Is The Land Of Twins Now The "Twins Capital Of The World"?
Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria is the self-acclaimed land of twins. Recently, the town celebrated its claim as the twins capital of the world.
If you wanted to visit the Land Of Twins, where in the world would you go?
A sign greets visitors at the entrance of Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria. It welcomes the people to a place unlike anywhere on the planet. It reads: "TWINS CAPITAL OF THE WORLD". The little town boasts of having the highest number of multiple births than any other place in the world.
To celebrate its self-proclaimed title the town hosts an annual festival. Now in its second year, the celebration draws hundreds of twins from around the country.
Donning different traditional clothes and costumes, the twins - male and female, old, young and even newborns - sang and danced at the latest edition this weekend to the appreciation of an admiring audience.
"We feel elated that we are being honoured today." Kehinde Durowoju, a 40-year-old twin, told journalists. He said this as he hugged his identical brother Taiwo.
"With this event, the whole world will better appreciate the importance of Ibeji (twins) as special children and gifts from God."
Around them, twins moved in procession to show off their colourful outfits as magic displays and masquerades also entertained the crowds.
Population experts say the Yoruba-speaking southwest has one of the highest twinning rates in Nigeria.
Statistics are difficult to come by, but a study by British gynaecologist Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, recorded an average of 45 to 50 sets of twins per 1,000 live births in the region.
That compares to a twin birth rate of 33 per every 1,000 births in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Igbo-Ora is the epicentre of the twin phenomenon in the West African country.
Residents in the town, say that almost every family has some twins. You'll find this town some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Nigeria's biggest city Lagos.
Traditional leader Jimoh Olajide Titiloye knows all about this special quirk.
"I am a twin, my wife is a twin and I have twins as children," he told journalists.
"There is hardly any household in this town that does not have at least a set of twins."
He said the festival on Saturday was to promote Igbo-Ora as "the foremost twins' tourism destination in the world." He also said that they had plans to list the town in the Guinness Book of Records.
Prominent Yoruba ruler, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, said the festival "is a celebration of culture and recognition of Ibeji as special children in Yorubaland".
He said the birth of twins usually "heralds peace, progress, prosperity and good luck to their parents." The king added that parents should always take good care of them.
But while most of the world see twins as a blessing today, it has not always been the case in parts of southern Nigeria.
In pre-colonial times twins people often regarded twins as evil. They were either banished to the "evil forest" or killed. Scottish missionary Mary Slessor is widely credited with helping to curb the practice in the late 19th century.
Scientists have not said definitively why Igbo-Ora has such a high number of twins. But local residents have a theory that it is down to the diet of women in the town.
"Our people eat okra leaf or Ilasa soup with yam and amala (cassava flour)," community leader Samuel Adewuyi Adeleye told journalists.
Experts believe that yams contain gonadotropins, a chemical substance that helps women to produce multiple eggs.
"The water we drink also contributes to the phenomenon," Adeleye added.
Fertility experts are skeptical and point to another explanation. They say there is no proven link between diet and the high birth rate. This is because people consume the same food across the region.
"It's a genetic thing," said Emmanuel Akinyemi, the medical director of Lagos-based Estate Clinic.
"I think the gene for multiple births is in the region and this has been passed on from generation to generation."
If you're not from the Land of Twins and want to have twins, there's hope. Here are a few things you can do to make it happen:
- Take fertility medication.
- Eat foods rich in dairy and protein.
- Work with your doctor
And if you would like to do what they do at the self-acclaimed land of twins, eat lots of yams.