Three years after Mr Gilbert Chikwendu Obi, a.k.a (Gili), one of the oldest most-sought after identical twins in Imo State, passed unto glory at the age of 80 years, his surviving twin brother, Gideon Chukwuemeka Obi, has not recovered from the shock of his demise.
Gideon in this interview relived how he lived with his late twin brother, their similar characteristics that affected their day-to-day living, saying that the birthday of their children fell under the same period.
‘It is exactly three years that my beloved twin brother departed this world,” Gideon told this reporter.
Amidst sobs, he waited, wiped his tears and asked, “Where would I start from? Do you know things have fallen apart? All that we do together has stopped abruptly. Life has shown me its true colour in many ways.
“We have not been separated for once in our lives since our mother gave birth to us, none of us travelled or lived in the cities as was the practice then. We had always lived and operated from the same house since our birth. We slept on one bed all our lives, but marriage separated our beds and bedrooms. Gilbert’s death is the most shocking thing that has happened to me in life because I thought two of us would have died the same time.
That I would step out of my room every morning without seeing him stepping out from his own room to discuss how we slept is still a shock to me after three years. We ate twice a day; one of the wives would cook in the morning while the next one would cook in the evening. Now, when the food is served, I would start looking for my brother, he would be nowhere to be found.”
Pa Gideon broke down with tears flowing down his cheeks as he spoke to this reporter.
“At 80 when we retired, (pointing towards the terrace) that has been our relaxing position, we sit here all day exchanging greetings with people, today, I am forced to sit their alone and being pitied.
“Year 2015 was my first Christmas without my brother since 1935 and it was no Christmas for me. For the first time, his children and my own children bought Christmas gifts for me alone; it was quite confusing seeing just a pair of item when ordinarily, it would have been two pairs.
“Loneliness has really taken a toll on me I must confess. I mourned my brother with complete set of white apparel, and clean-shaven unlike our heavy white moustache we wore alike when he was alive. I must confess to you that life has not been the same since his demise.”
Ask Pa Gideon if he had any premonition of his brother’s death, he retorted: “Not at all, he took ill and was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri. We went together and for the first time in his life, he was admitted in the hospital.
“I spent the whole day with him and left in the night while his son slept with him. The next day, I was in my room when he called me around 9:00p.m to tell me he has recovered fully. Shortly after that telephone conversation, I stepped out and saw a shadow of him at our relaxing space and took a quick look to be sure he was the one, but he disappeared. It didn’t disturb me because we just had an interesting telephone conversation, which I broke to our wives and they were very happy.”
It was not an easy task breaking the news to his twin brother, but nevertheless, the information was managed by respected community leaders.
How was the news of his death broken to you?
“After that telephone call the previous night, my mind was strong and made. I went to bed peacefully not knowing that my brother had gone to be with his maker in the middle of the night and the news had made waves in the village. I was the last to have the facts.
“Unexpectedly, about 6:30a.m the next day, my home was crowded with our eldest kinsman, Sir Eneremanu and our Anglican Cleric who came looking for me that early. We all sat down and Sir Eneremanu asked the priest to pray; while the prayers were going on, tears began to gather in crescendos and that was how the news was broken to me.
“I almost died that day. My brother died of cardiac arrest. During his burial ceremonies, most of our people refused my seeing his body because it is a taboo for twins to see each other’s corpse, I insisted on seeing him as approved by my Anglican priest, he led me to where he was laid and I went to pay my last respect to my blood.” The amazing world of the Obi twins
Gideon and Gilbert remained an identical wonder to many within and outside their environs. A first timer would find it a bit difficult to identify them because of their identical nature as they have the same facial structure, size, carve of their whitish curly moustache. Their shape, height, skin colour, compulsory uniform and even the trace of the show of the vein on their head also remained a mirage.
Looking at them in admiration reminds one of the dark ages when the birth of twins was forbidden, which makes it a must for one to appreciate the efforts of the great missionary worker Mary Slessor who fought and won the battle against the murder of twins.
The Obi twins were born on July 11th, 1935 into the family of Mr John and Mrs Beatrice Obi of blessed memory in Ezesara-Emohe, Emii in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State. Pa Gideon when asked if there was any incident that surrounded or resulted in their birth as a set of twin when it was a taboo to have twins in Igbo land, the octogenarian said: “Our late mother told us that she gave birth to us in an open place on a very rainy day because there were no hospitals as at that time.
“The midwives were the local women who were also the traditional birth attendants as was the practice then. These women were shattered the moment they noticed the ‘abomination’ (the birth of twins), leaving our mother and her abominable twins under the heavy down pour. The moment the news of the taboo filtered into the village, the people quickly gathered and surrounded mother and babies with palm fronds ready to kill us under that heavy rain as was expected.
“Mercifully, words got to our Anglican cleric father, John Obi, who was in church. He hurried down to the scene and saw his wife in tears with her set of tiny twin baby boys struggling for survival in that scenario; all ready to be sent to their early grave. Like a brave warrior fighting to drop his last blood, he quickly cut off the palm fronds and threatened fire and brimstone to anyone who would lay his or her finger on his wife and children.
“That was how we were saved from the hands of our own kinsmen. We would have been killed within minutes of our birth.”
With the death of their father in 1941, when they were just six, their mother took the mantle of leadership and trained them until they became men. After their graduation from high school, the twins inspired by an article on World Trade, requiring direct marketing strategies for professional marketers, registered as correspondents.
“Our tutor was Anthony Wedge of London. In some of the materials he sent to us, ambassadors of various countries, drug manufacturers’ addresses and names were included.”
And after a year training period through correspondence, Gideon and Gilbert began to deal in drugs for ulcer, whooping cough and tuberculosis with inscription (cost in the factory) CIF and FOB (free on board).
According to Gideon, “as orders were being placed, our goods were sent directly to us with price lists and we fixed suitable prices.”
Their trade made them very popular and sought after within and outside their neighbouring communities. They were the first importers of western medication in Owerri and its environs then. Business boomed until the civil war broke out which disrupted their trade.
The twins had no shop or warehouse; but rode on their bicycles with same gesticulation either slowly or a bit fast but similar dynamism on the pedals of their bicycles. Yet, they made money, name and fame through their business.
“We hawked and supplied our drugs through all the refugee camps in this community during the civil war. By estimate, we walked a distance of 30kilometers in a day and covered 60kilometers on bicycle. We did that for 50 years of our lives. We used to leave the house at 6:00a.m and return by 11:00p.m on a daily basis,” Pa Gideon said.
According to him, it was during the boom of their business that they got married. While he met his wife in her father’s house his late brother Gilbert met and married Margaret as a choir member.
Both had their white wedding same day but the traditional marriage rites could not hold same day because of logistics though they shared the same wedding cake on the same table.
On whether they had ever quarrelled? Gideon said: “What on earth would cause a quarrel between us? Not even our wives. For us here ‘we share a common purse, we do not womanize, we drink together, we eat from same pot, we buy and wear same clothes at all times. Again, we have no friends and no foes and do everything together; so what could cause our problems?”
About their wives, Gideon said that they were pure twins in and out and in perfect control of their homes. “The few times they tried to quarrel in their younger years in marriage, together we would beat the erring wife without minding whose wife she was. We did it many times and the women cautioned themselves till date. We also made our wives understand that we eat according to first ready, first served.”
He said that the condition made the two women sit up in their responsibilities, saying that “we eat one’s food in the morning hours and the other later in the evening. Our women found themselves in tight corners because we were in charge and must be pleased at all times.”
Interestingly, the two wives gave birth to nine children each, making a total of 18 children for the two men. More interesting is the fact that their wives deliver babies within days apart from each other. All their children came in pairs and each pair have birthday within days.
Of the 18 children, 16 are married with children; you then agree that their grandchildren is better imagined as all are compelled to reside in a storey building that was erected by the twins in their heyday.