AKINDELE House, Isale Asaka, Foko, Ibadan, an erstwhile sleepy and serene community in the capital city of Oyo State, came alive on Tuesday and it became a Mecca of sort, when the news of a miniature mermaid (omo Yemoja) filtered through the city.
It took a while before the Nigerian Tribune crew got access to the house, a storey building, and when it finally did, the head of the family, Alhaji Raufu A. Salau, said he was sleeping upstairs when he heard a lot of unusual noise which forced him to come downstairs.
According to him, “Ramota, his granddaughter, sells fried and roasted fish in the house and, as usual, purchased a carton of frozen fish that morning. She was in the process of cleaning the fish and separating those to be roasted from the ones to be fried when she was said to have screamed out loud and called on neighbours to come to her aid.”
Salau, a retired civil servant, said he heard people asking after him but rather than come upstairs to see him, the lady ran to meet her Shehu, an Islamic cleric, who followed her home and offered some prayers in the Islamic way before the neighbours, who had begun to converge on the scene, could take the pictures of the strange “fish.” The first person who took the picture of the strange fish was said to have had his phone shattered mysteriously.
Alhaja Alirat, a member of the community, told the Nigerian Tribune that she did not see the mermaid but the lady who claimed to have seen it, but declined to speak with the press, told her that the mermaid, though very small in size initially, grew bigger and was fish from waist downward and human being from waist upwards, with mouth, nose, eyes and long hair, which it was swinging to cover its eyes when the mammoth crowd thronged to the scene to look at it.
She also said it was alleged that the mermaid spoke, begging Ramota, the fish seller, not to expose it but that Ramota shouted out of fear.
Meanwhile, one Miss Osungbemi, an Osun worshipper, claimed that the mermaid was on a mission to uplift Ramota financially.
Rather than shout, she said Ramota ought to have looked for a big basin filled with water and throw the mermaid inside, adding that she should have then called on Osun worshippers who would call the mermaid by its cognomen and tutor the lady on how to appease it.
She said Ramota would have become a consultant, diagnosing and treating people with the aid of the mermaid, who would be telling her what to do, even as she claimed that someone in the house where the mermaid was found must have worshipped Osun at a point in his or her life.
Some members of the crowd, who did not volunteer their names, said it was Ramota’s mother that had worshipped Osun before and that before the occurrence, she had received messages to visit the Osun Osogbo grove to worship Osun, but that she had been complaining that there was no time.
Responding to Osungbemi’s claims, Alhaja Alirat said “the tradition to which one is born is quite different from the religion one is practising,” adding that if one was born into Osun tradition and one became a Muslim and, at a point in time, received a message to worship Osun, there was nothing bad in it.
“It does not affect one’s religion. In fact, it is for one’s good, as worshipping the Osun would improve one’s fortune in life and make the person a better human being. At least, the Holy Book says we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” she said.
All efforts to see the mermaid, however, failed, as some people claimed that the mermaid had been moved out of the house while others said it was still in the house and that Ramota had been taken to the police station at Mapo.
At the Mapo Police Station, however, the Tribune crew sighted Ramota, who was with her baby and her Shehu, the Islamic cleric.
It was certain that the police were yet to sight the mermaid as of press time.
Different contingent of policemen sent to the house failed to bring the mermaid out, as the divisional police officer later directed the press to the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bisi Ilobanafor.
The PPRO said there was no issue in the mermaid story as she spoke directly with Ramota, who told her that she did not see any mermaid, but that it was people who changed her story.
The PPRO said there were many creatures in the ocean, adding that what the fish seller saw could have been one of them but certainly not a mermaid.
Meanwhile, it was overheard that the mermaid had been taken to the house of the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola-Alao, in Ibadan.
All efforts to get Aare Arisekola-Alao on phone failed, as he did not pick his call but one of his aides, who did not want his name in print, confirmed that it was a big crayfish that was brought to Aare Arisekola’s gate and not a mermaid.
He said the people who came around were turned back, adding that Arisekola-Alao did not see the crayfish.
A traditionalist, Dr Olowoglass by name, said he was born into traditional worship over 60 years ago and had never heard that a mermaid visited someone in the manner being broadcast around.
He said the president of traditionalists told him that he had seen the purported mermaid and could not say whether it was a mermaid or not.