place. It is the source of one major river in Delta State that has been part of the history of the area. Oral history pegs the age of the Akpụ tree at Olokwu River to be well over 500yrs.

Akpụ Tree At Olokwu River.

Ụmụaja can be accessed through Agbor/Abrakka road, through Umutu or through Owa Alero/Ndemili axis.

According to the locals, the progenitor of Ụmụaja whose name they gave as Ọnyà was a great hunter. Ọnyà often came from Ndemili a neighbouring community to hunt around the water fountain called Olokwu River. His hunt around the water fountain were most favourable.
Soon, he decided to relocate with his wife closer to the water source.

As the saying goes, "No Nile of Egypt".
Similarly, one can also say that "No Olokwu River, No Ụmụaja."

Meanwhile, Ọnyá's wife (name could not be verified) has been without a child for many years before they moved towards the Olokwu River.
Miraculously, the hunter's wife conceived some days after she claimed to have drank the Olokwu water.
Excitedly, Ọnyà decided the next morning to clear the bush around the fountain. It was while clearing the bush that he cut down the young "Akpụ Tree" at the heart of the wellspring.

Surprisingly, the next morning when he returned to fetch water from the fountain, he found that the tree he cut down has regenerated.

From that epochal moment, it dawned on him that there was something supernatural about the fountain.
Also, others who knew about his wife's barrenness saw that she was heavy with child. Words spread that drinking from the fountain of Olokwu River, promoted fertility.

According to Oral history, pilgrims began to troop in to the community for prayers while many came to just see the magic of Olokwu.

The towering Akpụ Tree has attained apical dominance with its buttresses spanning up to 20metres from the tree. Over four (4) wellsprings of water ooze out from the tree trunks and roots.
The distributaries converge before the tree from whence it flows to for the Great River Ethiope.

Water fountain (1)

A convergence of two wellsprings.

The descendants of Ọnyà are thus called Ụmụaja (Children of sacrifice). The Ụmụaja lineage are custodians to the very revered Olokwu shrine which has a Chief Priest and a Priestess, depicting the role of Ọnyà and his wife were the first custodians of the River god. The first set of Pilgrims who visited the Olokwu River were administered to by Ọnyà and his wife.

The Priest and Priestess of Olokwu shrine built beside the huge Akpụ tree claim that, till date, over 1000 tourists visit the location/month, for tourism or for prayers as well as thanksgiving.

The pilgrims and tourists are instructed not to take photographs of the deity or the trees or to move top far into the water course.

The video interview granted to Arise Africa media team by the Chief Priest mysteriously has no audio.

However, the priest says people visit the River for prayers concerning fertility, jobs, travelling abroad and protective powers, etc. He also stated that the pilgrims return for thanksgiving after their prayers have been answered.
All over the place are white candles, broken coconuts and other stuffs utilized for sacrifices.

While talking about the tourism potentials of the place, the priest hinted that government tried to build a tourist centre near the tree but the center was never operational.

While, Olokwu River in Ụmụaja remains a spiritual home for thousands of Traditional African Religious worshippers, the daughter River called River Ethiope remains also a worship Centre for many.

Whether you intend to visit Ụmụaja for religious purpose or for tourism, the community's peaceful and hospitable deposition further enriches the socio-cultural and religious diversity of Anioma people.

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