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HistoryThe mystery of Igbo Ora: How a Nigerian town became the 'Twin...

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The mystery of Igbo Ora: How a Nigerian town became the ‘Twin capital of the world’

Imagine a town where almost every household has at least one set of twins. Where the sight of two identical faces is so common that no one bats an eye. Where the local greeting is “Iba oloye”, meaning “greetings to the twins”. 

In the heart of southwestern Nigeria lies this town. A place where the birth of twins defies statistical norms and captivates the imagination of visitors and researchers alike.  

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Welcome to Igbo Ora, a serene community nestled in the Oyo State, known as the “Twin Capital of the World.” Here, an astonishingly high rate of twin births  has earned the town a reputation that stretches far beyond its borders.

Igbo Ora is located about 80 kilometres north of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. It has a population of about 278,514 people, according to a 2017 estimate based on the 2006 census The town is also home to the Oyo State College of Agriculture and a High Court of Justice. But what makes Igbo Ora stand out from other towns is its remarkable reputation as the “twin capital”.

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A woman with her twin baby girls | Image Source: BattaBox (YouTube)

According to a study conducted by a British gynaecologist, Patrick Nylander, between 1972 and 1982, the average number of twins per 1000 live births in southwest Nigeria was 45 to 50, compared to the global average of roughly 13 twins per 1,000 births.

Igbo Ora’s unique status has attracted attention from scientists, anthropologists, and curious individuals eager to unravel the secrets behind this extraordinary occurrence. The town’s reputation has grown so significant that it has become a tourist attraction in its own right, drawing visitors from far and wide who yearn to witness the marvel of twin births first-hand.What lies behind this statistical anomaly, one may ask.

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Various theories attempt to explain the remarkable prevalence of twins in Igbo Ora. Some, including the locals, attribute it to the diet of the local population, rich in yams, a crop believed to contain properties that stimulate ovulation and increase the chances of multiple births. Others point to the genetic predisposition of the Yoruba people, the dominant ethnic group in the region, suggesting that certain genes prevalent in this community contribute to the high twinning rate.

However, beyond these theories, Igbo Ora’s fascination with twins runs deep within its cultural fabric. Twins are considered a divine blessing, with locals celebrating their arrival through unique ceremonies and festivals. 

Families often regard them as a sign of prosperity and good fortune. As a result, the town has become a nurturing environment for twins, where they are cherished and embraced by a community that takes immense pride in their presence.

The town’s inhabitants have even developed distinct names for twins, reflecting their reverence for this extraordinary phenomenon. The festival also aims to promote tourism and attract investment to the town.

However, scientific evidence for these claims is scarce and inconclusive. Some researchers suggest that genetics may play a role, as twinning tends to run in families and among certain ethnic groups. The Yoruba people, who make up the majority of Igbo Ora’s population, have a higher frequency of dizygotic or fraternal twins than other groups. These are twins who develop from two separate eggs fertilized by two different sperm cells.

Other factors that may influence twinning include maternal age, parity, fertility treatments and environmental conditions. However, none of these can fully explain why Igbo Ora has such an exceptional concentration of twins. More studies are needed to unravel the mystery of this town’s remarkable reproductive feat.

In recent years, the global spotlight has turned towards Igbo Ora, with media outlets and researchers seeking to shed light on the secrets of this twin capital. The BBC and other international news organizations have explored the town, capturing the essence of its vibrant culture and the awe-inspiring frequency of twin births.

However there are other towns in the world where twinning is frequent, including Cândido Godói, Brazil, Mohammadpur Umri, India, Abu Atwa Ismaila, Egypt and Podgora, Croatia.

Four (4) sets of twins in Cândido Godói, posing in a photo with an elderly woman. Image source: BBC News (Youtube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YxjdfP4qBU

These towns, with their diverse cultural and genetic backgrounds, encompass a remarkable commonality: an elevated incidence of twins that surpasses the global average. It is intriguing to ponder how their unique heritage and intrinsic traits intertwine, potentially influencing this extraordinary phenomenon.

Nonetheless, the fascination with Igbo Ora’s twins extends beyond scientific curiosity and media coverage. Igbo Ora’s twins are a source of joy and pride for their families and community. They are also a testament to the diversity and richness of Nigeria’s culture and heritage.

Source: The Independent Ghana

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