Welcome to Sogidi Lake in Awe, Oyo State. According to the custodian of the lake, Pa Stephen Adebayo Ojedele, the lake has been there since 1750 when the town was discovered. “It was discovered when the monarch, Ilemolu and his entourage were thirsty. The monarch then sent some hunters under the leadership of one Metio to search for water to quench their thirst. Along the line, while in the bush, one of the hunters sighted some monkeys on trees and they pursued them. As one of them corked his local riffle, ready to shoot, another hunter discovered a pool of water under the tree where the money was. The hunters stopped their partner from shooting, having found what they were looking for [water].They believed it was due to the assistance of the monkeys that they discovered the water.”
Ojedele added that the hunters also saw some cherry fruits [agbalumo] by the lake, tasted it and said it was a real fruit, and having found it tasty and delicious they cried out in their local dialect that it was a real fruit , Eso gidi, this was later shortened to Sogidi, which later became the name of the lake till date.
In honour of the hunters’ discovery, the painting of a mermaid and monkeys jumping from one tree to another, as well as hunters with their guns are drawn on the walls of the lake to serve as a memento and in appreciation of the efforts of the hunters.
According to Pa Ojedele, Sogidi water could appear rough but it is clean, healthy and good for drinking as well as being highly medicinal. He said the water tastes like any of the well treated and bottled water. The mystery is that as a lake which does not flow nor does any flow into it, it is good. However, during the raining season it overflows its banks. He added that there has never been any record of cholera breakout in the town as a result of drinking the water.
As early as 7a.m. women come out to sweep the surrounding and keep it clean. According to Ojedele, “Nobody is allowed to go into the compound with shoes or sandals on, that is the rule. Asides that, nobody is allowed to scoop the water with a bowl, but buckets are dipped into it in order to fetch it (the water). In the olden days gourds were the only acceptable thing used to fetch it, but nowadays bucket is allowed, and this is dipped in once.”
He added, “The fishes are strange. Some are as big as my lap, others are tiny, but it is forbidden for anyone to kill or eat it as a delicacy.’’ Asked about the repercussion that would befall anyone who flouts this, the guide said whoever kills the fish he or his family members are bound to die mysteriously! To buttress this, he said: “Such had happened before. In 1973 when soldiers had their Barracks in Awe and Oyo, one of them had the effrontery to challenge the taboo. He went ahead and killed some of the fishes, and when he cooked them they didn’t get cooked. They were returned back into the lake dead. Seven days later three of the soldier’s children died, they were then living in Asalu’s compound, here in Awe.” However, this could not be independently confirmed but many of the residents vouched that it was true.
It is also said that an Igbo man killed some of the fishes and took them home for cooking but they were not done, he reportedly returned them again into the lake.
On the story that the fish was once a human being, Ojedele could neither confirm nor deny it. He, however, said he could only talk authoritatively on the fact that it is forbidden to kill fishes. He also failed to deny the existence of mermaid.
“Nobody must kill the fish no matter how spiritually strong the person is, the fish may die on their own in the lake as a result of old age while some bigger ones always swallow the smaller ones but no one must kill and eat them, the Awe indigenes know this and would not even try it.’’
The painting of the mermaid on the walls of the fence is evidence of the historical fact that the lake once had a mermaid living in it. Ojedele said, “It comes out in the afternoon when everywhere is hot. It has a woman’s head down to her waist and the rest of her body is that of a fish with a big tail wagging. It appears in November when celebrating Awe Day. The mermaid does not come out again because of dirtiness of human beings. But once in a while it shows herself that she is still around. Anytime a doubting Thomas wants to cause a stir at the lake or doubt her or mock her, the person would experience a lot of things such as he could have his head being too heavy and unable to move or one may hear strange things or objects being thrown into the lake producing strange sounds! Most times, the water on one’s head could be turning or foaming, all these show that the mermaid is still in the vicinity.
Spiritual power of the water
A woman who is in her 90s claimed that she used the Sogidi Lake water when she was looking for a child. “I know many would say because they are Christians or Muslims they would not believe, but it is what had happened and it is still happening today. While those who had benefitted from the mysterious water would be feeling shy to own up but in the wee hours of the day they would secretly come there to take the water. It is real. I have delivered seven children through the assistance of Sogidi Lake.”
Mrs. Maria Okediwura, a native also testified to the healing and medicinal powers of Sogidi water. She said, “Many come from Oyo town, Lagos and from overseas to take from the water for healing and lots of people used to come irrespective of their religious affiliations. They will bring assorted cans, bottles and plastic bottles to take the water, in fact some send for it from overseas. I can testify to it that many women who used the water while looking for the fruits of the womb got children, some too got healings, yet we are happy that even the so called pastors do come there to scoop from the water and pray on it for their followers or for those seeking for God’s favour. The Muslims, Christians and Aladura people come there too.”
Ojedele said one of those whose prayers had been answered by the power of the lake have returned to thank Sogidi and assisted in painting the wall, as a sign of appreciation.
Testifying further to the efficacy and spiritual healing of the water, Chief Oguntobi Joseph  described the lake as a gift to the town. “I am old now. I cannot tell you all but go and ask the custodian of the place he would tell you all about the mystery of Sogidi. It is a good tourist attraction for all activities, it is gift from the above,’’ the old man said with total conviction.
Though it was once in a thick forest, Sogidi Lake has become part of the town, as buildings have been erected in the area, “It is now very accessible. Unlike in those days when nobody could near the vicinity around. Today one is free to go there at any time of the day, no more fear.”
In spite all the stories on Sogidi, the place has not been given proper care, according to the custodian. “The Oyo State government has not done enough to make the place be a tourist centre as it should be, though some years back they came to assist and they built these brick moulded benches, and also provided the fence to make it secure but since then it had been abandoned and left alone. We as individuals are the ones taking care of the place, it is painful , that it is no longer appreciated by the government.”
Sacrifice for the lake
When it is prayer time or when the town is facing a calamity, the Christians and Muslims cooperate with traditional worshippers to offer prayers by the lake.
Another mysterious thing is the disappearance of animals offered as sacrifices to the lake, “If it demands for a goat or a cow, what it demanded for is tethered on one of the trees at a spot there. And what surprise us is that before the next morning the animal would have disappeared mysteriously. Nobody would go there to take it, and nobody dare try it and that is Sogidi for you. And again if there is need to offer a special sacrifice to the lake by the indigenes, each house will have to contribute money no matter how small and buy the cow or goat and when it is slaughtered no matter what, all the indigenes must partake in having their own share, no matter how small the size given out, every household must have their fair share.”
But how did the town (Awe) derive its name? Ojedele explained that when the natives migrated from Ile Ife they stayed under a tree called Igi Aruwewe, of which they later shortened to Igi Awe, the place is reserved till today for the coming generation to see. There is a tree which had been planted since 1750, and it is still surviving; it is called Igigi Ogogo. It is old and has holes in it but it never gets dry.