Before August 18, 1945, killing twin babies was an acceptable practice among the Ilaje people in present day Ilaje Local Government Area. Up until then, new born twins were killed the very day they were born because they were thought to be capable of bringing misfortune to the entire community.
The babies were either slaughtered or thrown into the river because it was believed that the mother must have been visited by evil spirits or she cheated on her husband. Alternatively, she must have committed a taboo against the land. The penalty in either cases was to kill the babies to forestall any evil occurrence against the community.
Besides the killing of the twins, the ‘unfortunate’ mother was made to face series of punishments as well as perform some sacrifice to appease the spirits.
The fight to end the killing of twins in Ilaje began in 1940 when some members of the community converted from their traditional religions to Christianity. The new believers, who became known as the ‘Apostles’ began the campaign against the age long practice and made efforts for the people to see twin children as the creation of God.
It was a war between the Apostles and the powerful Oro cult group in Ilaje. The Oro cult was responsible for the killing of twins and for cleansing the land of the evil the twins purported brought on it.
Many members of the Apostles were said to have been maimed, persecuted, and sent to jail by the Oro cult leadership until a pronouncement by the British colonial authority in 1945 that declared it a crime to kill twins in the land.
Last week, Ilaje leaders rolled out the drums to celebrate what they termed freedom of the twins.
The traditional ruler of Ayetoro community and the Spiritual Head of the Holy Apostles Church, Oba Micah Olaseni Ajijo, the Ogeloyinbo of Ayetoro, said the celebration of the freedom of twins anniversary was meant to mark victory over darkness and remember the good works of the holy Apostles who lay down their lives to end the killing of twins.
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Oba Ajijo, who spoke at a special thanksgiving service at the Holy Apostles Church, Ayetoro in Ilaje Local Government Area, urged the people to remember that freedom of twins was made possible by the struggle of ‘the Apostles’.
He recalled that twin babies got their freedom to life on August 18,1945 and the people of the community came to be known as The Happy City. Incidentally, the first set of twins that were saved by the Apostles are still alive and even attended the thanksgiving service. They were said to have been saved because the Apostles hid them in the bush alongside their mother.
Ironically, their father was a member of the Oro cult and was bent on having them executed, hence the babies were kept in the bush for many days.
His words: “The movement of the Apostles to stop the killing of twins in Ilaje land started in 1943. From 1943 to 1945, many of the Apostles were taken to court, prosecuted and sentenced to jail.
“However, in one of the court cases, the custodians of the Oro cult in Ilaje, who were the traditional chiefs both in Mahin and Ugbo kingdoms, denied the allegation leveled against them by the Apostles that they were killing twins, and this gave the Apostles the courage to pursue their mission.
“In 1945, they successfully fought against the killing of twins by saving the lives of the oldest twins in Ilaje land today – Taiwo and Kehinde Ejagbomo nee Erukubami, who were officially and legally recorgnised as the first twins in Ilaje who survived the killing of twins by the Oro cult.
“They were born in 1945, and in line with the extant practice, they were taken into the bush and hidden for several days with their mother, and they successfully escaped to where the Apostles were securing and caring for them.
“It is time for me to tell the story of our forefather to our children; that despite the tribulation, they did not relent in fighting against the good work of God and stop the killing of twins.
“The killing of twins was stopped by leaders in this community, and it was this struggle that led to creation of this Ayetoro community.
“On the 18th of August 1943, the British Authority agreed with our fathers and said the killing of twins should not be practised in Ilaje land, and that was the end. That was what brought all the twins in Ilaje to life. So we celebrate life, the achievement of our people and the word of God. This is why the church is very happy.”
Speaking on the importance of the celebration, Oba Ajijo said: “The essence of today’s thanksgiving is to glorify God for the work of our forefathers who established this community which made God and the people happy.
“The works of our forefathers were based on truth and faith, and any work that is built on truth and faith must be based on the word of God; on the commandment that says ‘thou shall not kill’.
“In the book of Exodus, this is one of the serious parts of God’s commandments. And you must understand that when God created every other thing, God was saying I command until He wanted to create man. He called the Holy Spirit and His son and told them ‘let us create man in our own image and likeness’.
“In the early 1940s, to ensure that twins’ lives were saved, our fathers embarked on the fight and crusade against the killing of twins. In Ilaje land, it was an abomination to give birth to twins. The twins in the land were all killed until our forefathers fought for this ugly tradition to be stopped.
“The oldest twin in the whole of this Ilaje Local Government Area is in this Ayetoro community. He is a product of the good work of God. This is one of the reasons we celebrate twins to appreciate the good work of the Apostles who fought and halted the ugly development in our land.
“These Apostles based their agitations against the killing of twins on the commandment of God that thou shall not kill. Our joy is that the Apostles followed this word of God, preached to the people, fought to stop the killings and God supported and answered their prayers and they overcame.
“Although some of these Apostles were sent to jail by the local authorities, they did not relent because they believed in their cause and said this is based on the truth that you shall not kill, as directed by God.
“The work of God is based on truth, and this might be one of the reasons God supported them and gave them the strength to fight the cause.
“Today, we celebrate them. We bring our children together to tell the history of how our forefathers helped in stopping the killing of twins in Ilaje land, just like Mary Slessor did.”
One of the first surviving twins, Pa Andrew Kehinde Ejeagbomo, aged 76, said he would ever be grateful to the early Apostles of Ilaje who fought against the killing of twins in the entire Ilaje land.
Pa Kehinde said his father was a leading member of the Oro cult who believed that twins were children of abomination and should be killed, while his mother was a member of the Holy Apostle Church who did not believe in the killing of twins.
He said his father was in a dilemma when his wife gave birth to twins.
He said: “God made it possible for people like us to be alive today. If not for God and the Apostles, I would have been dead some 76 years ago. But the Apostles took us and my mother into custody and here we are today.
“The killing of twins then was paramount in Ilaje because it was a tradition that no one must give birth to twins.
“Those that stopped the killing were the founders of the Ayetoro church known as the Holy Apostle Church. The church was against the killing of twins.
“They preached that it is a sin to kill.
“I can confirm to you that I have two sets of twins and three of my children have given birth to twins. One of them gave birth to twins thrice. We thank God for the Apostles.”
Another twin, Mrs Kehinde Owoyele, said: “I am very happy to be alive today. Some years back, it was a taboo for twin children to be alive in Ayetoro. So, the annual celebration is to commemorate the stoppage of the killing of twins and celebrate twins in the community.
“After giving birth to twins in Ilaje, the twins would be tied in both hands and legs, wrapped in a fishing net and thrown into the Atlantic Ocean.
“After killing the twins, the mothers who gave birth to them would be fined. The fines used to come in form of kegs of palm oil, tubers of yam, kolanuts, alligator pepper and bush meat, among others.
“It was the apostles who came and stopped the killings. They also ensured that all the twins in the community engaged in annual thanksgiving to celebrate their survival.”
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