By Fred Iwenjora
When she was born July 25, 1953, former Miss Wariboko Davis made great news because she was conjoined with her sister. Newspapers in Nigeria and worldwide celebrated her birth just like they celebrated her survival after the surgery to separate them. Now Mrs. Wariboko Oki, she celebrated her 62 birthday recently and speaks.
Her only “sister” Bridget and “ parents” Mr. and Mrs. Jituboh also join in her songs of thanksgiving. Please enjoy.
How do you really feel when you are recognized worldwide as Nigeria’s number one surviving Siamese twin?
I feel very good and thankful to God for keeping me alive all these years. God has been very faithful to me and with me because he has made me fulfill my life till now. All the people I have known are also thankful to God for my life and feel good that they know me. Indeed I thank God so much.
What do you recall of this your life from the early times. When did you begin to realize that you have a very peculiar life?
I started to know that I am peculiar from primary school. I think I was in primary one when I started noticing this peculiarity. I was six years old when people won’t let me be. They always tell me to lift my dress so they could see the scar on my chest and tummy. At a time, when the disturbance became almost unbearable, I started asking them to pay before I would do that. I have a classmate then Mrs Adegoke with whom I share all those fond memories of my childhood. Beyond that, I discovered that every one treated me differently and with a kind of peculiarity but I was not sure what that was about. Daddy and mummy Mr and Mrs Jituboh were very careful about my diet and about whatever they gave to me. Daddy would not want any one to touch me anyhow. Even when fellow children played with me and I was not happy, Daddy would warn such people to stop making me sad. Even at 62, Mr. and Mrs. Jituboh who raised me still treat me as that same baby I have always been to them since 1953. They still ask me whether I have eaten just like they did many years ago. To them, I am not 62 but still that Wariboko kid whom God gave to them in such circumstances. They have remained very caring parents to me and I won’t forget that.
When did you have the guts to ask them about the scar?
It was later. I did not ask them just like that but I started to understand my history as life went on. Pressmen and women have always been part of my life. They used to come to the house every now and then to ask about me and to talk to me. I had several preferences throughout my school days so I can’t say I asked any questions about my circumstances but stared to imbibe them as I grew up.
So what and what did you imbibe?
I learnt that I was born 25 July 1953 to Veronica Davis who was then a staff of the UAC. She had me and my sister conjoined. I also learnt with the photos I have seen that we were separated some time after six months but my sister did not make it. I also found out that I shared a liver with her and the scar shows me that we were joined at the stomach. I do not have a navel.
I also found out that when my grandmother was visiting from Jos, I noticed they discussed about one Veronica and sometimes start to cry. I started to wonder about who this Veronica was since my auntie is Rose. It made me wonder until I figured it out that my biological mum was dead and that Mrs. Jituboh is the mum I know as mum. Even my auntie does not even feel that her sister passed. As far as she is concerned, she is alive in me.
You see, this knowledge about my origin never ends. I recall something that happened in the US a few years ago. I had gone visiting to Chicago and my host tells me to join her to visit one woman of over 80 years at Gillsburg, another city in the state. After hesitating for a while I agreed to go with her. Do you know that when I was introduced as Wariboko, the old woman screamed and burst into tears? She said ‘that must be Vero’s daughter coming into my house without notice’. She said that she was my mum’s classmate and that after they left school she never set her eyes on her again except reading about her and her Siamese twin children on the pages of newspapers. She carried me on her weary legs and hugged me severally and thanked God that she met me again after several years of hoping and yearning. She caused us to stay overnight in Gillsburg. We had bought food for her but she insisted that we ate whatever she cooked for us. Her excitement was much.
What did they now tell you of your biological mum?
I heard that Veronica Davis, my mum hailed from Delta state. She was working for the UAC when she had me and my late twin sister. She later had another set of twins that died before having another baby who died with her on the same day. You see…my life is a big testimony of God’s awesome character. He kept me alive for a big purpose of continuous testimony and I know this very well.
Your biological dad…?
He also died. I did not really know him. He was of Ijaw tribe. The people I have come to know are Mr. and Mrs. Jituboh and the only sister I know is Mrs. Briggite Alli.
What kind of upbringing did you have?
It was an upbringing filled with love for me by people around me. You see those two people you are seeing (pointing at Mr. and Mrs. Jituboh,) I am still the smallest and youngest and the most special in their lives although they know I am a grandmother. As far as they are concerned, I am still the baby of the house. It took me time to know that they were not really my biological parents. I had a very terrific upbringing full of love for me from my parents. Even grand pa and grand ma Jituboh were too kind to me even with all the pranks I played on them as a kid, they laughed them off as before them I could do no wrong.
Which schools did you attend?
I started at a convent, then Queen Amina in Kaduna which used to be Our Lady of Apostles. I then went to Our Lady’s High school before transferring to St Maria Gorretti, Benin. The Principal of that school was my mum’s teacher at St Theresa’s College Ibadan and would always refer to her while I was there.
Do you recall your days at Maria Gorretti?
It was excitement all the way. Every one was fond of me. The Reverend sister Henrietta continued to treat me like a Queen. She always said ‘give Wariboko this and that’. Even my grand pa that was father to my father Mr Jituboh was the greatest spoiler of me. He would always send me pastries. I know that man and his wife are in heaven right now. I was in the same school with my sister Bridget but people never knew her the way they knew me. When my grand mama Jituboh died it was all over the place that Boko’s grand ma died and my friends were all crying for me. It was about then that it dawned on me the much love I had been showered by everyone who knew me. My mum, I mean my auntie Mrs. Rose Jituboh would not let any fly touch me even though she may allow it to touch Bridget. After Maria Gorretti, I went to thank UAC for giving me scholarship after the death of my biological mum, Veronica Davis who was their staff before her death. They never left me alone and would always come to ask about my welfare.
You ended up being a nurse, what influenced your decision to follow that line?
My interest in nursing had grown while I was at Maria Gorretti and after then, my grandpa Mr. Peter Jituboh had asked what I wished to be and I told him I wished to be a nurse. He then asked why I loved that profession. I explained to him that I have been taken care of by nurses and other hospital people so I wished to also do same for others. I was not yet 18 years then so he escorted me to go for the exam. But while expecting the result, he died. I was devastated but I felt fulfilled that he had approved my decision to study nursing while his wife, my grandma carried on. When I passed the school of nursing exam for LUTH and UCH, she boasted with me to her friends that Wariboko has entered the University of nursing . Grand ma is unforgettable for me in all my life. She was there when I had my first baby and she sent me a very beautiful abada wrapper through her daughter, daddy’s younger sister who brought it to Zaria where we were at the time. She also died later. So you can see, I have lost so many people that are dear to my heart, my biological mum Veronica and my, dad, twin sibling and the one that died with my direct mum whom I may not have known well, Pa and ma Jituboh who started raising me with much love. I am however still carrying on to the glory of God.
Can we talk about your marriage, how did you meet your husband then Lt Walter Oki?
I met him after nursing school at LUTH. To be sincere, we met through a relative. He later told me that he had read about me while at the University of Ife and had always asked of me through my relative. They arranged to visit me.
You may have fallen for his military physic as he may have been a dashing young man….
No, I did not fall for that because there were several dashing young men then in Lagos and in the military who were more handsome and richer. What made me fall was his unique humaneness which was radiating around him. He was very humble. Aside from that, the Okis were not strange to us. Dr Oki was a prominent person known to my family in Benin. He was a dentist and I schooled with one of his daughters.
You mean the war and the risk of being in the military did not deter you from marrying him?
Not at all. My Uncle, Late Lt Col Igboba was killed during the civil war. I also had a cousin married to a soldier. Her husband is also late. Not to talk of an Uncle, Moses who was also in the military. So, to me it was another normal marriage. I married Walter Oki because of his person and not because of his job or uniform.
You are close to the Sobowale twins who also share your kind of circumstance….
Yes o. Any time I hear of conjoined twins, I feel like they are just like me and would always want to meet them. While at the school of nursing at LUTH, there was a preserved Siamese twins which I did not wish to see because they were already dead. I want to see the ones alive. When I went to ABU, Zaria, a Doctor had told me of another set but they had already died. He had said that if I had come earlier that I would have met them alive. So the Sobowales are the first I would see alive. So as soon as news of their birth was spread, I went to locate them. Since then, I have always been in touch with them until I relocated to the US in the past two years after my retirement from service. I had bought them a Bible each telling them how it is Basic Instruction Before Leaving The Earth(BIBLE). I told them to always read it if only to thank God always for being alive.
Why did you relocate to the US?
Nigeria is not a place where people with my kind of circumstances are appreciated medically like other parts of the world where your peculiar circumstance is a serious issue and are noted and medically attended to. There are health related problems for Siamese twins and in the UK and US they all know and keep checking on you to keep you alive.
To continue next week