‘I took to drugs after Dele Udoh’s death’
‘I took to drugs after Dele Udoh’s death’
I was a minor when I married Udoh
He left America for Nigeria two days after wedding
I replaced his memory with his birthday
His father had premonition of his death
Dele Udoh was a Nigerian Sprinter who lived in St. Louis, Missouri, America for many years . He came to Nigeria 1981 to participate in a tournament .Unfortunately; he was shot dead by a Police officer in Lagos.
For over 31years his American wife, Angela Udoh and only child, Angellus Burrus (Nee Udoh) of the late Sprinter had no contact with the Dele Udoh’s family members in Nigeria.
Taiwo Abiodun met Angellus Burrus (nee Udoh) in December last year in St. Louis , Missouri , America and interviewed her. Now he met Angela Udoh, wife of the fallen hero.
How I met Dele Udoh
For Mrs. Angella Udoh, anytime she navigates into her rough mental waters of emotion she felt sad remembering the story of her husband ,Dele Udoh whom she adored like a King . On how they met , she said ”I was a friend with a friend of his girlfriend, and Dele had come down from Columbia to Missouri on Spring Vacation, his friend brought him over to my friend’s apartment .
We were just hanging out doing good things and he came and introduced himself that he’s another great athlete, we were very, very close . And It was very quick, everything went very, very fast, It was like a whirlwind romance. I would say ,it was little less 90 days because I met him in March 1981 and we married in May, 1981 , so it was less than 90 days” .
I was a minor when I wedded Udoh
Angella confessed that she was a minor when she married Udoh and , in the State of Missouri , he could be jailed , in her own words she said ”I was 17 years old , my birthday was June 1, and we married in May 19”. But to save the situation, her mother signed for her because of the love she had for Udoh.
”Yes, my mother signed for me because in the State of Missouri I was considered a minor and I could not consent for marriage unless I have consent from my parents. This is my marriage certificate in 1981. I got married in Columbia in a little small Chapel, and it was attended by few of us , the pastor or the minister , myself , Dele and my mother who stood in as my witness”.
What attracted me to Udoh
What really attracted her to Udoh? , she said she did not know, but added ” Well, I don’t know , he told me I was very intelligent , he said I knew a lot about Africa, he said he had ran into African /American who didn’t know about Africa but I knew a lot”. What attracted Udoh to her was his stature,” I didn’t know about his athlete, he told me about his country, he told me that he was a star, and I just ignored him. I never saw him run track, basically I knew he was intelligent”.
Never had honeymoon
Unfortunately the youngest couple of that year then never had honeymoon because of national or home assignment as he had to go to Nigeria to participate in a tournament, she said almost in tears “It wasn’t years, like I said it was very fast, We met 90 days before my birthday,”, she said almost in tears, and continued ”like I said it was 90 days before my birthday, After we married he left two days after we never had honeymoon, he went to Nigeria in July and that was all”.
For the young and innocent 17-year-old girl, Angella who met love for the first time in her life, she remembers the good old days they enjoyed together , Angella said about her romantic period, ”He took me out to movies, he took out to dinner and took me out for shopping. He was nice and was very giving. The next time I saw him he came down and took me back to Columbia because we were on date, he was going back to Columbia .Everything was very fast, I didn’t know why everything was very fast then at that time ….now I understand”.
How I received the news
According to Angela, her world crashed when she received the message that her husband had been killed on that night when she came back from work and about to rest as she heard a knock on her door.She said her parents came with the sad news that Dele Udoh is dead. Young Angella refused to accept and believe, it cannot be possible , she swore .
”My parents travelled from St Louis to Columbia, all I knew was that I had been working throughout the night , working on night job, I wanted to lay down and I heard a knock on the door, and I went to open the door, when I opened the door they had this look on their faces, I knew something was wrong ……my father and my mother …said they had something to tell me, they said ‘last night Dele was shot and killed’ . I immediately went into denial, I couldn’t believe what they said . I burst into tears.
The last time I spoke with him, he said he would call me back. I called someone in the National Sports Commission in Nigeria, they refused to confirm or deny he had passed away, they refused to tell me. But apparently what they were saying was true. Two weeks later I went to Nigeria and saw for myself that he was dead”.
Strange letter from Dele’s father
The woman who managed to keep bold face and could not shed tears again said her late husband before he went to Nigeria received a letter from his father. Her words: “A couple of months before Dele travelled to Nigeria , he received a letter from his father and he read the letter to me and the letter said ” hello my dear son, I am writing to you to let you know that I have been fasting for seven days” and he wrote ” that the reason why he was fasting was because he has seen a vision that Dele was going to be killed . He dreamt that he was shot”. And Dele read the letter to me and I asked why would someone wanted to kill him, he said ”I don’t know, I have no idea” .
His father didn’t add any information to it so he put the letter down and he did not discuss it again. His father already had a premonition and he was trying to pass away the premonition, hoping that the evil will pass away .Dele was upset when he received the letter and he didn’t talk any more about it again.
I didn’t question him about the letter again, he said he had gone to the priest and asked him to pray it away to fast and he fasted for seven days and seven nights,, his father fasted, he did not ask Dele to fast, so that his prayer would be answered. Who would have known that this would come to pass?”, she asked as she turned her eyes away from this reporter.
I took to drug
For a young girl who lost her husband at that age, she took succor and went into drug , according to her ”I really could use therapy so I had to find my own way, so I took to drug. The pain was so deep, so profound, your husband and your wife they are like the most important thing in your life,, and when one of them go untimely, it was very traumatic.
I had a baby to take care of when I too was a baby myself, so I lost a lot . He was my shining star, he took care of me, he was protecting me, he was everything, my everything was lost in one swoop, gone, so I was completely lost.
I was on drug for seven years. Though I had stopped taking drug , in fact, I don’t smoke cigarette now.”
I have forgiven the killer
The woman said it took a long time, 38 years before she could forgive the Police Officer that killed her husband, she said ” I have forgiven him , for he did not know what he was doing .It took me 38years before I could forgive the killer of Dele Udoh.
I forgive him ,for he did not know what he was doing , because he did not know the destruction , the pain, that he caused , but I have forgiven him with all my heart. The deep sorrow that took place as a result of his action but I forgive him with all my heart. Though I don’t know his name . And I heard that the officer was jailed for seven years but I don’t know whether justice was carried out.”
Angela attended the burial ceremony of her husband and was three months pregnant .”When I went to Nigeria in 1981, I was three months pregnant of Angellus, the National Commission in Nigeria took care of everything , they paid … they did the best they could to try and ease my burden. I cried when I saw his corpse, he was shot in the head , below his temple. I was traumatized , for that was the first time I would get closer to a dead person.”
I have seven children
Asked whether she remarried , she responded ”That is a very good question. I tried to replace him but I couldn’t, I tried but not possible .I have come to realize it that you cannot replace him .There are individuals , they are unique in their own,…..there can never be another Dele Udoh, there is no two people”, she said , shaking her head .
Nobody can be like Udoh, I didn’t remarry, but I have seven children. I went back to school and study, but now I am buying and selling houses, working as estate agent in St. Louis. Before then I had worked in government establishment.
She described Udoh thus ”He was outgoing, flamboyant , had talent, a confident person, he was flamboyant, he loved music, he was a Dee jay. Like I said he was flamboyant , he was a great dresser .
“July 15, I always remember him, after so long ,,now I celebrate his birthday, that is the day he was killed but I replaced him with that (birthday), I would say happy birthday to my husband Dele Udoh and my friends would join me to say happy birthday to him.”
I don’t have a gun
She said she does not have a gun for she is still traumatic as a result of her husband’s violence death via gun. She said ”In Nigeria most of the citizens don’t have weapons like that whereas in America anyone can go and buy a gun. The guns are already available .I don’t have a gun, I refused to have a gun , when you lost someone through violence you will not like to have gun .And I never planned to have that .It’s for protection but as I said if you lost someone through gun violence you will not like it”.
Why I refused to drop Udoh’s name
Her reply to why she didn’t change her name from Udoh, she said ”I can’t change it, that is something they cannot change , he didn’t expect this. You know when you find love , it’s not that love found him, he was single, available guy, student, he met a 17-year- old girl , it just happened. ”
Dele lost her mom in war
Asked whether she met Dele’s mother, but she said she had died when they met,” It was in 1969 that she died. I learnt she passed away during the Nigeria civil war, his father later remarried.”
She said Dele had many friends while alive, “I remember his friends Edwin Ofilli , Chidi Imo, Yusuf Alli, Ben Ogiri, Chuks Olisa, quite a few. I would be happy to come to Nigeria if invited by the Nigerian government.”
As the interview was rounding up , the woman said with emotion “I was a bride, a woman, mum and a widow in one year.
I am going to write a book on it .”