Born on March 13, 1913 in Okun-Owa, near Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, twin sisters, Taiwo Olukoya and Kehinde Ogunde, tell OLUFEMI ATOYEBI and GBENGA ADENIJI the story of their life as they clock 100 years.
How did you know your age?
Kehinde: There was proper documentation to that effect. Our children also keep records of our ages. One of them recently celebrated 70 years and it dawned on me that the two of us must be very old.
What currency were you spending when you were trading?
Kehinde: We were spending pounds. That was the valid currency during that period.
You have lived across two centuries. How did you react to the many changes it has brought, including currency changes? Taiwo: We knew there was new currency because people started spending it. The old one was no longer tenable, so we started using the new currency. We were old when the latest change was made to the naira but we know the difference.
Kehinde: We change with the world. It is difficult to tell how it happened but we move with it all the time even though we had little education.
Can you still recall those things you did while you were young?
Kehinde: Our growing up was normal like every other child. Our father was from Ijebu-Ode, royal family, so we spent part of our childhood in Ijebu-Ode but when we attained the school age, our parents enrolled us at St. Barnabas Primary School, Okun-Owa. We did not study for too long because after our primary education, we started trading in ceramic plates in Lagos, which was a big business in those days.
Who introduced you to the business so early?Kehinde: We did not learn the trade formally. Even though we did not study beyond the primary school, we were successful businesswomen. God blessed us with talent of the trade and the strength to compete in the market. Ceramic plate was popular in those days and many women traded in it at the time. We had a younger one who assisted us in finding a store in Berger, Lagos when we decided to move to the city.
How successful were you in the business?
Kehinde: We became rich young women and because we were twins, people liked to do business with us. We were honest with our customers so they did not have any reason to doubt our sincerity. I built two houses in Lagos and another two in Ibadan while Taiwo built three houses in Ibadan.
What were the challenges you had in your business due to lack of proper education?
Taiwo: There was no difference. We coped with every challenge that came with the business and moreover, we were focussed on what we were doing.
At what age did you marry and how did you meet your husbands?
Taiwo: I got married at the age of 21. My husband, Olukoya, was in Ilesha when I was told about him. His aunt, Iyalode, called me and said that he would like me to marry Olukoya, who was working as a cashier with UAC. She was a respected woman in Ijebu and the family is well-known in the land. After the marriage, we settled in Osogbo, Osun State, and God blessed the marriage with good children who are excelling in their chosen careers today. Some of them later travelled out of the country to study and work there. My husband was born on February 14, 1910 and he died on August 7, 2007.
Where are the children now?
Taiwo: My first child was Olusegun, who is now late, then I had Adebola, who is a successful businessman in Nigeria. Iyabo is married to Adewuyi. She studied and worked in the US before retiring as a matron in a hospital. She is around now but she frequents the US for personal reasons. Adeyemi came after her but he is late also. Opeolu works and lives in the UK, the last time he called, he said he is in London. Babatunde is the youngest of all my children who lives in the US.
What trade did you settle for when you got married?
Taiwo: I continued with my ceramic plate business in Osogbo. But when my husband was transferred to Ibadan, I moved with him and continued with my business there. From the proceeds of the business, I started building houses in the city. Kehinde also joined me in Ibadan so we had a joint venture. We were so popular because of our identical looks and it helped our business.
Kehinde: I got married at the age of 20. One of our family members told me that there was a married man called Olukoga who was looking for a younger wife. He worked with the Nigeria Railway Corporation. The person told me that he was older and I said I would marry him if he would be responsible for the care of our children and the family. I based my submission on the belief that even if I were financially incapable to train our children, he would be there for them.
We got married and were living happily as husband and wife. I had three children for him but only one survived. The other two children died of convulsion. One of them actually died in Ijebu-Ode when I came for a family function. He went into convulsion and we could not save him. When my husband heard of it, he came from Ilorin to meet me. I was still a young woman when my husband died and he left me with the pregnancy of our last child, who died two years after his birth.
You later married Chief Hubert Ogunde. How did you meet him?
Kehinde: Ogunde met my twin sister one day and asked about me because he knew me as a young woman. Taiwo then told him that I had just lost my husband. He got my address and came to look for me. He later proposed to marry me and since I was single and still young, I agreed to be his wife. I met his other wives and children after our marriage.
What was the relationship between you and Ogunde like?
Kehinde: We lived together as couple and I had a great time with him. He was a great man but he died too soon. Unfortunately, there was no child between us. That was the painful aspect of it all. When he died, I decided to commit everything into God’s hands.
Which of your friends are you still in contact with?
Taiwo: All the friends I knew from childhood are dead now. One was my namesake, Esther. There was also Alice who was close to us. Some of them died early in life. Some barely made it to 60 before they died. It is by the grace of God that we are 100 years old and still healthy. We give God the glory.
Kehinde: We are too old to look for friends or visit them. Like Taiwo said, we could be the last surviving people from that group of friends that started playing together more than 90 years ago.
Apart from trading in ceramic plates, what other vocation did you learn?
Taiwo: I once enrolled as a sewing apprentice at a fashion institute. But after graduating and working for some time, I noticed that the profession was not generating much money compared to trading in ceramic plates, so I abandoned it and faced the trade fully.
How did people react whenever they saw the two of you in those days?
Kehinde: People treated us well because we are identical twins. Some individuals sometimes would stop us to say hello and give us money. We used to accept them with gratitude because we knew that it was their way of appreciating us.
When did you quit trading in ceramic plates?
Taiwo: We quit the trade many years ago.
You are old now but how do you supervise the houses you built?
Kehinde: We have tenants in the houses and our children have taken over the maintenance of those houses. They still bring rent to us.
Taiwo: The houses are now for our children but they still bring rent to us.
What kind of training did you give your children?
Taiwo: Our idea of training children is not to spank but to show them love when they go wrong. We constantly made them to see the need to exhibit good behaviour and composed attitude anywhere they go. They did not disappoint us in this regard. And today, this is manifesting in their way of life and the way they interact with others.
I also prayed to God to open the mind of my children so that they would accept Him and all the training they have had. This is a key element in the training of children. The way they were trained is what now guides them in the training of their own children. I am really happy about this.
How did you dress as young girls?
Taiwo: Kehinde and I wore the same attire, even till now. If any of our children buys anything, it must be for the two of us. No child will buy anything that is not in pair because our children know that we wear the same dress. But when we were in our early years we used to put on up-and-down dress, high-heel shoes, jewellery and whenever we wore native attire, we complemented with headgears and beads.
How do you settle your quarrels?
Kehinde: We always speak with one voice because we are too fond of each other. We have no reason to disagree. Our friends in those days knew that the intimacy was so strong and many of them envied us. We did everything jointly and were always happy being together. As we grew older, the closeness became stronger.