Asiata Onikoyi-Laguda, the woman believed to be the oldest sickle-cell patient in the world, celebrated her 90th birthday on November 1, 2015 – a feat that is clearly in defiance of science.
Onikoyi was born in November 1925, at a time when the average life expectancy of people living with sickle cell disorder was just five years.
Onikoyi, who was born in the same year as Margaret Thatcher, first female British prime minister; Malcolm X, civil rights activist, and Idi Amin Dada, Ugandan dictator, older than ‘all’ known (documented) sickle cell patients in the world.
In 2013 alone, 176,000 people lost their lives to sickle cell disease, most of them aged 21 years old and under.
According to a special report by the Sickle Cell Journal, she is the second of four children born by her parents AbdulYekeen Ishola Onikoyi, a prince of the Onikoyi ruling house, and Aishat Alake Onikoyi from Kudeti, Ibadan.
Due to the level of illiteracy at the time of her birth, she was never diagnosed to have had sickle cell; she just had all the symptoms, including terrific pain, which hindered her from going to school till she was 12 years old.
She struggled through primary school, and enrolled at Queens College Lagos, where she met her husband Bolaji Alakija, who went on to become a doctor.
He treated her for sickle cell, but never really told her much about her condition, as it was the culture in their day. Alakija had 27 children, five of which were with Onikoyi and the rest for his nine other wives.
Onikoyi, a devout Muslim, has performed the holy pilgrimage to Mecca 13 times and gone for lesser hajj, better known as Umrah, six times.
She says moderation kept her going and urges other sickle cell patients around the world to toe the same line.
“I have always maintained a middle road in life. Moderation keeps you going, when those who indulge themselves have lost their balance”
At 90, Onikoyi is under no dietary restrictions whatsoever; she eats salt, eggs, meat, sugar, fried food, as it pleases her.
Her blood pressure is hovering around 160/90, and she says she observed the annual 30-day Ramadan fast until she was over 88, when her children pressured her into giving it up.
Onikoyi says she reads the Bible and Quran everyday, and takes public transport in this “super-chaotic Lagos”.