TODAY marks exactly 25 years that iconic journalist and one of the founders of Newswatch magazine, Dele Giwa was parceled out of existence through a parcel bomb, the first of its kind in the history of the country.
Today also marks 25 years of a fruitless search for the mastermind and executors of the deadly deed. In the last two and a half decades, an avalanche of assassinations had followed on the heels of Giwa’s murder and each of them, like Giwa’s, have remained unresolved raising concerns on the safety of lives and property in the country.
How he was killed
Dele Giwa’s murder was like what one saw on high profile movies.
The officer who led the government’s investigation of the murder, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, a senior Police officer now retired submitted a signed statement to the Oputa Panel in July, 2001, detailing how the assassination was carried out.
According to him, “On 19th October, 1986 at about 11am two men drove a white Peugeot 504 saloon car with unidentified registration number to No 25, Talabi Street, Ikeja, the residence of 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 doorbell to Dele Giwa’s residence. “In response thereof, Billy Giwa, the deceased’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 Coat of Arms with the inscription ‘From the office of the C-in-C.’ Billy Giwa said he… handed over the parcel to his father who was in the study with Kayode Soyinka, the London Bureau Chief of the (Newswatch) Magazine.
He retired to the sitting room to join his stepmother 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.” With his death, the stage was set for a search for the killers with a section of the polity especially the human right community fingering a former military ruler.
The Police investigated the matter without uncovering the culprits. With the return of civil rule, the matter was taken to the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa-led rights violation investigation panel in 2001, where Tsav tendered the above statements and still no name was pinned down to the murder.
Born on 16 March 16 1947 to a poor family working in the palace of Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife, Dele Giwa attended local Authority Modern School in Lagere, Ile-lfe. When his father moved to Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife as a washer man, he gained admission to that school.
Dele Giwa traveled to the USA for his higher education. After his studies and robust journalism career at the defunct Concord Newspapers owned by late business mogul and politician, Chief M.K.O Abiola, the late Dele Giwa and fellow journalists – Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed founded Newswatch in 1984 with the first edition distributed on January 28, 1985.
Having led a move that revolutionised magazine publication in the country, Dele Giwa’s murder shook the polity especially the media and human rights community. And so, 25 years after, the recurring question has remained: Who killed Dele Giwa?
Other journalists gunned down
Failure to resolve Dele Giwa’s murder and successfully prosecute the perpetrators seem to have paved the way for the commission of more atrocious killings.
And now journalists are gradually becoming endangered species. The lengthening list of unresolved murders include: Bagauda Kaltho, Sunday Gyang Bwede (The Light Bearer April 24, 2010, in Jos, Plateau State, Nathan S. Dabak (The Light Bearer, April 24, 2010, in Jos, Plateau State), Bayo Ohu (The Guardian, September 20, 2009, in Lagos), Samson Boyi, (The Scope November 5, 1999, in Adamawa State), Sam Nimfa-Jan (Details May 27, 1999, in Kafanchan), Fidelis Ikwuebe (Freelancer, April 18, 1999, Anambra), Okezie Amaruben (Newsservice September 2, 1998, in Enugu) and Tunde Oladepo, The Guardian February 26, 1998, Abeokuta).
Others include Edo Sule Ugbagwu (The Nation, April 24, 2010, Lagos), Eiphraim Audu (Nasarawa State Broadcasting Service, October 16, 2008, Lafia), Paul Aboyomi Ogundeji (ThisDay, August 16, 2008, Dopemu, Lagos), Godwin Agbroko (ThisDay December 22, 2006, Lagos), Bolade Fasasi (National Association of Women Journalists, March 31, 1999, Ibadan), Chinedu Offoaro (The Guardian, May 1, 1996 and Baguda Kaltho (TheNEWS March 1, 1996).
Other unresolved murders Apart from journalists, countless others including politicians have suffered similar fate. Among those gunned down were former Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, Engr Funsho Williams, Chief Alfred Rewane, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Dr Harry Marshal, Chief Aminosoari Dikibo, Ogbonnaya Uche, Dipo Dina, Eyo Eyo, Mr and Mrs Barnabas Igwe, Lateef Olaniyan, Bala Mai Haile, Toyin Onagoruwa, Sunday Ugwu and Chief Layi Balogun among others.