By Tayo Ogunbiyi
AS a teenager, one of the passions that I indulged in was reading. Those were the days of James Hadley Chase, Mills and Boons, Pacesetters, African Writers’ series among others. An integral part of my passionate reading inclination then was Nigerian newspapers. How much I loved (I still do) reading newspapers. It was in the days of the Daily Times, Daily Sketch and the Lagos Weekend of this world. Along the line came other exciting national dailies such as the National Concord, This Day, The Guardian and whole lots of equally stimulating others. Naturally, in the course of reading Nigerian Dailies, one came across several writers/columnists whose writing styles are so tantalizingly adorable and irresistible. Among such are Pini Jason, Duro Onabule, Yakubu Mohammed, Mohammed Haruna, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese among others.
Of the lots, Dele Giwa was, without doubt, in a class of his own. Dele Giwa brought something entirely refreshing to journalism in the country. He brought an unusual air of intellectuality and enthusiasm to journalism. His write ups were sharp, factual and exhilarating. Giwa wrote in audacious fashion. Back then, one was quite young and fairly rebellious. Before long, I became totally enchanted by Dele Giwa’s style of writings. He was the Apostle while was a disciple.
It wasn’t Giwa’s writings alone that captivated me. His style did too. Giwa was a power dresser; handsome and clean. He was very sociable. So, Giwa was not just about intellectuality and fine prose, he loved life and was enjoying it to the fullest.
In those days, journalists were traditionally regarded as conservatives when it comes to socializing and living the good life. But Giwa changed that perception and it was for real. He rode a Mercedes Benz 200 ‘V booth’, then famously regarded as the king of the wheels. He lived in a high brow area usually reserved for society’s big movers. To Giwa, he was a ‘big boy’ in his own right. A different kind of ‘big boy’ though.
His power did not lie in a political office he was holding. His power stemmed from the tip of his pen. It was a kind of power that the movers and shakers of the society could not but reckon with. Soon powerful men that hold the key to power and the corridor of power began to court Giwa. Giwa was no longer your usual writer.
He had become the conscience of the nation as well as a powerful media entrepreneur. With his departure from the defunct National Concord and the setting up of the trail blazing Newswatch (defunct?) magazine with three of his other colleagues, Giwa brought a brand new dimension into investigative journalism in the country. Every week, readers looked forward to being served the scrumptious journalistic menu from the stable of Giwa and his media co-travelers. It was such an exciting moment in the annals of the country’s journalism. It was one of the finest moments of print journalism in the country.
It is important to stress, at this point, that Giwa and his colleagues operated at a period in our national history when military juntas wield political power. It was a dark era in the history of our dear nation. It was a period when all manners of draconian laws were promulgated to muzzle journalists. And with the brand of investigative and daring journalism that Giwa and his colleagues were practicing, there was no way they won’t run into trouble with the ruling military junta. But then, no one would have thought that things would actually turn out the way it did.
When it eventually happened, it was in a devastating manner. One fateful Sunday morning, on October 19th, 1986, the most unlikely day to execute evil, in the company of a colleague, Kayode Soyinka, a parcel that allegedly had the seal of the Presidency was brought to Giwa who reportedly cuddled it with a smile as he beckoned on his gateman who innocently delivered the deadly message to leave. Thereafter, he placed the lethal object on his lap while trying to unwrap its content. What followed was a deafening noise that not only blew up Giwa, perhaps Nigeria’s brightest gift to journalism, but disrupted the peace of the entire neighbourhood and indeed the nation for a long while.
With the last breathe in him, Giwa allegedly muttered the words: “They have gotten me”. His dastardly murder was followed by a fierce legal battle between late fiery human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and the then Federal Military Government. Though, as usual, Chief Fawehinmi fought a gallant legal battle, justice was, nevertheless, not secured in favour of the departed Giwa. His life was abruptly and sadly cut short at the unripe age of 39. Aisha, his then one-year-old daughter was thus denied the privilege of a fatherly love and attention. His young wife, Funmi, was thrown into accidental widowhood. Being the bread winner of his immediate family, one can only imagine the depth of the loss his sudden demise on the family.
Like most high profile murder cases in the country, exactly thirty years after Giwa was brutally slain, his murder case remains unsolved. As a nation, we have had to grapple with so many unresolved murder cases. So many of our compatriots have been gruesomely assassinated, with their supposed killers moving freely in the society. The list is endless but top in mind are Chief Bola Ige, Engr. Funsho Williams, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Chief (Mrs.) Bisoye Tejuosho, Bagauda Kaltho to mention but a few. Since the Buhari-led federal government came on board on the mantra of change, it would not amount to asking for too much if some of these unresolved murder cases are re-opened.
It is in view of this that one is advocating the overhauling of the criminal justice system of the country in such a manner that would guarantee faster and unbiased dispensation of justice to all concerned regardless of their social status. The only thing that could make evil to flourish in a society is for those that commit evil to repeatedly go scot-free.
Dele Giwa and other Nigerians who were murdered in horrible circumstances must not be allowed to die in vain. Until justice is done, the question: “Who killed Dele Giwa” would continue to serve as a poisonous arrow in the conscience of those who committed the heinous crime.
Ogunbiyi writes from Lagos