From classical history there is an indisputable fact that civilisation in Africa began at the banks of the river Nile. Even in other parts of the Asian world, we know of great rivers like Ganges, Euphrates and Tigris around which the earliest remains of man’s attempt to tame nature could still be found. In this order it is not out of place that most of the clans of Nkanu people that settled northwards of Enugu-East geo-political zone in modern day Enugu state, Nigeria came in search of water. Often called Amechi Oba, Amechi-Idodo, or Ndi-Idodo, the area is populated by agrarians who migrated from Awknanaw. The earliest migrants settled in Eziama and this has come to be reckoned as the first and oldest village.
Idodo River runs through many towns. Her entry point into Nkanu-East is Amankanu, the next town is Ubahu from where it makes an inward curve into Owo. The detour course of the river stretches further through Amechi Oba (now Amechi Idodo) and the outskirts of Oruku. Idodo River empties into Inyaba in Amagunze from where it collects other tributaries in its journey. Idodo is the longest river in Enugu state’s geography. Starting from the lower hills of the Nsukka region in the northern part of the state, its span cuts across many towns in Nkanu land: Isi Uzo and Nkanu-East local governments. Exiting through Amechi, the river empties into EbonyiRiver in present day Ebonyi State. A legendary story has it that this great river was first discovered in one of the towns by a hunter’s dog about 600 years ago. The river seasonally overflows her bank leaving sediments of fertile soil for semi aquatic animals like crocodile, tortoise, crabs etc to thrive. The early settlers of Nkanu people around the Idodo made their homes a little far-off from the river to avoid immediate pollution and as a protective measure from getting their children drowned. In some towns, the villages are built round the river with some reasonable distance.
The value of Idodo River is interwoven among the people to whom her water serves in many ways. It is known as a female deity with a shrine by some communities like Owo and Amechi. In these areas the water is offered a sacrifice at the beginning of rainy season with a moderate feast. The essence of this practice scores the importance attached to affirmed benevolence of the river goddess. During the rituals; the chief priest prays for moderate rain and a bumper harvest, Idodo is also pleaded with not to take any life of her own in the exchange for which a live white cock is offered. This is usually done at the river bank by the priest, acolyte and other worshipers. Since the river also serves as the goddess of fertility, myths have it that barren women at given points went to the shrine to seek solution to their womanhood. In any case this practice is very evident in the names of so many people from these areas who bear Idodo and some either as aprefix or appendix to their names in appreciation to the river’s munificence. There are hardly cases of drowning to death in the river as this is taken care of by the sacrifices. Theodicy has remained a source of law even in modern times. Idodo is also an arbiter of justice. In some cases she could be swift on an evil person especially in issues that relate to crime, taboo and sheer wickedness. Such a culprit is usually drowned to death in it.
In the socio-economic life of these people, the river serves a multipurpose. Besides drinking, cassava is fermented in it for four market days by almost every house hold; it provides basins for fisheries, laundry and a good sporting pool for children and every folk. There are patches of irrigation farmlands across the lengths of the Idodo where vegetables mainly are cultivated during dry season. Till this day there are rules that govern the use of the water and certain practices that may constitute abuse are strictly forbidden. For instance, no one is allowed to neither defecate in it nor throw in biodegradable sacrifices in it. To create room for moral sanity; there are areas meant for women and a different farther side for the male folks. More so, every adult within site by practice is duty bound to assist a child or anyone else who is incapacitated to fetch water from the river especially when the level is high. This practice is irrespective of family or personal differences. There are other periodic duties to the river by every village. These include clearing of the pathways and banks of the river at the end of a given period in the moonal calendar.
Idodo is surrounded both sides of her bank by a canopy of mangrove forest. Along the pathways too there are shades of trees that give shelter from the sun. These trees are occasionally trimmed to order when they grow into the main road or pulled by stormy wind. It is usually the duty of the male folk to keep the pathways uncluttered. In places where farmlands are located along the road, effort is made not to encroach into the main path. By custom, there are times for fetching drinking water and it is by morning when the river is clean and calm. This is one practice that has been passed down to indigenes since time immemorial and being a healthy tradition is appreciated by all till this day. In recent time, improvements in social life and modern economic factors have reduced the importance of the river in some ways while there are other uses according to updates from demand. Today, Idodo is a reservoir of industrial and domestic importance. In her bed and banks could be found various layers of sand for civil engineering.
It has remained a source of finance to fishermen in all the area. The people are also wary of modern pollution and to curb this they do not allow the use of chemical for fishing. This is adhered to strictly and offenders are severely punished by the village or town.
Given the new methods of life and the need for improved mechanised farming, there has been a popular demand to expand and extend irrigation farming along the Idodo River by the government of Enugu state. Since the construction of dams is a huge capital project, river lines that run far like Idodo, provides a good approach to sustainable food production. With the use of machines and an organised cooperative network, many acres of land along the river that lie wasting as forests could be turned into a good farm settlement thereby creating massive job opportunities for many youths.
-By unknown Author