Peter, James and John Obidiegwu’s photographs went viral on the internet when the brothers celebrated their birthday on 7/7/2016. They talked about their life experiences with ENIOLA AKINKUOTU and ARUKAINO UMUKORO. Excerpts from the interview below:
- Who is the oldest among the three of you?
Peter: (Laughs) That is the first question people always ask us whenever they meet us and what we say is what we were told when we were young. Our dad told us that he did not know who the oldest is because when we were born, they didn’t take note of who came out first because they were too excited. But he said the doctor told him that I am the oldest, my mum said it is James and my dad said it is John, so they just agreed to believe that none of us came out first, I think they were trying to avoid conflict among us so they just told us that they don’t know who came out first. However, we all came out two minutes apart.
John: Our parents said I was born a little past midnight. They also said I came out last. I was told it was a two-minute gap.
- How many children are you altogether?
Peter: We are a very large family. The children are nine in number and we are the last three children. Our father was the only child of his parents and so he had six children at first which were four girls and two boys. When the last born was about eight years old, my parents wanted just one more baby boy but they got three instead.
- What was growing up like for you as a triplet?
Peter: I would say it hasn’t been smooth all through but generally it has been very good. Being triplets is similar to being celebrities because people always stare at us wherever we go. We grew up in the South-West and the Yoruba people believe that twins are a blessing, so wherever we went to, we were always admired. Sometimes, people would tell us to pray for them or lay hands on them. So, it was fun growing up but not too rosy.
James: I agree with what Peter has said. Getting used to the attention was not easy. It was very difficult not to draw attention to ourselves. I think we are used to it now but it wasn’t always fun when we were much younger.
We’ve had an experience where a group of girls saw me first and then Peter passed and then the girls started whispering to themselves and then John passed and the next thing the girls said was ‘God forbid.’ That was very upsetting and because we didn’t know what that expression meant, we felt really bad.
John: We had a lot of experiences, especially of how people reacted whenever they saw the three of us together, when we were in school. We attended the same schools, right from primary school to university. People respect us, and sometimes, we get favours because we are triplets. There are so many experiences, I cannot really pick out a particular one.
- Did you use your identical looks to play pranks on people when you were young?
Peter: People don’t believe but we are actually very good boys. However, we played a few pranks (laughs). The pranks were not intentional. For instance, when we were in school, if one of us could not go to class or was indisposed, one of us would represent the indisposed one, or sometimes, when we are driving together and I forget to hold my driving licence and we are stopped by the police, I can quickly present one of my brother’s driving licence to them and they will let us pass. I remember one funny incident when were travelling from school and policemen stopped us. They searched the three of us and found nothing and we started laughing. The policemen threatened to arrest us for impersonation. I won’t say we play pranks as much as people expect us to. Some even assume that we may be using the same passport because in the past, it was possible to use one passport but because of biometric data, one can no longer do that.
James: I don’t know whether to call it a prank but my biggest one is whenever I am in an awkward situation and I am trying to avoid a talkative person. When the person greets me saying ‘hi James, what’s up?’ I just tell the person that I am Peter and then the person leaves me alone. I think I did that a lot in school. Sometimes, we do it to females. It happens to people who don’t know that we are triplets.
I was a prefect in secondary school but nobody knew who the actual prefect was because we are identical. What I did was to make two extra badges and give them to my brothers. Anytime my brothers came late to school, they would enter the school premises as prefects and would escape punishment. Sometimes, I would be at the gate punishing students that resumed late and when my brothers wanted to enter the school premises, they would signal to me and I would go hide somewhere, then they would enter the school premises at different times, pretending to be me. But there was a day a teacher caught us and I was punished for it.
John: Yes, we played some pranks. When we were kids. Whenever I had an issue with someone and was trying to avoid that person, I could always easily deny that it wasn’t me whenever the person confronted me. Also, if I saw someone I did not really want to talk to, I would just pretend as if I was not the person being referred to.
- Are you all married?
James: No, we are all single.
John: Right now I am single, but hopefully soon, though. My siblings are also not in any relationship that I know of.
- How have your girlfriends been able to distinguish you from one another?
James: I think it has always been a challenge for the girls but we are good boys (laughs). Girls are usually careful with us so they look for features that distinguish us. Definitely, if anybody spends quality time with us, the person will see the differences but I will not tell any of you (laughs).
- Why not? Do you want to use it to continue to play pranks?
James: Well, some people can tell the difference between us. Some say my voice sounds different from the others etc. But if I tell you how to differentiate between us, it will spoil the fun (laughs).
- How was it growing up with six other children? Were your siblings able to differentiate you?
James: I know one of my sisters who even if I call her on the phone, she would be able to know it is me just from the sound of my voice. But my other siblings don’t even know the difference between us and even our dad used to mix up our names so he just gave up. At a point, he would call me Peter or John and I would answer.
John: At first, it is always difficult. Even our dad also mixed us up sometimes. Also, the people that mix us most are the wives and husbands of our older siblings. Till date, they still find it hard to differentiate us. So, they just call the three of us one particular name, say James. Some friends popularly call us, Peter, Peterer and Peterest.
- Can your mother tell you apart?
James: I don’t know whether she could because she died when we were very young. We were about 10 years old. But I am sure she would have been able to tell the difference among us. Our father is also dead. He died of cancer about four years ago at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. We believe that he would not have died if he was given proper treatment and it is one of our worst experiences ever.
- What are the things that differentiate one from the other like favourite food, colour etc?
Peter: Sincerely, when I tell people, they think we are telling lies. We all love and hate the same kinds of food. We don’t like yam, we don’t like beans. We love rice a lot. We like colour blue. We all support Arsenal football club and it is not as if we planned it. We just noticed that we loved the same club. Also, we all love mathematics. Our dad wanted the three of us to be doctors but we all opted for Engineering.
John: Strangely, we all have same hobbies. We love to watch football and love same genre of music. We also have similar choice of clothes.
- Have the three of you ever fought before?
James: No, but we argue. Siblings who are of different ages argue and disagree, so imagine siblings who are of the same age. We argue but the thing is that when it comes to being a triplet, it is easier to settle a quarrel than when you are twins. When you are twins, it is more difficult to resolve an argument because there is no third party, there is no way the three of us will be arguing at the same time. There will always one person to serve as a mediator. Sometimes, I settle quarrels at other times, Peter does that so the argument never leads to fights or serious quarrels. We listen to one another a lot so there is hardly ever any conflict. We have a group on BlackBerry Messenger which the three of us use in communicating all the time and we have been operating like that since we started using smartphones.
- From your pictures on social media, it seems there is an attempt by the three of you to look alike as evident in the haircut and dressing.
James: Funnily enough, it is coincidental. For instance, John left us in Abuja and relocated to Asaba four years ago. But there are times when we change our hairstyles. Sometimes, I see John on social media and realise he is spotting the same hairstyle as me. Sometimes, I copy Peter’s style because I know that whatever fits him will fit me as well.
- Is it true that triplets can sometimes feel what the other person is experiencing even though one is far away from the other?
Peter: Yes, it happens a lot. I remember there was an incident that happened to James and I. We were actually in separate hospitals and he could feel it that I was also in a hospital and he kept on calling my phone. Sometimes, when he is not feeling fine and I call him, he may first pretend that he is okay but when I tell him that I know he is not feeling fine, he confesses.
- Tell us about your relationship with your older siblings.
James: The age gap between us and our siblings is wide. Our immediate older sister is about eight years older than us so one can imagine the age gap between us and our older siblings. We have our own part of the family and they have theirs so we don’t have a very strong bond with our siblings. We see them like uncles and aunties and whenever we want to do anything, we take a decision among ourselves and inform them.
John: We have a strong brotherhood bond. I think I am closer to them than my other siblings because we are triplets.
- You all secured admissions into university at the same time?
James: Yes, the first time we took the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, the three of us did not pass. We sat for the examination again and we all passed. So, life has always been like that for us. I think God has destined us to always be together. I remember when we were processing our admission into the university. When I first tried, I did not get it but when we tried again and applied together, we all secured admissions.
- Which schools did you attend?
John: We had our primary and secondary education in Lagos State. For our primary education, we attended Progressive Children’s School, Orile. For secondary school, we attended Hope Bay College, Apapa. We received our tertiary education at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.
- Since you all attended the same schools, how did you manage the separation during the National Youth Service Corps?
Peter: That was the first time in our lives that we ever got separated. James served before us in Lagos. I served in Abuja while John served in Lagos too.
James: In a way we all served together because when I was at the orientation camp, Peter and John came to join me in the camp even though they were not corps members at the time. They stayed with me for a while and nobody knew. Later on, someone informed the soldiers on camp about the visit of my brothers.
Peter: But instead of the soldiers to eject us from the camp, they saw it as fun and gave us khaki and boots and we remained on camp for a week and became very popular. John and I had already experienced camp life even before our service. It was fun.
- Do you have the same friends?
James: I feel I don’t have a lot of friends because I feel my brothers have taken the spot of close friends.
John: We are always together and we share things together a lot. It’s a way of life for me.
- Would you like to have identical twins or triplets as children?
James: Yes, of course
Peter: Definitely. I have always dreamt of having twin girls and twin boys but if triplets come, I will like it. We have always loved children. Sometimes, when babies see us, they get excited while some other times, they cry out of fear.
- How were you punished for an offence committed by your identical brothers?
James: My father used to punish us collectively because he felt that there was no way I would do something bad without first informing my brothers. So, he would say, ‘all of you planned this together’ or he would say, ‘why did you allow your brother to do this?’As a child, it made me unhappy sometimes but we used to cover up for each other. For instance, if my dad asks ‘who did this?’ I can never say it was Peter and John will never say it was me.
- Has being a triplet ever put you in trouble?
Peter: Yes, there was an embarrassing moment we had in university. It was during an examination and the invigilators and security guards were going to different classes to monitor the students. They went to James’ class and saw him sitting for the examination. A few minutes later, they came to my own class and saw me doing the same and one of them shouted, ‘Stand up, you are an impersonator.’ The invigilator said he saw me taking the examination in another class and then they seized my script. Other students in the hall started laughing. Initially, the invigilators refused to listen to my explanation but they later took me to my brother’s class and saw him taking the examination and then they left me. That was one of our most embarrassing moments.
- Did you choose the same career after school?
Peter: No. I work with a mortgage bank in Abuja. John is the only one that is doing something close to Engineering.
James: I work with a real estate/financial consultancy firm in Abuja as well.
John: I work in a brewery as an engineer.
- Are you planning to marry on the same day or wed triplets?
Peter: Well, it is not impossible. It is easier for male triplets to get married on the same day than for female triplets to get married on the same day. It is not a must but not impossible.
John: Many people have asked me this question about whether we would want to marry triplets. It is what God wants for us. It is a good idea though. The most important thing is being around someone that completes one and not necessarily whether that person is a twin or a triplet.
James: Why do people always ask me this question? We could date triplet girls for the fun of it but marriage is too important to be treated in such a manner. If we marry triplet sisters, there will be lot of hype but after the hype, what happens? It has to be about love, communication and commitment. But of course, I have thought about it and it would be fun to be married to people that have had similar experiences with one.
- Since you are identical, how do you differentiate one from the other?
Peter: It is like asking how I differentiate my left hand from my right hand. Of course, I know the difference. I have never made a mistake before. The only time I make a mistake is when I am looking at their photographs. Sometimes, I might make a mistake but if I look properly, I will know.
James: I grew up with them and spent my whole life with them so if one of them sneezes, I will know who sneezed. If we are texting each other on the phone, I can differentiate because I know what Peter can say and what John can say.
John: I think the easiest way to know and differentiate us is from our personality and character. But in terms of physical difference, there is really not much to differentiate us with. We are very alike.
- Do you belong to any group mainly for identical triplets?
James: Yes, we do. There is a group called United Twins and Multiples and we are the governors in Abuja. It has branches all over Nigeria. We have more members in Abuja and Lagos. It is an umbrella organisation of twins and multiples and we share our experiences. In one of such meetings, a lady who is a twin told us that her twin was having a hernia operation and she did not know about it. But she was feeling the pains in her stomach at the exact time. Also, we found out that there are so many abandoned twins in various orphanages across the country. We are thinking of establishing a non-governmental organisation to champion their cause.
- Do you buy one another birthday gifts?
John: No we don’t. This is because we all use one another’s clothes. So buying a birthday gift for my brothers is like buying for myself. I think our most memorable birthday was when we spent it at the orphanage, and we found out they had a set of triplet at the orphanage. This made us appreciate our parents the more.