34 years after murder, Dele Giwa’s family seeks justice, colleague insists on govt investigation
On October 19, 1986, foremost journalist and one of the founding editors of Newswatch magazine, Dele Giwa, was gruesomely murdered via a parcel bomb in his Lagos home.
The assassination occurred two days after officials of Department of State Services (DSS), formerly known as State Security Service (SSS), interviewed him.
The manner in which the world responded, you’d think that the perpetrators of the evil would soon be fished out. However, 34 years after, nobody has been investigated or convicted for the murder.
In a chat with The Guardian, former Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, Ray Ekpu, said: “We appeared at the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission, also known as the Oputa Panel, both in Lagos and Abuja, and we made our presentations, which made the panel to issue a statement, saying that the case we presented was meritorious and investigation needed to be done by the government.”
He added, since then, “nothing has been done. Government must obey what Justice Oputa said, that is all. So, if the government is interested, it can follow up on this.”
In 2000, the late Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, broke down in tears at the panel’s sitting while narrating how his friend, Dele Giwa, was murdered. He subsequently, urged the commission to recommend to the presidency the prosecution of all suspected killers of the journalist.
According to Giwa’s brother, Tunde, “we are at a loss, because for 34 years, nothing has been done to find his killers. We are not happy. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just waiting for death to come and take me too. When you shed innocent blood, the nation pays for it. Nigeria cannot be okay until this injustice is addressed.”
Tunde is angry that since Fawehinmi died, people are no longer talking about the gruesome murder of one of Nigeria’s brightest journalists, who many referred to as the man with the mighty pen.
“The Nigerian journalist has failed our family. I believe they are the ones that should be crying that justice must be done. They are not even mentioning the issue again,” he said.
“Whenever people talk about those that contributed to Nigeria’s greatness, nobody remembers Dele Giwa. That cannot happen in a developed country. The Nigerian government has done so. Government should compensate him and his family and write his name in gold.”
Ronke Abibat Giwa-Aboaba, who is the last born of the family, quoting her brother, said, “the evil that men do will not go unpunished.”
She said after the death of Fawehimi, there was a rally in Benin, where she spoke and everybody was moved. “After that, nothing happened, and we kept hoping that one day, justice would come. Obasanjo set up Oputa Panel and he said he wanted to heal the wounds of people who lost their family members. During their report, Babangida was summoned to the panel and the response he gave was why is Dele Giwa’s case different, and he never turned up. Justice must prevail in this nation. If not the blood of my brother will continue to cry.”
Remembered for his famous quote: “Nigeria is on fire and the citizens are amused”, Giwa, and other journalists, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yabuku Mohammed, in 1984, founded the Newswatch magazine, which redefined investigative journalism in Nigeria.
The first edition was distributed on January 28, 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.”
In 1985, the paper attracted the attention of the new military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, which it praised in the beginning. By 1986, Giwa had become a torn in the flesh of government and irked the new administration because of the Newswatch reportage.
Giwa studied English at the Brooklyn College, USA and graduated in 1977. He proceeded to Fordham University for his graduate school. He returned to Nigeria, thereafter, and he immediately got a job with Daily Times newspaper.