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Dele Giwa: Fond memories for first Nigerian letter bomb victim

By Uduma Kalu
Everybody was hilarious and jolly at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church, Cathedral, Ikeja last Wednesday October 19 where the 25th memorial service for the last Newswatch founder Dele Giwa who was killed on October 19, 1986 held. Yet, deep inside them, they were sad.

The turn out was  low, though his wife, Funmilayo Dele Giwa,  survivor of the blast  and colleague of Giwa, Kayode Soyinka, the Guv’nor, Mr. Ken-Caleb Olumese, Ray Ekpu of Newswatch and his counterpart Dan Agbese, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Chief Laban Namme, former chairman of Daily Times, Kunle Ajibade, Ayo Opadokun among others were there. They were all eager to extol Dele Giwa.

Saturday Vanguard’s UDUMA KALU  was there and he captured the pains and smiles of those Giwa’s death directly affected.

Any time I hear bomb blast, I remember – Funmilayo Dele-Giwa

Twenty five years down the line… I don’t want to go back to that memory.

No, I am talking of now. Do you think the government tackled the bomb blast well considering the proliferation of  bomb blasts?

Funmilayo Dele-Giwa at the memorial service

I don’t know. Each time I hear about a bomb blast,  I always remember. But the point is that his was a starting point. It’s not anything anyone could take pride in but I still thank God that after all this time, God has been merciful.

Why are you holding this event now?



Twenty five years is a landmark for any kind of remembrance. I thank God for everything.

It’s just that you don’t go back to memory…

No, I don’t want to but I think I have spoken enough. I am tired.

I know madam but what about the kids?

They are abroad. Some of them are in school. Some of them have finished.

When the bomb occurred, some people said they won’t allow their kids to go into journalism.

It’s all about individual decision. If it’s what  the child wants to study, it doesn’t matter. A child that has journalistic interest, he will do it and God will be with him.

You still relate your media friends?

Yes, I do. I see them all the time.

His kids are doing well —Kayode Soyinka

I celebrate today because I survived the bomb blast. At the same time, I feel very sad for losing a very dear friend, someone like Dele Giwa. Twenty five years is a long time but for me, every 9th of October, I always have a free day to ponder with the world.

Because I lived with it. As much as possible, I try to reflect about what happened on that day. It’s very sad that it happened and nobody has been charged for that period of time. Some friends still call me because they remember. I don’t know whether you were around, you would have seen the pictures.

Kayode Soyinka also at the memorial

At least, you would have seen the pictures of Dele Giwa’s body on the pages of the newspapers. That must have been a very horrific incident. I have survived 25 years. In fact,  am 25 years old today. That would have been when I died. So, we are still celebrating Dele Giwa 25 years after,  today, I am marking my own 2th birthday  more or less today.

Those who did it (killing), well, they  cannot tell us  that they won’t die. They will all die one day. We are all going to die one day. When I see the children of Dele Giwa, especially, Dele Giwa’s two daughters, who are very young. The younger one was just about a year and a half that day when it happened.

I was driven to a firm in US a few months ago by my daughter. When I was picking something on the shelf, she asked me to look back and before I did that, somebody covered my face. By the time that hand was removed, it was the hand of Ayodele Aisha, Dele Giwa’s daughter.

And it was ‘ah, uncle, how are you?’ You know that kind of thing. Secondly, I went into a law firm in London, just a few weeks ago. A striving law firm in the streets of London. Who did I see there? Dele Giwa’s daughter, the younger Funmilayo.

She is practising law in London. They are well educated and they are striving. They are doing very well. So when you see things like that, despite what happened us, honestly you have to be very, very
happy. And give glory to God.

And none of them is taking to journalism?

I really don’t know but it depends on what you want to do. Dele Giwa’s contributions to the development of journalism in Nigeria is there for everybody to see.

Down the long line, bomb blast seems to be the norm.

I said it at that time if you can’t make an example of those that ….  we are facing a very bad situation. I think that is true now. Bola Ige, Rewane all these people have been killed but nobody has been arrested or tried or sentenced for the crime. That’s Nigeria for you. Now we are talking about Boko Haram.

Why is the turn out low?

Those  who are important are here. He was was a great Nigerian. He was an all round journalist.

Do you think his death killed investigative journalism in Nigeria?

It did not affect me personally. I am a thorough bred newspaper reporter. Journalism is my blood. I have never done any other thing in my life. I left from school straight to the newsroom. Thirty five years, am still in it. Some people say it was after Dele Giwa’s death that several other news magazines like the News, Tell came.

These are people who are honed into investigative journalism. And remember the role they played when we were trying to get of the military out in Nigeria here. Tell did very well. The News introduced Guerrilla Journalism. All these are spill overs from our experiences and the role Dele Giwa played.

What would have been Dele Giwa’s comment on Nigeria today?

Devastating! Even at that time when he was fighting against corruption, he never would have imagined that the level of corruption would have become bigger as it is now. And that is what is killing this country. I cannot imagine how this country can continue to survive when from 2007 to 2011, the country has spent over $600b to import food into Nigeria.

Everyday, we are spending N1bn to import rice when we have OFADA rice in this country. Are you trying to tell me that from 2007 to 2011, this country has spent over $600b? If they had banned importation of food for those years, would we have starved in Nigeria?

Now that they are talking about Sovereign Wealth Fund, if that was in our sovereign wealth for the past three years,  do you know what the strength of our naira would have been today? I think President Jonathan should be asking for s second opinion.

Giwa’s writings are immortal—Kunle Ajibade

Does the poor turn out have to do with fear of bombs or publicity?

I want to think it was because the notice was very short. The implication of that is that the memory of this man is receding now. No, it’s just the notice is short. And for me that’s just the reason. It’s not because people are afraid. Don’t think in that direction at all. The notice was short. It’s not because of bombs at all. I can tell you that.

Do you think government tackled that bomb blast well? It has proliferated.

If they allow people to do this with impunity, there will be recurrence. Other people would also want to do it. The drug trafficking for example. If Buhari had not killed Bartholomew Owo and others at that time, a lot of people would have been dying of high drugs. It sort of stemmed that tide.

It’s the same thing. The moment you allow people at a stage, the moment you allow people to lose confidence in your capacity to protect, they will resort to all manner of things. Remember there is a context to it, including the insecurity in the land. You can’t put unemployment beyond it.

We were never like this before! How come we have sunk so deeper into this kind of mess?  You and I need to really interrogate that and give a serious thought to it. I do not think that it is the context of insecurity that is responsible for this. It’s just that enough publicity was not given to it.

My own idea of remembering Dele Giwa is at best in my essay on him in my book What a Country? is for the reading public to sit down and even if it’s one, two, three of his essays that you are able to read in your office, you are able to read in your house, the memory would have been served if you are able to do that.

Because all those writings, they still live. Go and check out what he wrote about armed robbery. About the police. About university students. About the necessity to acquire knowledge as a weapon. There are things you still feel and say, is this guy still alive?

Good memories, good remembrance of Dele Giwa for me contains of people giving time to reflect on all those things he wrote about. It’s not just coming to the church alone.


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