• 3 policemen, two others also killed
By Yemi Adebowale, 12.23.2006
Godwin Agbroko, veteran journalist and Chairman, THISDAY Editorial Board was last night shot dead in Lagos by armed bandits. He was on his way home at about 10pm from the office in Apapa, when he ran into a robbery scene at Daleko fly-over, Iyana-Isolo. The bridge links Isolo to Mushin. Agbroko was found in a pool of his own blood with his car and valuables in it untouched. He had his seat belt intact, with music and the air conditioner on. Three policemen and two bystanders were also killed in the area at about the same time Agbroko was killed. The bandits who killed Agbroko were suspected to have killed the policemen.
As at press time, THISDAY could not obtain an official report from the police on the incident. But an officer at the Lagos State Police Command who pleaded for anonymity said, “the information about Agbroko’s murder was picked from our radio message, indicating that after killing the victim, they went ahead to kill three policemen on patrol in the area.” He confirmed that Agbroko was found in a pool of his own blood.
The highly respected columnist will be best remembered for his column, This Nation that runs on Tuesdays in THISDAY. He gives an uncommon insight into issues. The last column published on Tuesday was a satire on the PDP Presidential primaries, which he described as an electoral magic. “As things go, only the PDP can bring about this electoral magic,” Agbroko wrote on the emergence of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket.
Simon Kolawole, THISDAY’s Editor–at-Large once remarked about his intellect: “He is someone I never joke with his views. There are times I am a bit tentative about my viewpoints and I decide to sound him out. In two or three minutes, he would have ironed out all the wrinkles. I always come off smiling quietly to myself and repeating the words of our forefathers: No matter how many Tommy Hilfiger designs a child has, he can never have as many rags as an elder.”
Agbroko read Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Television Authority. He also lectured in a higher institution in Delta State, before switching to print journalism. He worked with the Guardian newspapers, where he rose to become Editor of the defunct African Guardian. Agbroko also worked as Editor of Newswatch and The Week magazines.
In 1997, he won the prestigious Pen/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards. The awards are designed to honour two writers who have fought courageously in the face of adversity for the right to freedom of expression. Established in 1987, and underwritten by PEN member Barbara Goldsmith, the awards have been granted to a total of 37 writers who have either used the money to set up new and innovative projects to further their work against censorship or to writers who have been in dire financial straits as a result of political persecution, often consisting of imprisonment.
Agbroko has been detained and tortured severally in the course of his career. He was arrested and held briefly twice in 1995. On December 17, 1996, while editing The Week, three members of the State Security Service apprehended Agbroko in his office, and then drove him away in a white Peugeot. His colleagues were unable to determine where Agbroko was being held, or whether he had been charged with any crime. They believed, however, that his arrest was linked to his outspoken criticism of Nigeria's military. All calls to police and security headquarters were met with flat denials that Agbroko was being detained. Finally, his colleagues learned that he was being held at the Military Intelligence Detention Center in Lagos, though there was no word on whether any charges had been filed against him. His wife managed to see him once, but he was subsequently denied visits from his family and lawyers. Within weeks after receiving the Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, Agbroko was released from prison.
According to Yusuph Olaniyonu, THISDAY (Sunday Editor) who worked under him at The Week magazine, “Agbroko was not just an editor, he was a teacher to the end. We taught we knew how to write good stories until we worked under him. He was full of humour. However, a bad copy could easily irritate him. He was very good in the use of language and local anecdotes.”
“Agbroko is a great philosopher. He once described death as a policeman, always on the prowl, waiting for somebody to arrest,” remarked Nduka Nwosu, Deputy Editor, THISDAY on Saturday..
He was survived by five children and wife. One of his children, Ruonah has taken after him. While in the university, she maintained a column, The Way the Cookie Crumbles published in THISDAY. When she graduated, she continued with it, under a new name, “As I Please.
His last article:
Magic As Primaries
This Nation By Godwin Agbroko, Email: [email protected], 12.18.2006
Finally, the PDP has come up with Katsina State governor, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, as its presidential candidate and Governor Goodluck Jonathan of Bayelsa, the running mate. As things go, only the PDP can bring about this type of electoral magic.
Moments before the last Saturday primaries in Abuja, front-runners in the gubernatorial tribe like Odili, Mu'azu, Attah and Duke, started to kowtow to the political recluse from Katsina, claiming that they were doing so in obedience to the wishes of their party. While those from the south claimed they were quitting the race because the PDP (or is it President Obasanjo?) has zoned the presidential slot to the north, other governors said they were obeying the governor's forum which adopted Yar'Adua as a consensus candidate.
And suddenly, the 20 aspirants earlier cleared to contest the primaries suddenly dropped to 12. The stubborn ones who refused to give way for the anointed one had their noses rubbed thoroughly in the dust of Eagle Square.
Out of a total of 5,000 votes, Yar'Adua alone polled 3,024. His closest rival scored less than 400 votes. Even Gen. Mamman Kontagora could not muster a single delegate to vote for him – he scored zero vote.
Yet, until this newspaper reported exclusively a number of weeks back that he was Obasanjo's chosen candidate, Yar'Adua was clearly not in the reckoning for the PDP presidential ticket. He had by then, neither made his aspiration public nor for that matter, emerged from his political cocoon in Katsina State. It was only after THISDAY broke the story of his anointing that he came out of the closet, so to speak. Even then, he barely managed to sustain a tepid campaign until the eve of the primaries. And he won handily!
Yes, there is some similarity between Yar'Adua's emergence this year and that of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as NPN presidential candidate in 1979. Both men, unlike other aspirants, were far from obsessed by the quest for president. In fact, Shagari had the modest ambition of being only a senator of the federal republic. It was in the process of praying for Allah's favour for his modest aspiration in a secluded part of the venue for the primaries that party members by-passed the more vociferous campaigners and went in search of Shagari to implore him to accept the ticket. He did, and as the cliche goes, the rest is history.
Like Shagari, Yar'Adua may not have gone out of his way to seek the PDP ticket. Moreover, both men share a great deal of similarity in both physical and character traits. Taciturn and humble, the two politicians would appear to have a passion for honesty and integrity in public office. They equally seem to be unaffected by material things, despite the splendour of public office in Nigeria. To round it up, the outward simplicity of both men would seem to be a cloak for an iron cast of mind within.
Despite all of these, there are crucial points of departure in the emergence of Shagari and Yar'Adua. From his days as parliamentary secretary to Ahmadu Bello, down to being a federal commissioner (minister) many times over in Gowon's cabinet, Shagari had been in public office for decades and was well-known to Nigerians. The politicians who went to persuade him to run in 1979 knew their man quite well.
In the case of Yar'Adua, his emergence was obviously a hide-and-seek game instigated by one man. Outside Katsina, and probably a few other proximate states, Nigerians, including the aspirants who stepped down, cannot claim to know Yar'Adua well. So, while one was the product of a democratic consensus (no zoning to the north and no anointing), the other is more like the handiwork of a garrison compulsion.
Not to worry. As long as voting and vote-counting were done in the open, the form of democracy (never mind the substance) has been satisfied. If PDP didn't do things this way, then (like panadol) it cannot be PDP.