Though Alhaja Ashata Onikoyi- Laguda, the world’s oldest person living with sickle cell, is dead, the miracle of her longevity still lives on.
She died on February 29, 2020, in Lagos in her sleep.
She was aged 94.
Sickle cell disorder (SCD) is an inherited abnormal haemoglobin (blood) disease that causes severe pains, organ damage and early death. Mama Onikoyi- Laguda was among the rare patients that lived with sickle cell disorder.
Most people her age would have had their children and younger relations fussing over their well-being and spending fortunes on medical bills and other efforts to buoy their ebbing health. Not Mama Onikoyi-Laguda. Till her death, she cut a picture of the ideal grandmother: patient, loving …and healthy.
Her blood pressure hovered around 160/90 (the normal is 120/80), Onikoyi-Laguda was under no dietary restrictions whatsoever. She still relished consuming salt, sugar, fried food and meat, without the least adverse effect on her health.
But Onikoyi-Laguda’s enjoyment of good health was a medical aberration. As a sickle cell sufferer, she was not supposed to live beyond her fifties, at best. Her living up to the ripe age of 94 remains a mystery to most people. And she was believed to be the oldest person living with sickle cell disorder in the world.
A source from the Onikoyi royal family confirmed the death of the legendary woman, who has become a specimen of science wonder to the world, and disclosed that her last moments on earth were pleasurably spent in the caring company of her immediate family.
Her remains were buried in accordance with Islamic rites on, Sunday, March 1, 2020, at Atan Cemetery, Lagos.
Born on November 1, 1925, Onikoyi-Laguda was the second of four children. She 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. Her father, AbdulYekeen Ishola Onikoyi, was a prince of the Onikoyi ruling house in Lagos, while her mother, Aishat Alake Onikoyi was from Kudeti, Ibadan in Oyo state. At the time Onikoyi-Laguda was born, the average life expectancy of people living with sickle cell disorder was just five years.
Although she had all the symptoms of the condition, she was not diagnosed of the ailment due to the low level of literacy at the time. The pains she suffered during childhood were severe enough to delay her from going to school till she was 12 years old.
Onikoyi-Laguda struggled through primary school, and enrolled at Queens College Lagos, where she met her husband Bolaji Alakija, a medical doctor. He treated her for sickle cell, but she never really told him much about her condition, as it was the culture in those days.
Alakija had 27 children, five with Onikoyi-Laguda and the rest from his nine other wives.
Onikoyi-Laguda refused to allow sickle cell deprive her of an active and fruitful existence. A devout Muslim, she visited Mecca 13 times and performers Lesser Hajj, (Umrah) six times.
When she clocked 88, Onikoyi-Laguda was forced to quit observing Ramadan by her children.
In August 2014, Onikoyi-Laguda lost one of her sons, who died at the age of 59. Even though she accepted what befell her as the will of Allah, she always prayed that her other children would outlive her.
God was faithful in fulfilling her prayer because she never had any cause to mourn any of her children till she died.
Remarkably, Onikoyi-Laguda still read the Bible and Quran until her death.