By Babatunde Ayedoju
Recently, a woman tweeted that she desired to have a set of twins. A tweeted user, identified as @the_beardedsina, who claimed to be a medical doctor advised her to go to Igbo-Ora and eat their ‘special yam.’
While assuring the woman that she would give birth to twins after eating the special delicacy from Igbo-Ora, he vowed that he would stop practising medicine if the woman failed to give birth to twins after following his advice.
He tweeted: “Go to Igboora in Oyo state, the twin capital of the world. Buy their yam, eat it well and eat their regular Ilasa soup consistently. If you don’t deliver twins in one year, I’ll stop practicing Medicine.”
The conversation above linked the birth of twins closely with Igbo-Ora in Oyo State. Many communities in Nigeria are renowned for one thing or the other and Igbo-Ora is not an exception. Igbo-Ora, the headquarters of Ibarapa Local Government Area in Oyo State, located 80 kilometres north of Lagos, Igbo-Ora has been described by many people who are familiar with the town as the Twin Capital of the world because of the large number of twins and even triplets that the community boasts of.
“Igbo-Ora nibi ti Ibeji bibi po si ni gbogbo agbanla aye”, is one of the lines extracted from the panegyrics of Igbo-Ora and it translates to mean a place with the highest number of twin births in the whole world. At the entrance of the town, there is a notification that reads thus: “Welcome to Igbo-Ora, the Nation’s Home of Twins.” There is also a sculpture of a mother carrying a baby on her chest with another strapped on her back, conspicuously erected at the entrance of the town.
Twins and triplets are so common in Igbo-Ora that the community even has an annual festival that is organised in honour of products of such multiple births. The festival is called Annual Igbo-Ora World Twins Festival. It is organised second weekend of October every year by Twins World Creations in conjunction with Igbo-Ora Community Foundation to showcase the tourism and cultural potential of the community, which are worth enlisting in the Guinness Book of Record.
While multiple cases of twin and triplet births are not limited to Igbo-Ora alone, this community of over 200,000 people in Oyo State is extraordinary in that regard. For example, a high number of twin births has been observed in Kodinji, India and Candido Godoi, Brasil.
However, while Europe boasts of about 16 twins for every 1,000 births and the United States about 33 for every 1,000 births, statistics from a study by British gynaecologist, Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, recorded an average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1000 live births in the southwest of Nigeria.
Similarly, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) article, there are about 158 twins per 1,000 newborn in Igbo-Ora, the twins capital of the world compared to five twins per 1,000 newborns in Europe.
There are many explanations to this uncommon feat or privilege that Igbo-Ora is associated with. While some people, especially from a scientific point of view, have attributed the birth of twins and triplets in this town to the people’s gene which allows the multiple formation of eggs, others trace it to the local delicacy of amala and ilasa to which potash (known as kanwun in Yoruba) is added. Ilasa itself is made from okra leaves. A good number of the indigenes and other people who are familiar with the town belong to the second school of thought.
Mr Dare Ojo, an indigene of Igbo-Ora, said that twins and triplets are so common in the town that there is hardly any family that cannot boast of such children. He said, “There’s no family that does not have at least a set of twins or triplets. I know a family that gave birth to two sets of twins and a set of triplets.”
Mr Ojo added that according to the story passed down from the previous generations, multiple birth in Igbo-Ora is as a result the people’s consumption of a soup called Ilasa, made from okra leaves and processed like Ewedu.
Explaining the preparation of Ilasa, Mr Ojo said, “First, cut the okra leaves exactly the same way you will cut Ewedu and put it aside. Thereafter, you will grind a species of pepper that is usually green, and blend it with onions. You will blend the egusi as well. After that, boil water and pour the pepper inside, followed by the Ilasa.”
He added, “Put small portions of egusi into the soup, cover it and let it boil very well. It has a lovely aroma. You can eat the ilasa with amala or any other food of your choice. The egusi will take the place of meat, but some still add meat and stew. It is a very delicious meal, rich in nutrients. That’s what I heard makes many people give birth to twins in Igbo-Ora.”
Mr Damilola Ojo, another indigene of the town, shared a similar position on the multiple birth phenomenon in the ancient community.
He said that according to the generally held opinion in the community, the multiple birth phenomenon in Igbo-Ora is as a result of the people’s diet which comprises the water, Ilasa and the kanwun (potash) that is added to the Ilasa.
While reaffirming that Igbo-Ora is not only known for twin birth, though that is the most popular feature, he added that triplets and quadruplets are also very many in the town. He, however, stated that there is no verified scientific explanation for the phenomenon yet, making the diet factor the only explanation available for now.
David Fakayode, who spent his formative years in Igbo-Ora, said that amala and Ilasa, a common delicacy in the town, is believed to create hormones that make the women prone to the birth of twins and triplets. Nevertheless, he disagreed that belief, saying, “I don’t believe that food can be responsible for such a thing, instead it’s mostly likely a matter of genetics.”
Similarly, Dr Adesina Akintan, a medical practitioner, cited a common belief that multiple births in Igbo-Ora are as a result of a certain kind of food people eat in the community. While stating that some people have written about it even in scientific journals, the senior medical practitioner added, “However, I am not aware of any robust scientific research that has been carried out to establish the authenticity of that claim.”
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