October 19, 2015

Dele Giwa, 29 years after

Late Dele Giwa

Today marked exactly 29 years since ace journalist and founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch, Sumonu Oladele Giwa was gruesomely murdered by a mail bomb, in his residence on 25, Talabi Street, off Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos.

Dele Giwa as he was fondly called, met his untimely death on Sunday, October 19, 1986, at the House 25 Talabi Street, which has now given way to a hospital. He was killed in his prime at age 39. Had he been alive today, he would be 68 years old.

Late Dele Giwa

Late Dele Giwa

That Sunday morning, the merchants of death gave the deadly parcel to his then 19-year-old son, Billy, who received it on his behalf.

The assailants had vanished into thin air when he attempted to open the parcel and a blast occurred “tearing open’’ his lower region.

His colleague, Newswatch’s London Bureau Chief, Kayode Soyinka, who was with him at the time of the tragic event, suffered perforated eardrums. Giwa died at the First Foundation Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, where he was rushed to after the explosion.

Dele Giwa was born on March 16, 1947 to a poor family working in the palace of Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife.

He attended local Authority Modern School in Lagere, Ile-lfe.

When his father moved to Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife as a laundry man, he gained admission to that school.

Dele Giwa travelled to the USA for his higher education, earning a BA in English and Communication Arts from Brooklyn College in 1977 and enrolled for a Graduate program at Fordham University.

He worked with the New York Times as a news assistant for four years after which he relocated to Nigeria to work with Daily Times.

Later, in 1984, Dele Giwa and fellow journalists Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed founded Newswatch and the first edition was distributed on 28 January 1985.

A 1989 description of the magazine said it “changed the format of print journalism in Nigeria [and] introduced bold, investigative formats to news reporting in Nigeria”.

However, in the first few months of the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, who took power in August 1985, the magazine was shamelessly flattering. It printed his face on the cover four times and even criticised “anyone who attempted to make life unpleasant for Babangida.”

Later, the paper took a more hostile view of the Babangida regime.

However, so many stories sprung up after his death on who killed him and why he was killed.

One of such stories was his link to Gloria Okon, a lady who was arrested in 1985 for Drug related offenses and who was said to have links to the late wife of IBB

Gloria Okon was said to have died in detention but a couple of months after, Dele Giwa ran into her in London and she poured out her story to him.

It was said that the Government got to know of the meeting and allegedly decided to wipe out Giwa as that remained the only way to keep him off their tracks.

Giwa married an American nurse in 1974.

His second marriage, to Florence Ita Giwa, lasted 10 months.

He later married Olufunmilayo Olaniyan on July 10, 1984, and they were married until his death in 1986.

He was survived by his mother, wives and children.

As Nigeria and the rest of the world seize today, to celebrate, as well as to remember the legacies of this refined journalist, the unanswered question 29 years after remains: Who killed Dele Giwa?

When an answer will come, however, remains unknown for now.