Believe it or not, its labyrinthine groove leads to the world beyond, to eternity, if you will. Doubt nothing; just read PAT NNADI’s account of his visit to Aku Cave in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State first…and argue later.
The people of Nkalagu Obukpa, Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State know, or believe, that Aku Nkalagu cave is not an ordinary cave. Most of the indigenes, young and old, have known it all their lives as a labyrinthine groove of rocks and earth, shrouded in deep mystery and serving as a gateway to the world beyond! Some have even described it as a cave of no return!
In years gone by, Aku Cave, according legends, acted as a sanctuary for the people of Nkalagu in times of communal wars. It became a cave of no return only for strangers or ‘enemies’ who dared to pursue the indigenes into the cave in time of war: the ‘invaders’, it is said, were bound to die mysteriously for their derring-do, hence the appellation ‘cave of no return’.
Nkalagu-Obukpa is located in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State. It is in Nkalagu-Obukpa that Ugwu-Aku (Aku Hill) is located. The Aku Cave is hewn into this hill, forming a long stretch of earth and rocky groove harbouring some mysterious waterfall and self-adjusting ‘rock-gate’.
When Abeyanews visited the cave, located some 20km from the local government headquarters in Ibagwa-Aka, some local tourists were seen hovering around the cave. But they were obviously afraid to go inside the ‘hole’ for fear of the unknown.
However, aside the mysterious waterfall which originates from the top of the cave and gushes out, there is an opening that stretches forth as a tunnel, albeit a horizontal tunnel. Abeyanews gathered that the opening surrounded by rocks under the cave opens and closes on its own accord at any given time.
A chat with one of the elders of the community, Mr. Thomas Ugwu showed that in the olden days, Aku cave was a hunting ground for some ‘strong’ hunters in the community.
“According to the custom of the land, hunters from the village hunted for Aku deity, the superintendent, as it were, of the cave, once every two years. It was a carnival of sort, which attracted many members of the community as well as outsiders. Aku is a deity and is worshiped as such. Majority of Obukpa people are sort of pantheists. They believe that spirits inhabit some natural phenomena such as hills, trees, rivers etc. These supernatural forces are regarded as being at the core of those natural phenomena,” Ugwu explained, adding: “The Aku cave is believed to be controlled by Aku the deity, the supernatural force that governs the place. Therefore, Aku has its rules.”
“Legend has it that that particular tunnel under the cave leads to another world where a different type of humans with different tongues or languages is found. The hunters who undertake to hunt for Aku would crawl through the tunnel for days and eventually return with many hunts with each hunter, as a matter of rule, leaving two of the game behind for Aku deity,” Ugwu added.
On why they must drop two game, Ugwu said “it is the rule of the game from time immemorial.”
“If you fail to do it, that will be suicidal. You will die a few days later,” he emphasized.
The cave also served as a sanctuary for the people of Obukpa in those days of communal wars, AbeyaNews further gathered.
Ekene Ugwuanyi, a researcher who has done some research into the existence of the cave, told our reporter: “The cave served as a refugee camp for the people of Obukpa community in times of war. Whenever an Obukpa indigene or group of indigenes ran into it during those days of ancient wars, the enemy would never trace such a person try as the enemy could. However, whenever the enemy dared to enter the territory in search of the Obukpa people, one of the large rocks hanging over there would break loose and fall on and smash that person into pieces.”
Ugwuanyi further explained: “Under the cave, just on the rocky floor lies a massive rock. It is called ‘O Mee’r Anyinya’, meaning, ‘The Destroyer of Horses’. Such name was given to the rock based on the anecdote associated with it.
“Stories have it that once upon a time, the Igala invaded Nkalagu Obukpa and took their horses to the stream for drinking. In the process, they were said to have ‘defaced’ and ‘defiled’ the stream that fed the Nkalagu-Obukpa people. As the horses bent over the stream lapping water, one of the rocks hanging over the cave ‘got angry’ and fell on the horses and their owners. That was their end. The rest ran away like demons, not looking back.
“The mysterious defender of the people is the large stone that lies flat on the floor staring quietly at you as you stand there. However, the rocks have never fallen on any of the inhabitants since the existence of the cave. If you come with good intention, you have nothing to fear.”
Explaining the mystery behind some rocks surrounding the cave, Ugwuanyi added: “The huge rocks usher down from atop the cave the waters that quench the thirst of the people. Each of the rocks serves as a spring that sends down waters. You can, if you will, call them springs of living water as many miraculous healings have been attributed to the waterfall. There’s the one called ‘O tiburi Iye’olu’ (the breaker of necklace). This spring falls with such force that if you are wearing any necklace, the force could break the chain off your neck. Stories have it that it has a healing power during the rainy season when the water falls ‘angrily’ on sicknesses and diseases, washing them away.”
“People were required to say their wishes and then allow the water fall on them. That’s the end of the problem as ‘O tiburi Iye’olu’ beats off and washes away your problems!”
When Abeyanews sought to speak with the Chief priest of Aku deity, he was said to be living in another community, some 20km away from the Aku shrine. Our source also revealed that he has special days on which he is allowed to speak to guests and that, in any case, he visits the shrine every once in a long while!
When our Correspondent visited the traditional ruler of the community, HRH Igwe Felix Nnamani, he was not in the community. We couldn’t reach him on phone either.