By Charles Kumolu
Regrettably brief but inspirationally eventful! This short acclamation best raises the curtain once again on the life of Dele Giwa, who has justifiably refused to die after being gruesomely denied the right to live on October 19, 1986.
That Giwa, an ace journalist, has remained a phenomenon in the Nigerian narrative 30 years after dying via a letter bomb, is an affirmation of the import of his life, times as well as the implication of his kind of exit.
It was a life sojourn, birthed in humility, expended on national good and cut short by man’s inhumanity to man-apologies to Robert Burns.
Having attended local Authority Modern School in Lagere, Ile-lfe; Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife; Brooklyn College ,USA; and Fordham University ,USA, he was princely moulded for the profession that earned him stardom, significance, and death.
In his nearly four decades on earth, the late founding Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine earned himself professional prominence and national significance through the pursuit of professional goals and commitment to societal good.
Through the introduction of bold and investigative approach to journalism in Nigeria, Giwa , who was born in 1947 in the palace of the Ooni of Ife, altered social anomalies in manners that held the citizen and the state responsive.
Decrees, edicts, boots on the ground
Frontally, his pen confronted decrees, edicts, and boots on the ground with the aim of enthroning public good especially in an era that was not guided by the constitution.
These, the late journalist, who hailed from Edo State, exhibited as Features Editor of Daily Times, Weekend Concord and Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine-the position he held at the time the angels of death delivered the deadly parcel through his then 19-year-old son, Billy, who received it on his behalf.
Indeed, the major resultant effect of that parcel which was Giwa’s death may have dealt a devastating blow to journalism in Nigeria, it interestingly failed to suppress the ability to espouse and seek the truth.
However, the death which took place at the First Foundation Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, where he was rushed to after the explosion at his No 25, Talabi Crescent, Adeniyi Jones Avenue, Ikeja residence, remains saddening but significant in many ways.
On the one hand, many are still appalled at the failure of requisite institutions at clearing the fog surrounding the death in respective of acclaimed traces, while others see such failure as the absence of capacity by the Nigerian state to protect its citizens.
On the other hand, the incident emboldened the use of free speech as a weapon against societal ills and tyranny to point that the media stood up to the late Gen San Abacha’s dictatorship.
That the nation from that moment, has been boldly asking: Who Killed Dele Giwa? affirms that his death rather than suppressing the right to free speech fuelled the feelings of fearlessness the more.
And the event which is still believed to be an affront to press freedom has further amplified the voices for press freedom which many would agree is not sufficiently practicable as enshrined in chapter II section 39 subsection (1) of the 1999 constitution.
The constitution highlighted that part thus: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
Though some have argued that freedom of expression even with the Freedom of Information Act ,FOIA, does not mean absolute freedom, the fact that journalists perform constitutionally backed duties, qualifies them for state protection.
Giwa’s gruesome murder and its unresolved status, testify to the need for that considering that some journalists had also died under questionable circumstances since that incident of October 19, 1986.
Certainly, the attendant implications of his death informed the thrust of a colloquium holding today in Lagos in commemoration of the 30 years of his demise.
The event which is entitled: Safety of Journalists and Culture of Impunity in Africa, seeks to reflect on the life of Giwa, his contributions to journalism and the implication of his death to the practice of journalism in Africa.
With participants drawn from the media, armed forces, the executive arm of government, judiciary and civil society, the choice of attendees can’t be termed inappropriate considering the role the institutions they represent, played in the aftermath of the death of Giwa, who in his time, epitomised excellence and dynamism in Nigerian journalism.
Expectedly, today’s exercise may, on the one hand, produce a consensus for an objective investigation of the matter beyond what has been a thirty-year official indifference, just as many would re-echo this three-decade-old question: Who killed Dele Giwa?
Govt was interested in Dele Giwa’s case—Tsav
Reflecting on Giwa’s demise yesterday in an exclusive chat with Vanguard, a retired Police Commissioner, who conducted the initial investigation into the matter, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, urged the media to ensure that such cases are satisfactorily concluded.
He said: ”There was gross negligence in the cause of investigating Dele Giwa’s death. The negligence was on the part of the instigative authority and the government. I handled the case immediately it happened and sought the permission to search the places I was supposed to but the files left my hand and never came back.
Before then I had already interviewed Soyinka, who was Dele Giwa at the time the incident happened, Dele Giwa’s wife and Gani Fawehinmi. The claim that Soyinka knew what happened is not true. When the matter got to Omaben, he started to say that Soyinka was responsible and deviated from my view.
That was the end of that case. Any case that the government is interested in will never see the light of the day. That was what happened. The government was interested in the case of Dele Giwa. We saw that happen in the case of Rewane, Bola Ige, and others. That case like Dele Giwa’s case showed that any case that the government has an interest in dies a natural death.
As the media remembers Dele Giwa, they should henceforth insist that any murder case is brought to a logical conclusion even if it is the murder of a beggar, it must be investigated with a view to bringing those responsible to book. I handled the case with enthusiasm so that we could know those responsible because that was the first bomb blast in Nigeria but the government was interested in it. It was after then that we started having cases of bomb last like during the NADECO days when the group was wrongly accused of being behind the blasts.”