Mary Slessor Did Not Stop Killing Of Twins In Nnewi
Not all twins were killed during the pre-colonial era in Igbo land
Unknown to many Nnewi people, it was not Mary Slessor that stopped killing of twins in Nnewi. We had a way around that wicked tradition.
As early as 1700s Nnewi people had started questioning the propriety of throwing away twins or babies of multiple births. Some families had perfected plans they used to rig the awful tradition even before the very date the ancestors amended the tradition through the intervention of the whiteman.
A typical case of not adhering to the tradition of dumping of newly born twins happened right in the house of Obi Udude (also known as Eze Ọnọọlụ) when his first son, Ezeagha was on the throne.
Ezeagha was the first Ọnụọra or field marshal of Nnewi even as he doubled as the town’s traditional ruler.
The wife of Ezeagha’s younger brother named Uduji, nwaọkpụ or native of Eziabụbọ Nnewichi was due to deliver after months of troublesome pregnancy.
The size of her stomach worries Ezenwa, her husband and the younger brother of Ezeagha, the Obi Nnewi.
It was not her first pregnancy but her stomach was more protruding than her previous pregnancies. This made everyone to suspect that Madam Uduji’s current pregnancy would yield more than one baby. But there thought of that was a bad omen.
Madam Uduji, a very rich trader, would not take any chances.
She had a contingency plan.
She would never accept carrying a pregnancy for nine months and go empty handed.
So, she chose her trusted friend as midwife and ensured that women with salty tongues were not near her delivery place.
At that time, only women were allowed at a delivery place which was usually a makeshift spot condoned off with wrappers.
Not every woman could deliver a pregnant woman. There were some skilled woman that undertook such tasks for a fee. This trait, like native medicine, was transferred from mother to daughters or was learnt via apprenticeship.
Just after when the chicken had gone home to roost, Madam Uduji was delivered of two baby boys.
“Keep this one and take the frail one to the evil forest; at agreed spot”, Uduji directed her accomplice matrons or ndị na ana nwa even at the pangs of pains.
And they took one of the boys to the ajọ ọfịa or evil forest with strict instructions to cover him well.
A message was sent to the menfolk that Uduji had been delivered of a male child and nothing more.
But, Uduji’s husband, Ezenwa was in the loop.
By nothing but better discribed as providence, the preferred baby died a day after.
And the “discarded” was brought back as a replacement for the dead baby that got a secret burial.
It was a palace secret to date.
But the frail looking twin baby grew into a lovely and hardworking boy. He was very intelligent and compassionate, so loved by his uncle, Obi Ezeagha that he took him as his own son and taught him fighting or war waging skills.
It then happened that when one renegade warrior and a very deadly native doctor named Ezeakpọ who hailed from Ezeikwuabo, inflicted the biological sons of Ezeagha with a condition that made their father consider them unfit to succeed him, Ezeagha summoned the elders and isi obis or first of the first sons of Nnewi and told them that whenever he died that they should recognise Ifeluonye as the ruler or Obi of Nnewi.
Only a ruler or an Obi in Nnewi can anoint his successor who could be any of his sons or nephews otherwise, his first will naturally succeed his father as the Obi.
It came to be that Ifeluonye, that surviving twin, who later took the ọzọ title of Ezeoguine (meaning a compassionate king), my father’s great-great-great grandfather was approved by the gods to mount the saddle of the Obi or ruler of Nnewi.
Not only did Ezeoguine become the most successful Nnewi ruler in history, he too like his uncle became an ọnụọra or a military field marshal who expanded Nnewi’s boundaries beyond what he inherited from his uncle, Ezeagha.
So, about early 1700s, Ndị Nnewi had seen through the Igbowide stupidity of killing or throwing twins into evil forests hence many families took various measures to save their twin children.
At that time too, some childless women roamed the evil forests in the town to scavenge for babies dumped by not so smart families.
By being smart, my matriarch, Uduji ensured that my lineage came to be. I’m today because she outsmarted an awful tradition.