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The Millers: Twins That Redefined Unity In Northern Nigeria



You know what they say about twins? They are a source of curiosity to many. Today, LEADERSHIP Sunday’s spotlight is on these octogenarians who have won the admiration of many. SUNDAY ISUWA writes

The Miller twins are one of the early Fulani’s that came in contact with White Christian missionaries when they arrived in Nigeria. The two women grew up to redefine the essence of unity, not only in the northern region, but in other parts of the country. As successful educationists, they raised many influential Nigerians of different faiths.

Born to the family of a missionary Pastor, the twins, Dr Mary Jummai Jarma and Dr Dora Maude Akanya, even at the ripe age of 84, never found a reason to be separated, even though they were married to different men of different faith. But death, the only factor that is capable of separating the closest of siblings came calling, and when it left on Thursday night, it took one of them, Jummai, to the great beyond.

Jummai was married to a Hausa/Fulani Muslim, Jarma. And like the Biblical injunction, her union with her husband lasted till death without a problem. But being married did not deter the sisters from cooking and sharing their meals severally even though they lived separately, Dora lived in Waziri Drive, close to the Kaduna State House of Assembly in Kaduna North local government area while Jummai lived in Barnawa GRA, Kaduna South local government area. But before her death, Jummai moved in with her sister, Dora, after her aged husband died.

The twins also spent moments of prayer together, an activity the surviving twin began to miss from when her sister was in hospital. “The last time I was in the hospital, I was not happy that there was no prayers,” the surviving twin Sister, Dora said, explaining how her other octogenarian died.

“So, I decided to bring our people to the hospital to pray for her,” she said. “The day we were to go, my sister sent a message that I should come because she does not have much strength again. I went and it was the night she died,” Dora said, fighting tears.

In their professions, both women towed the same line. They were both educationists who became principals at some point in their career. But Dora was a commissioner for Health and Social Welfare in the old North Central State during the Gowon military administration.

The octogenarian twins, born in Ungwan Juma in Zaria, both wanted to be treated the same way without discrimination. Apart from their identical looks, they also sound alike when they speak.

Their father, Maude, was keen on educating his children, so that by the time the twins were just eight in 1942, they were already in Standard five at the Christ Church Cathedral School, Lokoja. And even when their father was transferred to Lagos as chaplain of the Anglican Cathedral, they joined other students in the same class. It was here that they met Mrs Bola Ige and many other prominent Nigerian women of those days.

When they were in Nigerian College, now ABU Zaria, as the only two girls in the school, they would usually leave Zaria City on bicycles and ride to pick other female students including married women, from as far as Barewa. They would take these women to Samaru, where the Nigerian College was, and teach them – different subjects including vocational training because they were already teachers.

One of them studied Geography and Mathematics while the other studied Chemistry and Mathematics in a UK university. Jobs were already on ground for them when they finished studying and they were posted to ministry of Information, Public Enlightenment and Adult Education in Zaria.

Being children of missionaries, they travel to different parts of the country including Lokoja, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, and many more. The movement from one place to another, helped them to redefine Nigeria’s Unity.

Dora disclosed her twin sister was given a honourary doctorate degree because of her hard work and what she did for the society. “When I was in the UK, we were not in the same place. But she will leave Australia for the UK from time to time,” Dora said, recalling some of the good times they shared as twins.

Several professionals who were trained by the Millers; friends and family members have thronged the house at Waziri Drive to register their condolences.

A niece to the twins, Mrs Biodun Alabi, revealed that the late Jummai was a lovable, no nonsense person who was also a disciplinarian and open hearted. According to her, the deceased was a woman who warmly received everybody that came her way.

“She accept people the way they are. She didn’t want to know whether the person is Yoruba, Hausa, or Igbo. Maybe because of their background. Their father been a clergy that travelled far and near, he met with so many different kinds of people and they accepted everybody just the way they are,” Mrs Alabi said.

She recalled that when the late Jumai Jarma was working, her services as an educationalist were outstanding. “Her students can tell you better. The teachers that worked with her can tell you better. When she was in Queen Amina College as principal, as soon as she stepped out of her office, you find teachers running back to their place of duty if they are not where they should be. We thank God that her life even as a Christian was beautiful and without blemish,” she said.

In the Church, Mrs Alabi said the late Miller twin received several awards. “The last one she got was ‘God’s Mother General’ that was given to her by the Anglican Communion. For you to be a Mother General it means that you embraced all and just like the name, you must be a general mother that accepts everybody. She had lots of friends and many children that are uncountable.”

“As a member of the Jarma family, if you ever visited her immediate family, she (Jummai) accepted and carried everybody along. Anyone that is getting married, being the Fulani tradition, she prepared for everybody. If you visit her, education is number one issue she will raise. I want to thank God that I am related to her. I also thank God for the way she left this world. We pray God to grand her merciful judgment.”

One of the young daughters of the deceased, Rabi Miller, said her mother was a disciplinarian that would be missed. “She was a disciplinarian and a mother. To everyone. She never discriminated amongst her children or people around her and she was caring.”

For Mrs Philo Matankari, they have lost a mother that kept their family together. “She was a mother to all of us. A grandmother to our children, a loving person that we will miss. I don’t know how we can replace her. Only God will replace her for us,” Mrs Philo said.

“Mama was a wonderful person. She took us as her biological daughters. She is my daddy’s younger sister and she was very caring. We will really miss her,” a niece to Jummai, Afiniki Miller, said.

Another niece, Saratu Miller, said their mother was loving, free and always chatted with them. She said if their mother needed to say something funny, she move close to her eye and whisper to her. “She likeed inviting me to attend events with her and we always talked and share a nice time. She was nice, nice to everybody. Not only her family, but everybody. Beautiful person. She lived a wonderful life, a life well spent. To me, we give God the glory for her to have lived up to this age,” Afiniki said.

Also speaking, Hauwa Yaroson Née Miller, said Mama Jumai was a disciplinarian but a loving and caring person. “After taking disciplinary action on you, mama will always embrace you again. She loved people and never discriminated whether you are from the Muslim background or from the Christian background,” she said.

One of her sons, Dauda Miller described his mother as a nice person and a mother to all. “We are devastated on her dead because she has been a mother to all. She was there for everyone irrespective of your tribe, religion. She was just a mother to be with,” Dauda said adding that they were meeting with their elders from Zaria to enable the Church announce the date for the burial.