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Rant #443
(published July 16, 2009)
Where are the Streams?
by Onyenezi Chika Victor
Recently I decided to visit my birth town Amakohia, a small village lying on a tableland neighboring Akwakuma village inside Owerri town in Nigeria. When we were growing up, we'd perform a regular ritual of visiting the little stream that borders my birth town with other villages. A colorless stream in the morning, yellow with the taste of the sun on a sunny afternoon, greenish with the reflection of beautiful plants in the evening: this chameleon stream is called Nwaorie. As a kid playing around this stream, I noticed the chameleon nature it exhibits at all weather. Was the change in color due to a child's imagination? I faintly remember, the only vivid images I remember are these changes it exhibits. All I know is that I have grown with this belief.

Nwaorie was a botanical garden of a sort, harbouring beautiful flowers, ferns, palm trees, and weeds: All these added to the beauty of this little stream. The most enjoyable of all was the air around it; it smelled of beauty and life. All these added to Nwaorie's beauty. I could remember trotting down to the stream with my eldest sister one day; I beheld this strange beautiful flower just peeping out from the stream within my reach. As I stretched out my hand to take this treasure into my palms my sister shouted at me, "Taa!!! Do you want the mermaid to visit us at home and collect her flower back?" Immediately I became afraid of the beautiful things growing in this stream and never dared to take any, including fish. Today as I remember my deeds out of ignorance, I wonder who was really ignorant: brave me or my superstitious elder sister who made me afraid of streams beauty. Nwaorie was a home of thousand species of birds, those that can walk on top of water without sinking, those that perch on the willow trees, and those that appear seasonally.

Legend has it that the mermaid inhabiting the stream is a female in appearance; nobody knows what lies beyond a spirit. Eyewitness account have it that her beauty is indescribable. Their summary has always been that she glitters in the dark like a diamond.

There was this cleared portion in the stream, free of ferns and weed, the water so clear that you could see the sands in the bottom and the tiny fishes swimming freely. We never swam in the stream owing to the fact that we couldn't swim, but we loved to put our legs in it, let the stream chill us from leg to head with osmosis pressure taking it round our body. From there you could see a man in a boat paddling deep into the horizon; it was my first image of a fisherman: bare chest, round heart, sitting in a small boat, paddling into the horizon.

It was beautiful to behold these images at firsthand; variety of ferns, flowers, birds. Fair enough to catch nature in its acts, wonderful to breath from the air, splendid to watch a fisherman paddle. It makes you want to spend time beside this stream. These images bare you to the truth about nature: nature is kind, nature is warm especially in Nigeria where we hear no news of earthquakes nor hurricane of any sort. Is as if nature has always known the economic situation of these people, knowing that if earthquake happens to strike any part of this country, definitely there will be no rescue plan. The government is busy politicking with fiends and foes instead of planning for the future and researching for social improvement.

Amakohia is not far from the place I am staying now; I took a cab down. I got to the place early in the morning, met an old time friend who happens to be at home at that time. Later I decided to visit the stream. At least look at it once more.

The narrow path that leads to the stream has been overgrown with tall plants; I managed to squeeze my way through. Soon I was beside the stream; it was disheartening to see that everything has changed. The first question that popped into my head was Where is the stream? It was like as though it never existed: tons of sands have covered the surface of this stream. Wild plants have replaced the beautiful flowers. There was nothing to look at again, the birds no longer visit, if I am not mistaken the mermaid should have left the stream a long time ago; there is no water for her to flagellate. The worst of it was the odour that oozes out of the place, as if several corpses are decaying around it. I also noticed that all the tributaries are polluted as I passed the point at the bridge at Assumpta Lane in Owerri. I began to wonder how many people channelled their sewage line into the stream. Definitely I knew that all the fishes in this stream might have been dead or migrated to a safer zone. Aquatic life could not survive in such a condition. The beautiful birds that travel all the way from Europe, Asia, and American to spend their hamattan have been replaced by vultures scavenging the area.

This situation is what streams and rivers in Nigeria are suffering from: Pollution. Most of them are being covered by sands. Even the Otamiri stream that joined with Nwaorie is fast disappearing. A passage through old Nekede road confirmed this. Down the hill where the water flows has been replaced with solid sands that one can even walk over it. I ask where the streams are. Definitely they are fast disappearing. Who knows the future of a thousand streams like this in Africa? Our streams are fast disappearing.

Onyenezi Chika Victor still lives in Nigeria, writing from the cities of Owerri and Enugu. He is an editor for AuthorMe.com.

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