By SIJIBOMI OYEDEPO-FATAYO
FOR the mother and siblings of Dr Suraj Giwa, who was killed on February 26, 2005, in an auto-crash caused by the reckless driving of Nollywood actress, Ibinabo Fiberesima, it has been a hard, long road to getting a semblance of closure over his death.
Until that fateful day, Giwa was the Head of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at the General Hospital, Lagos. He was heading home from Ajah with two of his relations, when an SUV driven by the actress smashed into his vehicle, across the median and killed him instantly.
On February 11, 2016, the Appeal Court, Lagos Division affirmed the judgement of the Lagos High Court, which had pronounced a sentence of five years imprisonment on the actress. The Appeal Court verdict ended the strenuous efforts made by Fiberesima to avoid going to jail.
When she eventually heads to prison to serve her sentence, one thing she can be sure of is that the family of the man she killed has risen above their grief and found grace and succour in the soothing love of God and has therefore, forgiven her for cutting the life of Dr. Giwa short and denying his three children the warmth, love and care of a father and his wife, embrace of her husband.
The only sister of late Giwa, Mrs. Biola Giwa-Adeyemi, a senior tax consultant/CPR Instructor in the United States of America, spoke with Sunday Sun in the wake of the Appeal Court confirmation of the Lagos High Court judgement.
Biola said: “The family of the late Dr Giwa has moved on with our lives. She has been forgiven, it was very difficult and painful, but God gave us, especially his mother and children the fortitude to bear the loss.”
Today, she can look back to the unfortunate fate that befell her brother from the perspective of God and not feel bitter towards Fiberesima. Recalling the dark and gloomy days when the accident happened, Biola explained that she was in Nigeria at the time with her elder brother when the accident occured.
On that day, her brother had gone out for a meeting. Recalling what transpired, she said: “The accident happened at Shoprite. I was trying to reach both of them because they went for a meeting. It was my immediate elder brother who picked the phone to say that there was an accident and Dr. was dead! I could not believe it. I had to leave Magodo and head for the Island. On getting there, I saw my brother covered in blood!”
Uppermost in her mind was the challenge of how to break the terrible news to her aged mother. To get around that, she asked some family friends to tell her mother that an accident had happened.
“At least I thank God that my other brother really survived. Imagine having to tell my mother that two of her children went out in the afternoon and only one returned. Before she heard from us, she was worried, waiting for them to come back. I could not even take my brother home that same night because he smelt of blood. The moment my mother set eyes on my brother, she asked ‘Where is the other one?”
Biola painfully recalled the torture she and her elder brother went through to get attention at the hospital where their late brother worked. The staff on duty did not attend to them until she started shouting that the dead person was their own colleague, their very own Dr. Giwa.
Asked to paint a picture of the late Giwa’s personality, she said: “My brother was always smiling and very humble. You never had a dull moment with him. He was always helping people. You just say you don’t have the money and he would pay from his pocket. He was ready to help people out. On several occasions he went to accident scenes to help out and forgo wherever he was going. He also helped so many old women who were stroke survivors. He helped them to walk again. At that time, he was the only doctor in Lagos State who had the credentials to function as the Head of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Centre. When he died, a lot of people really missed him because there was nobody to help them over there.
It was at the hospital that we held the memorial service. You needed to see so many of the people that came. When we told them we were burying him, you needed to see their reactions. At least he left a legacy there. He was also the doctor who treated the children at the ‘House of Gold Hospice.’
Biola also recounted how the officials of the Vehicle Inspection Office diligently examined Giwa’s car, to ensure that the fault was not his. “His vehicle was taken away for a painstaking check that showed the electrical and mechanical functions were perfect. The car was found okay. The cause of the accident was determined to be speeding on the part of Fiberesima.
“If it had been Ibinabo that the accident happened to, my brother would have been there trying to help her out. That is the way he was. That is the way he had always been. He didn’t have to know you before he would help out,” Biola said.
According to her, in the intervening 10 years since the death of Giwa, their mother had come to terms with the pain of losing her first child. It was all made possible by her faith, which enabled her to hold up and not break down totally as her other children had feared.
Hear her: “Mama is coping well. That was why I said we cannot bring this issue back. She was glad that at least it was not two kids at the same time. She had faith. She was strong. She simply kept saying God, you were the one that gave me, and you were the one that took him back. She was down for a while. She started having high blood pressure. She had never had high blood pressure prior to that time. My mum will be 80 years soon. She still cooks and gives food to people. When I look at her and ask, ‘Mummy, who is this’? She will say ‘You know what? He lives somewhere over there. He doesn’t have anything to eat. Then I say, Okay. There was a time she was marking her birthday and I was home. So I decided to surprise my mum with a cake. I stopped at Shoprite and bought a cake for her. On getting over to her house, I found out that the cake I got was not a good cake at all. What she had was far better than mine. A lot of people love her. So many cakes were there. One time I was with her, I saw some people come in with a bag of rice, so I said okay now. She looked at me and said, ‘You think you are the only kids I have?’ When we come home, we come home to see our mum. The emotional trauma is still there and the scary part of you driving is also there.”
One major source of pain for the family is the fact of the late Giwa’s absence at the graduation of his children in the United Kingdom. Biola said: “It was really painful when my brother’s children were having their graduation, we had to leave the US to go to London. He was not there.”
According to her the three children of Giwa – Teslim Babajide, Modinat Eniola and Yunus Olanrewaju have bagged Master’s degrees in different disciplines. And their mother, Olufunke Giwa, is standing firm, playing motherly and fatherly roles for the children.
Biola has a word for un-informed people who misunderstood her earlier hard line stance against Fiberesima, in the early weeks following the accident. Back then some people had said that she was jealous of Fiberesima, an allegation that she found pathetic and laughable.
Prodded to respond to this, Biola said: “People said I am jealous of her. Why will I be jealous for goodness sake? I was in my 40s then and now I am in my 50s. I have been living in the US for 33-34 years. Why will I be jealous when I didn’t even know who the hell she was? And it is not like our family is poor. We are okay! We are doing very fine. We don’t need money from anyone. It came to a point when they brought her over to apologize. She came over to apologize and to ask that we drop the charges against her. So I said okay. Why don’t you do this – why don’t you go ahead and apologize publicly to the masses and to the family? It was during that time we were told that she had an accident in Port Harcourt a couple of weeks before smashing into my brother’s car. They covered up the Port Harcourt accident. They covered that one up because it happened in Port Harcourt. I told her – apologize publicly to the masses and the family. Tell them that you are truly sorry so that they will know you are really remorseful. After then, we can sort this out. She told me right there, “Oh I am so sorry I can’t do that because it’s going to damage my career. I said, what? My husband was there. I swear to God Almighty. The people that came with her were not with us when she made that statement. I was at GRA Ikeja and my husband was there. So I looked at her and said, ‘so your career is more important than a human being. Now she can remember to say Nigeria, pray for me. Back then, she could not say Nigeria, I am sorry. Her ego is what is bringing her down.”
During those early days after the accident, Biola endured a lot of pressure from even a prominent traditional ruler, who pushed to get the case dropped. But she remained resolute and told the royal father: “Excuse me, Sir, where we come from, we don’t tamper with justice. Let’s leave the government to do their work. It is not between us and her. It is between her and the government. Whatever happens, it should be left for the government to decide. Not us.”
And true to her position, the Lagos State Government faithfully pursued the case and got a conviction in the court, setting the stage for Ibinabo Fiberesima to find an abode in the prison for five years.