A young girl carrying a tray of fresh oranges on her head walked through the village market. A woman haggled noisily with the vegetable seller, while a young man picked some oranges from the pile that sat before a fruit seller. The small market was ubiquitously embroidered in a beautiful mosaic of colours: fresh red tomatoes and pepper piled up at different corners; bunches of unripe plantain stacked on a broad wooden plank, and heaps of ripened pawpaw and dirty-brown tubers of yam on sun-tanned sand.
It was the market day at Owena village- a settlement straddling Akure-Ilesa and Akure-Ondo expressways. Although the two busy roads are miles apart, this settlement nevertheless, had always made the same impression on every traveler-by on the roads. One could ply this road for decades and never come to the awareness of the presence of the Old Owena Dam, tucked in a forest on the outskirts of the village. A short dusty by-way through the market leads to the dam. The dam was erected about two decades ago and has been fitted with a chute-type spillway, large water pipes and a big pump. It appears to have been designed exclusively for domestic supply purposes.
On approaching the dam premises, I quickly noticed a rapid attenuation of the cacophony from the roadside market. I walked into an old gate that leads into the dam. A structure housing a big machine sat on the left and a rigid iron bridge laid ahead of me, leading to a narrow field of bright-green elephant grasses arrogantly swaying with the gentle breeze as the field stretches into the far distance. The short iron bridge rested the dam's spill way. The beautiful Owena Lake sprawls behind the spillway like a long narrow sea of spilled oil. Verdant aquatic plants formed broad carpets on the waters. The skyline at the far end of the lake meets the earth above the undulating canopies of lush green forests, casting an unusual but awe-inspiring shadow on the tranquil waters.
A local fisherman slowly rowed his canoe at a distance while the lake glistened with a mild solar fire, capturing both the fisherman and his boat in a vague silhouette. Standing on the bridge and leaning on its railings to savor the rhapsodic aura of picturesque surrounding, I noticed schools of catfishes and Tilapias twirling happily with a sense of freedom that seemed to know no bounds. The cool breeze at the lake was satiating, engulfing me with a sensational ambiance of peace. On the other side of the bridge, where elephant grasses banked the lakeside, a man was busy cutting down an errant shrub near the water. I asked the man if tourists visit the dam, and he laughed. He said they rarely have visitors. I also asked him questions about the fishes in the lake, and he said ”there are plenty of catfishes and tilapias in this lake o! Infact, if you come when the fishermen are just returning from their daily runs on the lake, you will see plenty of our fishes”.
A visit to the lake might definitely leave one thinking why everyone in Nigeria have become so caught up in the vagaries of everyday city life that we don’t create time for adventure recreation. When admiring the lush forests on the far banks of the lake, one cannot but imagine those foreign lakeside resorts with water skis, canoes, fishing boats and wildlife water parks. This is nonetheless another bundle of economic potential, an incredible and viable investment opportunity for a keen business mind.
The noise from the village market returned as I departed the dam and approached the market, ushering me back into the world of men, away from the exhilarating and refreshing world of peace and tranquility I tasted at the shores of Owena Lake.