The Efik Twin Boys, the Town of Igbo-Ora Oyo State, and the Land of Twins

When Mary Mitchell Slessor a Scottish missionary to Nigeria stopped the killing of twins among the Efik almost a century ago; she never knew that she was protecting the generations of the late Prince Micheal Mbo Orokawan Ephraim, the father of Paul Orok Ephraim and Peter Edem Ephraim, identical twins of Efik descent, who were born December 8, 1977. Slessor was trusted and accepted by the locals while spreading Christianity, protecting native children and promoting women’s rights. In the 18th century until present day in some rural communities indigenes hold a taboo against twins: as babies derived from the devil, non-human and punishment from the gods for sinfulness.

Paul, Nancy and Peter
From (L to R) Paul, older sister Nancy, and Peter Ephraim. Photo/Peter Ephraim

Paul Ephraim has since had his own set of twins May 8, 2012 while Peter had a set of twins December 5, 2015.

Paul twins
Paul’s adorable twins from (L to R) Pauline and Paul Jr. Photo/Paul Ephraim

Paul said that giving birth to twins ran in the family almost a century before he was born. His uncle, the late Group Captain Emmanuel Ibok, a Civil War Veteran and a traditional title holder, told them stories of their lineage and added that giving birth to twins ran in the family ages ago. Interestingly, the wives of both Paul and Peter do not have twins in their families.

According to Paul, people were awestruck when his twin brother Peter gave birth to his own set of twins just three years after he did, as nature would have her way, the twins of both Paul and Peter are not identical but fraternal.

Peters-twin
Peter’s adorable twins from (L to R) Ame and Nsa Photo/Peter Ephraim

Aside from the Efik people, the Yorubas too have the birth of twins running in their lineage. Worthy of note is a town in Oyo State called Igbo-Ora, where it is claimed that more twins are born than anywhere else on earth. Allegedly there are just a few households who do not have at least one set of twins in their family. This has also been shown by birth statistics. There are 158 twins per 1,000 births in Igbo-Ora, while in Europe there are five twins per 1,000 births. The people of Igbo-Ora attribute the predominance of twins in their land to their indigenous Àmàlà and Ìlasà meal. Àmàlà is a popular morsel meal made from yam powder within the Southwest region of Nigeria, while Ìlasà is a vegetable soup made from dried shredded okro leaves.

Extensive studies on multiple births have been conducted, showing that yams contain the chemical gonadotropin, which helps women produce multiple eggs. Other causes that can result in having twins are when it is hereditary; older women over 30 also have a greater chance of multiple conception; African women are more likely to have twins than any other race. Asian and Native women have the lowest twinning rates. Caucasian women, especially those over age 35, have the highest rate of higher-order multiple births. Other factors which are technologically induced are ovulation stimulating medications which help produce many eggs and in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The coming of a twin into any family is now considered a blessing in most regions in Nigeria and they are considered as important fortunes to a family, so eulogized in these Yoruba words, Won so ile alakisa d’ile onigba aso, twins bring abundance to the house of the impoverished.