Yemoji River is a popular tourist attraction in Ijebu-Ode Local Government Area of Ogun, Southwest Nigeria. The river traverses a distance of three and a half kilometres from its source to Imagbon Village.
History has it that the river used to serve as a waterway for the evacuation of farm produce from Ijebu land to Ejirin, a distance of about 18 kilometres.
Besides its historical background which pre-dates 1925, a group of European merchants of an unnamed commercial firm was linked with the formation of a club known as Ijebu Ode Club used it as a swimming pool.
Its pleasurable delight makes the river a sight to behold. But this appears to be where the attraction of Yemoji River stops. The river is said to prohibit the eating of Esuru, a local yellowish tuber, around it. As strong as Yemoji River’s aversion for Esuru is, a person who eats the yam is prohibited from coming near or swimming in it for a considerable length of time after the consumption of the tuber.
A defiant eater is said to be at the risk of being bitten by a mythical snake which dwells in the river but never comes out unless the river is defiled and provoked by an Esuru eater.
Although, there is no instruction cautioning a visitor to the place about the taboo, the Baale of Magbon community where the river is situated, Chief Adesanya Taiwo said, “Those who violated the taboo in the past later lived to regret their action.”
Sunday Sunasked when exactly is forbidden for one to eat the yellowish tuber before coming around or swimming in the river.
Taiwo said: “it is advisable that you do not eat “Esuru” on the morning of the day you intend to visit here or swim in the river or else you stand the risk of incurring the wrath of the ancient snake that dwells in the river but which never comes out unless it is provoked.
“It is no joke, those who dared it in the past later lived to regret their action even though the snake will not bite the defiant its appearance alone is a bad omen for the village because that shows that the reptile is annoyed and offended.
“So, we usually warn people who intend to visit here to avoid the eating of Esuru for at least eight hours before coming around the river.” You may have eaten it the day before you visit the river but it is usually advisable that you do not eat it on the day you intend to visit or come around it”.
Responding to a question on what would happen to someone who violates the taboo unwittingly
His response was swift: “It has never happened and it will never happen. But I don’t know why it has not happened”.
According to him, in the past, when the snake came out, the community usually appeased the reptile after which it would return to its abode which nobody knows.
Asked whether there had been any untold incident as a result of the violation of the age-long taboo, another native of the town, Taiwo Adigboluja, who is in charge of the river, narrated his experience. His words: “not in recent times, but I remember very well that when we were young, the snake had emerged several times as a result of people who had eaten the forbidden yam coming near it.
He added: “that was then, but in recent times we have not had any of such terrible experience. It is our belief in this area that the snake will emerge from the river once someone who eats the forbidden yam swims or comes around the river.
“The snake will automatically emerge from the river, so it is advisable that someone who intends to visit here does not eat Esuru shortly before he or she visits here. In fact, we advise that the forbidden yam is not eaten in the morning that someone intends to visit the river.”
Adigboluja, lamented what he described as total neglect of the place by the state government. His words: “As an indigene of Yemoji-Magbon, I believe this place has been neglected for so many years by successive governments in the state. I am here managing the resort because I don’t want the heritage of my forefathers to just go like that.”
According to him, his late father played a prominent role in the town and would not want his efforts to be in vain.
“My presence here is to ensure that this place is re-activated to its glorious past. I am not usually happy when tourists come around and they feel disappointed at the sight and site of the famous river”.
He lamented that the current administration in the state, just like the previous ones, both military and civilian has not fulfilled its several promises.
“This river would have been a huge source of revenue for the state government had the river been accorded the needed attention by successive administrations.