By EMMANUEL AZIKEN
I HAVE often wondered how the late journalism icon, Dele Giwa would have responded to the hullabaloo about zoning that rocked the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the months preceding the last general elections.
Remarkably, the controversy that shadowed zoning in the Peoples Democratic Party, ahead of the recent general elections was not new in the chronicles of party disputes in Nigeria.
In the one or two years leading to the 1983 elections, a similar but less divisive rumpus had broken out within the then ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
One of the leading financiers of the party was Moshood Abiola, who according to the value of any recognized currency of that time was regarded as a multimillionaire. One of the instruments with which he supported his partisan political causes was his newspaper empire, the Concord Group including Daily National Concord and the weekend titles.
Abiola, it emerged, was interested in picking the NPN presidential ticket for the 1983 election a move that was directly against the political interests of the incumbent President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
Umaru Dikko the then Transport Minister and alter ego of then President Shehu Shagari was dismissive of Abiola’s ambition. He tellingly asserted that the presidency was not for sale.
It was a rebuke that allegedly pained Abiola suggesting in the mind of some that all his political investments were in vain. It was also painful that in championing the interests of the NPN, albeit vainly in the Southwest, that Abiola had become an object of hate among his people who saw him as a spoiler for the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN.
Where the PDP meandered on the issue of zoning, the NPN before it, effectively closed the door on Abiola apparently forcing the millionaire out of the party and making him to deregulate his philanthropic gestures to all and sundry.
As editor of Abiola’s Sunday Concord, I remember Giwa’s riposte on the issue in his Parallax Snaps column sometime in 1982. The piece had a catchy title that was something like Shagari + Akinloye ÷ zoning = Stupid.
I really cannot remember the thrust of his argument on the issue but I vividly remember pasting that particular article on my wall in Speer House, at Edo College.
There were a number of other memorable pieces from Mr. Giwa that graced my corner of Speer House. His prolific writings were an inspiration to me even as I left Edo College and went on to the University of Benin to read Biochemistry.
When the Newswatch dream was conceived, I waited patiently for the debut edition. Even though I missed the promo edition, but I remember going all the way from the Ugbowo campus in a tuke-tuke bus to Ring Road looking for the magazine as Giwa and his colleagues pioneered a new concept in journalism.
His death on October 19, 1985 through a parcel bomb was shocking. It is even more scandalous that 25 years after one of the most enterprising icons of the arts to have passed these shores that those that conceived the death have yet to be publicly exposed and brought to justice.
The way and manner Dele Giwa’s death has been officially brushed aside is reflective of the very low value we look at life in Nigeria. The several high and low profile assassinations, preventable deaths in the hospitals and so on tell the story.