Seriously, I do not think many of the modern day internet users will know/ remember the name, Dele Udoh.
I doubt if many of the older generation will remember him too or if they ever knew him.
I remember the year and it was 1981 and I was a freshman in secondary school then.
I had picked up a neat interest in sports during the Moscow 80 Olympic Games due basically to the NTA coverage of the event.
But in 1981, a sad piece of news troubled my tender heart.
I had heard of a Nigerian student based in the United States of America and married to an American.
He was an athlete and his name was Dele Udoh.
Since 1979 he had been our best prospect at winning the 400m gold at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships.
He had returned home with his wife in 1981 to prepare for a championships with the Nigerian athletics team.
Word has it that his wife pleaded with him not to return but he did.
He was driving in Lagos with his wife and son (still a baby then) when he was shot dead by police at a check point near Ojuelegba following an argument (possibly over money).
Funny enough, after shooting to death the most promising Nigerian athlete of his generation, the police displayed his body like that of a common criminal, placing wraps of Indian hemp in the boot of his car and claimed he was an armed robber.
If he was, then what were his wife and son?
The burial ceremony at the national stadium in Lagos was shown live on NTA news and my nine year old eyes cried along with Dele Udoh’s wife but Nigerians soon forgot him.
I have been thinking and the memories of that day have filled my eyes with tears as I type this, 29 years later.
I ask, do we even know the name of Dele Udoh’s wife? Do we know where she is?
Do we remember Dele Udoh had a son? He should be 29 years old but do we know his name? Do we know where he is? Do we know what he has been doing? Does he know he is Nigerian? What ugly stories of Nigeria did his mother tell him? Has he forgiven Nigeria for what they did to him?
All these questions that require answers but who will give them to us?
But there are many more Nigerian sports people that have gone the way of Dele Udoh.
Sometime in the early 90s, 1994 to be precise, a Nigerian club, Iwuayanwu Nationale, now Heartland were returning from a CAF Champions League match or Cup of Champions Clubs match as it was known then.
They had played in Tunisia against Esperance and lost 3-0 but their Oriental Airlines Flight was forced to make an emergency landing at the Tamanrasset airport in Algeria when the pilot noticed some engine problems.
Two of Nigeria’s best players of that generation, Uche Ikeogu and Omale Aimounwansa died in the incident.
I am just wondering aloud, “If you go to the camp of the club or the club office, will there be any sign that Omale and Ikeogu ever played for the club?”
I seriously doubt that.
Does anybody on facebook, twitter even know the twosome who died representing a Nigerian football club in the search to win the then elusive CAF trophy?
There is also the case of Kayode Oluremi, a member of the Nigerian silver winning team at the Barcelona Olympics was involved in a fatal motor accident which claimed his life.
I do not even want to go to the most celebrated case of Sam Okwaraji because we have belaboured it as it stands now.
Did Dick Tiger Iheatu have a family? Did he have children? Did he have a family? How come nobody knows about them?
There is a lot that is wrong with how we treat our sports people both dead and alive and we must change that attitude now.