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How I became homeless – Ex-tennis champion, Tanya Okpala

Tanya Okpala, a former lawn tennis champion, has narrated how she became homeless and roamed the streets of Awka, Anambra State capital.

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how Ms Okpala was rescued by Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State who ordered her rehabilitation.

The governor’s intervention came after the US-based ex-lawn tennis star was captured in a video clip roaming the streets.

Ms Okpala was said to be homeless and mentally ill.

She is a half-caste, whose mother is from Belarus, an Eastern European country, and her father is from Nkpologwu Community in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria’s South-east.

My story

In another video clip uploaded on Facebook on Monday morning, Ms Okpala was seen narrating her predicament to the Anambra State Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare, Ify Obinabo.

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Ms Okpala said life was rosy for her before now when her mother, a structural engineer, was working for a construction company, the Reynolds Construction Company.

She recalled that, in 1999, she had gotten a scholarship to study at Howard University, United States of America, where she emerged champion in lawn tennis.

The former lawn tennis champion said her challenges started in 2017 when her mother died of breast cancer.

She said, two years later, things got worse as she lost her job in a hotel and subsequently became pregnant for her Liberian boyfriend.

“I then delivered the baby in my father’s home town because I told my father I would very much love to stay in Nkpologwu and rest,” she said.

Ms Okpala said after her delivery, she got a job in Nigeria, but the pay was lower than what she was paid in the US.

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“Things were a little bit different for me, but I put myself to it,” she said.

“Since she (my mother) died, I am like I am living a lifestyle which I have never lived before,” Ms Okpala said, apparently referring to her living in the streets.

The former lawn tennis star stressed that she had lost the basic amenities needed to live a normal life, but did not mention how she lost the amenities.

As she spoke, she started crying while Ms Obinabo consoled her.

Ms Okpala later explained her reason for roaming the streets of Awka.

“I should have been back home after celebrating my birthday, but I am finding it difficult to get home,” she stated, without giving details.

‘My daughter languishing in the village’

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Ms Okpala lamented that she has a six-year-old daughter who is “languishing” in the village because she could not give her a better life.

“I have been trying to get her away from village life (but couldn’t). Because I feel like they (my parents) brought me up very well.

“I had the best education, but my daughter is suffering in the village,” she said, as she started crying again.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Ms Okpala’s aged father was currently taking care of her daughter, who is in a primary school in the Nkpologwu Community.

‘People are insulting me’

Ms Okpala expressed surprise that many Nigerians often hurl insults at her while some tricycle riders and bus drivers would try to hit her on the road.

“I am like what’s going on,” she said.

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