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Remembering Dele Giwa

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ON TUESDAY, October 19, 2021, it will be exactly 35 years a foremost Nigeria journalist and activist, Dele Giwa was assassinated via a parcel bomb at his residence at No. 25 Talabi Street, Off Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. Dele Giwa was the Editor-in Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Newswatch Magazine. Undoubtedly, the Magazine used to be the delight of many readers. Of course, some Nigerians used to save money to pick copies of the magazine.

  Definitely, the magazine was synonymous with investigative journalism. Dele Giwa’s doggedness and uncompromising attitude against the ethics of his profession necessitated his elimination by the assassins. It was the most bizarre and gruesome murder that has never been witnessed by Nigerians. It is believed that those responsible for his assassination did a terrible blow to democracy and also Nigerians who looked forward to reading him and his colleagues in the magazine.

  Certainly, it is saddening to note that up till now, those responsible for his killing have not been brought to book. The murder was callous and disheartening. It would be recalled that during Oputa Panel of Inquiry, one of the finest lawyers, human right activist and senior Advocate of Nigeria, the late Gani Fawehinmi made case for the matter. This was sequel to the request by  a great jury who also is dead, Hon. Justice Akunne Chukwudifu Oputa. He was head of Human Rights Violations Commission in 1998.

  No doubt, the fearless journalist was murdered during the regime of the then Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, popularly called IBB. A senior Police Officer was mandated to conduct an investigation into the assassination of Dele Giwa. His name is Abubakar Tsav. He is no longer serving. Tsav submitted a signed statement to the Oputa Panel in July 2001. The brief was quite comprehensive and revealing. Obviously, the matter was first of its kind in Nigeria. It was believed that the investigators headed by Tsav were poised and profoundly determined to uncover the perpetrators of the devilish act. After a preliminary investigation, the Senior Police Officer submitted an interim report along with the relevant case file to the then AIG Force CID, Mr. Chris Omeben.

  According to the contents of the submission by Tsav and some witnesses: “on 19th October, 1986, at about 11am, two men drove in a white Peugeot 504 Saloon car with unidentified registration number to No 25, Talabi Street, Ikeja, the residence of Mr. Dele Giwa. One of the men wore black French suit while the second wore white long sleeve French suit. Dele Giwa’s watchman Mallam Musa Ladan was away to the market but left the security of his master’s residence to his neighbor Mallam Musa Zibo. The man with the white French suit alighted from the car and gave Mallam Zibo a padded brown envelope for delivery to Dele Giwa having confirmed from Zibo that Dele Giwa was in. They immediately drove off without waiting to confirm that the parcel had reached the addressee. The unsuspecting Musa Zibo collected the parcel and pressed the door bell to Dele Giwa’s residence.

  Billy Giwa, Dele Giwa’s son opened the door and collected the parcel for his father. According to Billy Giwa, the brown envelope was heavy and had a white sticker on which Dele Giwa’s name and address were written. It was marked “Secret and Confidential” with a warning that it should only be opened by the addressee. The sticker also had the Nigerian Coast of Arms with the inscription: “From the officer of the C-in-C. Billy said that he thought the parcel was from the president because he had received a similar parcel in the past for the father from the president. He therefore handed over the parcel to his father who was in the study with Kayode Soyinka, the London Bureau Chief of the magazine. He retired to the sitting room to join his step mother, Mrs Funmi Giwa. A few minutes later, he heard an explosion. They rushed to the scene and found the study engulfed in smoke and fire while his father sustained fatal injuries. With the assistance of sympathizers, they rushed his father to First Foundation Hospital, Ikeja, where he later died.”

  However, this writer does not want to dwell so much on the report of the investigation by Tsav, Senior Police Officer, his team and statements made by witnesses. Rather, it would be in the interest of justice and human rights that the perpetrators of this despicable act be nabbed and made to face the law. It is only a caring and democratic government that can do this. The government at that time – military regime could not have done much.

  Bringing the perpetrators to book will certainly embolden journalists to execute their duties. Thus, they will know that should anything untoward happen to them, at least the people that did that did it must be fished out, tried and if found guilty, must answer for it. Therefore, government at all times should be absolutely keen to conduct thorough investigation. Of course, aside government, somebody is expected to take up the gauntlet. Thus, be able to bear pains, spend money and rough it out to get at the root of what happened. He or she should be seen to fight for justice like late Fawehinmi.

  It will be pertinent to note that any lawyer, journalist or person who would want to embark on such mission of investigation must also bear in mind that impediments are to be met along the line. Obviously, there will be harassments, spurious arrests, physical assaults, continual detentions in various prisons and would be tagged “security risk” it may even take one’s life.

  Me thinks that  to take away somebody’s life by assassination is the most fundamental assault on the rule of law. Therefore, efforts must be made to bring to book the perpetrators of the heinous crime on humanity. Unless this is done , all the spate of killings going on in the nation, particularly the South East and Anambra State, the most annoying, which came after the assassination of Dele Giwa long time ago may never be solved.

  Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) should as a matter of urgency, immortalise this man, Dele Giwa. Nigeria Institute of Journalism can be named after him. It is sad to note that even the burial ground where this foremost journalist was buried has been covered by thick bush. This writer, in company of some journalists visited where he was interred in his home town in Ekperi Kingdom, Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State. Dele Giwa’s building or residence at Ekperi has deteriorated, exhibiting no care during our visits in 2015 and 2017. The house is a shadow of itself. The Ekperi area where Dele Giwa hailed from cannot boast of anything and since the demise of their illustrious son, no one remembers them.              

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