Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Idries J. Abdur-Rahman, MD

 

Why Nigeria?

Nigeria was our third and final stop on an 11-day adventure visiting three countries; Latvia, Holland and Nigeria. My brother and I were filming three episodes of our video travel blog called The Globe on Call.  As physicians by day and travel junkies by night, The Globe on Call is our attempt to marry the worlds of travel and medicine. Our first episode in Latvia examined alternative Latvian medicine ranging from traditional Latvian sauna therapy to the cutting edge rapid alcohol and heroin detox industry using implanted medications that is drawing people from the world over. In Holland we documented the changing Dutch perception of sex and sex workers and we even had a chance to interview the world famous Folken twins. Our last stop was Nigeria where we investigated the high rate of twinning and had the opportunity to visit the so-called twin capitol of the world, the village of Igbo-Ora.

-If you are an aerophile like us, you will want to check out part 1 of our Latvian adventure, The Journey to Latvia, right HERE. 

-If you want to check out part 2 of our Latvian adventure detailing our time in Latvia, you can check it our right HERE. I think the blog is pretty cool but if you don’t want to take my word for it, click the link just to see the two headed dog!

-If you want to check out our episode of The Globe on Call in Latvia, you can right HERE.

-If you want to see how we got to Amsterdam, check-out Part 1 of our Amsterdam series featuring the airBaltic flight from Riga, you can right HERE

-You can read part 2 of our Amsterdam series detailing our time in Amsterdam right HERE

-If you want to see our episode of The Globe on Call in Amsterdam, click HERE

-If you want to start with Nigeria part 1-The journey to Lagos, click HERE

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Customs and Immigration was chaotic to say the least but with a little patience and about 10 pounds lost in sweat alone, we made it through the gauntlet and officially entered Nigeria.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And here is our proof of life pic as we waited for our guide Confidence to bring the car around. After 12 hours and 3,300 miles we had left the cold of northern Europe behind for the sweltering heat of sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Thankfully the ride into the city and the Four Points by Sheraton hotel was quick. Okay, you busted me!, clearly this picture was taken the following morning but you get the point, we were at the Four Points.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

After a long journey my two favorite things are a nice, hot shower and a comfy bed. Get your minds out of the gutter folks, there will be no shower pics here! Just take my word for it, a shower was definitely had before I sank into a deep sleep.

 

DAY 1-LAGOS:

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The next morning we were up and out nice and early and the day 1 agenda was simply to explore Lagos. I thought that this sign was a bit ironic if not timely given the subject matter of the movie Birth of a Nation and the fact that we were in Nigeria where according to Ancestry.com, the majority of our slave ancestors originated.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Our first stop was the Mekki market,…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

a huge open air market a short drive from the center of Lagos.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The Mekki market is frequented by locals and visitors alike and apparently had everything from fresh food and produce to…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

to clothing, sculptures and handicrafts.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

True confession, my brother is a bit of a sculpture, painting and antiques junkie. This meant that his was in hog heaven as he made multiple purchases that would unfortunately never make it home (more on that later).

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

While Jamil indulged in a little bit retail therapy, I decided to explore the neighborhood surrounding the market.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

You can keep your souvenir shopping, just give me a camera and a pair of comfortable shoes and I’m good to go.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

After more than an hour of shopping for Jamil and exploring for me, we rendezvoused at the car.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

It’s funny how people’s reality can truly feel like they are a world away when you learn about them from the comfort of your armchair. This sign was a stark reminder that the recent Ebola epidemic wasn’t a world away for a whole lot of people.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Our next stop was at a huge art store, whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment. Apparently it was quitting time as huge groups of people poured out of the nearby businesses to board buses to the center of the city.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Okee Dokee, clearly the store owners have beef with this lady. I’m guessing she is not someone you want to accept a check from.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The artwork in the store was absolutely phenomenal but the prices were a bit out of my range, I a feeling we were given the “rich” Americans price.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Oh well, at least I can admire my pictures of the artwork and that costs me nothing.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

After my brother indulged in a bit more retail therapy, we decided to call it a day and head back to the Four Points. After hours of walking, most of it in the hot sun, it was time for the gym, a shower and an early bedtime. Tomorrow we were heading out for a three day road trip so a little rest was a must.

 

DAY 2-BABCOCK UNIVERSITY AND THE BADAGRY SLAVE VILLAGE:

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The next morning again started bright and early when Confidence and his brother came in a black Ford Explorer to pick us up. The road trip was officially on and our first stop was Ikenne, Nigeria and Babcock University and specifically the Benjamin S Carson school of medicine. Yes, that Benjamin S. Carson.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

We went to the medical school to interview three high risk OB/GYN specialists about the phenomenon of twinning in Nigeria and specifically why Nigeria has such a high rate of twins.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Until recently Nigeria wore the crown for the country with the highest rate of twins. I say until recently because a few years ago Benin took that crown but Nigeria is still a solid #2 with a rate that is more twice that of the US.

 


You can check out our episode of The Globe on Call here that include our discussion with the good doctors.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

After our interview with the good doctors, we took a tour of the medical school and the hospital. I’m pretty sure this guy taught a few of my medical school classes. Oh yeah, just a lively as ever!

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The medical school and campus facilities were nice but I couldn’t help but to notice the huge disparity between healthcare in the so called developed and developing worlds.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The clinics were understandably packed given the volume of patients they see. All of the high risk patients from the smaller towns and villages come to Babcock university for their higher level of care.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Unfortunately Nigeria has not escaped the explosive HIV and AIDS epidemic that continues to cripple much of sub-Saharan African. In fact, Nigeria has the second highest HIV rate in the world with a little more than 3% of 15-49 year olds being infected.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Given the fact that Nigeria has one of the world’s lowest breastfeeding rates, there seems to be a major educational push stressing the importance of breastfeeding.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The hospital appeared to be just as busy as the clinics and while the infra-structure was definitely light years ahead of what patients would receive in the more rural areas, there is again a huge disparity between the facilities here and the facilities in places like the US and Europe.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

As if on cue, just as our guides told us about some of their challenges including frequent blackouts, a blackout occurred plunging the Emergency Room into near darkness. Most folks didn’t blink an eye or skip a beat.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The hospital wards were not air conditioned and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

with multiple beds to a room must definitely be tight quarters when full of patients.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Now what type of OB/GYN’s would we be if we didn’t check out the Labor and Delivery ward?

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Yep, apparently pregnancy works the same way no matter where you are and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

babies are born the same way as well, in stirrups.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Before we left we had to checkout the operating room or as the British and those with colonial British influence would call it, the operating theatre.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

After scrubbing…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

and giving the thumbs up for the camera,…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

it was time to explore the operating room. Now this felt more familiar. Having spent many a long day and sleepless night under those sweltering OR lights, place like this quickly feel like home.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Where is Blue Cross/Blue Shield or the NHS when you need them?

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Soon we were back in the Nigerian sunshine, taking in the last sights of Babcock University while…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

we waited for Confidence and the Ford Explorer to return.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

I wonder how many of these young school children will be amongst Nigeria’s next generation of medical professionals? And on that note we hopped in the Explorer and kept heading north towards Badagry and the Badagry Slave Village and Museum.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Badagry was one of the first slave ports in west Africa and many of the slaves that ultimately ended up in the Caribbean and the Americas passed through Badagry.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Though Badagry feels like a sleepy little town now,…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

I can only imagine the immense suffering that permeated this place for so many years.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Our first stop was the Badagry Slave Museum where…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

the local guide showed us the small cells where up to 40 slaves would be housed awaiting transport to the boat dock.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Imagine the misery of 40 human beings packed into one 4 foot X 4 foot cell with just a single window in the sweltering heat of sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The slaves were kept immobile with shackles like these and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

silent with masks like these.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

1847. That is when this well was dug by the slaves who inhabited this village awaiting their final fates.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

With 40 slaves to a cell, at full capacity this village housed 1,600 slaves in waiting.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

When the time for transport came, the slaves would be shackled to one another with neck chains and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

ankle chains.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And so we followed the same path so many of our ancestors were forced to take which started with a slow walk to the water’s edge where…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

a tiny boat waited for us. I’ve already admitted in past trip reports that my list of phobias is probably longer than the list of things that don’t scare me. Well, water and by extension rickety boats on the water, are on that list of things that I just don’t like.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

As we approached the water’s edge, I threw caution to the wind and hopped into the boat (and by hopped I mean very, very carefully inched my way into the boat hoping to not feel it move, not  even a little bit).

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Another proof of life pic. See, I really did get on the boat and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

seeing those life jackets next to my brother who was filming B-roll definitely made me feel a wee bit better.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Thankfully the seas were fairly calm that day and the journey to the other side…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

only took about ten sweaty palmed and slightly nauseaous minutes.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

We were now on Gberefu island, the last piece of African land that hundreds of thousands of slaves ever set sight upon.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The scenery was beautiful but the air as definitely thick and heavy with despair.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

As we slowly retraced the steps of so many of our forefathers, the sign said it all.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Halfway along the path is The Attenuation Well. The water in this well was said to have been poisoned with sedatives that would ensure the cooperation of the slaves for the last mile or so of their march to oppression.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And this was it, the…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Point of No Return. This is where the journey to that unknown destination of tears, pain and for many death truly began.

 

Walking that path to The Point go No Return.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The physical beauty of this location really served as a stark contrast to…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

it’s vile past.

 

Because of the sacrifice of our ancestors, we were able to walk back from The Point of No Return.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And yes, even here, there is a tiny souvenir shop. Haha, gotta love the free market!

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And I couldn’t help myself, I had to be that selfie taking American tourist. Luckily, no one else was around to see this shameful scene, well, except for the cow and he ain’t talkin’.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And neither are they.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

This cute little boy from the nearby village kept following us around. Too bad we had a language barrier.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

We reached the waterside just as another boat arrived with…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

returning villagers.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And with that, we were off! Our next stop was Igbo-Ora, aka the Twin Capitol of the World.

 

DAYS 3 AND 4 IGBO-ORA:

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The journey to Igbo-Ora took hours as we passed through…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

smaller cities and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

towns…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

police check points. I think these police check points were as much about bribes as they were security. By the time we got to this check point our driver had reached his limit. As soon as the good officer asked for a bribe our frustrated driver pealed away which prompted the officer to raise and point his gun. At that point I’m pretty sure I pee’ed my pants, just a bit.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Our only stop along the way was for Jollof rice and while nothing is worth dying for, this rice was pretty damn close!

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

We finally arrived Igbo-Ora in the late afternoon and…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

went directly to our rooming house.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

This was unfortunately the only game in town and lets just say…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

the Hilton it was not. One very sleepless night later, it was time to hit the town and start filming.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Our first stop was the clinic of a traditional medicine man who would not share his proprietary herbal blends but…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

he was more than willing to tell us about his decades of caring for mothers and new babies including this set of twins he recently helped to deliver. As to why Nigeria has so many twins? He believes it is a combination of cassava and local herbs.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

As stark as the contrast was between the facilities that I am used to and those at Babcock University, the contrast between this village birthing center and anything that I ever seen was truly like night and day.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Here we had the opportunity to meet another new mom who, you guessed it, had recently given birth to twins!

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Igbo-Ora is lucky that it has birthing centers no matter how rudimentary, but I still could not help but feel guilty about the chasm in medical care that people receive based simply upon where they are born.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

We were lucky enough to be invited to a traditional baby naming ceremony, so after leaving the village birthing center, our next stop was a small home packed with well wishers lavishing money and blessing upon one of the communities newest additions.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

True enough I don’t speak a word of Igbo but taking in the scene, I got the vibe.

 

Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Now, our mission was to figure out why Nigeria has such a high rate of twinning and there was no way that we could leave Igbo-Ora before visiting the local Witch Doctor. Now before you chastise me, I actually had some consternation about using the term Witch Doctor myself, but I was told that this is not considered a slur so yeah, we went to ask the Witch Doctor for his opinion about the cause of Nigeria’s high rate of twinning.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Before giving his answer, the Witch Doctor actually held a quick naming ceremony for us and then he consulted the oracle with the question. His answer was simple, Nigeria has such a high rate of twinning because the oracle deemed it to be.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Now, there was no way that we could leave Igbo-Ora with exploring the town a little bit and of course…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

without getting our grooves on.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Let me tell you, there is no party like a post-naming ceremony party in Igbo-Ora.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The dancing went on well after sunset and they didn’t even mind the strange but familiar looking guys from America joining in.

 

And party we did until our little feet couldn’t party anymore. Soon it was time to turn in for one last night in Igbo-Ora before setting out for Lagos early the next morning.

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

I have to admit that a small part of me fell in love with Igbo-Ora.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

I can’t pretend that I could live in a world without wifi and central air conditioning but…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

I can appreciate the beauty of a slower pace and a very community oriented way of life.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

Family seems to play a huge role in Igbo-Ora life from the cradle to…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

the grave. Even in death, loved ones tend to remain with their families.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

From the neighborhoods filled with dust roads and corrugated tin roofs…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

to the statue at the center of town, Igbo-Ora was an experience that I will likely never forget.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

And even in Igbo-Ora, Sundays are made for housework.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

As we left town we stopped to take a picture next to the sign bidding everyone a “Goodbye” from Igbo-Ora, the home of twins when…

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

an armed Army solider walked over to us and asked to take a picture.

 

Nigeria-Twinning and the Slave Trade (Part 2-Exploring Nigeria)

The ride back to Lagos took close to five hours and by the time we arrived the Four Points, I was ready to take a quick shower and fall into bed. Tomorrow we were heading back home to Chicago via Frankfurt.

 

-If you are an aerophile like us, you will want to check out part 1 of our Latvian adventure, The Journey to Latvia, right HERE. 

-If you want to check out part 2 of our Latvian adventure detailing our time in Latvia, you can check it our right HERE. I think the blog is pretty cool but if you don’t want to take my word for it, click the link just to see the two headed dog!

-If you want to check out our episode of The Globe on Call in Latvia, you can right HERE.

-If you want to see how we got to Amsterdam, check-out Part 1 of our Amsterdam series featuring the airBaltic flight from Riga, you can right HERE

-You can read part 2 of our Amsterdam series detailing our time in Amsterdam right HERE

-If you want to see our episode of The Globe on Call in Amsterdam, click HERE

-If you want to start with Nigeria part 1-The journey to Lagos, click HERE