Journalism is a dangerous profession especially in the third world nations where journalists are generally seen as 'enemies' of the state. And in Nigeria the pen-pushing profession has its dangers as well as its glory. Many professional journalists had made it to the top due to their professionalism and service for the betterment of the human condition. Some had 'graduated' from the profession to become emergency politicians by occupying plum jobs in the presidency and elsewhere in states' capitals as Special Asistants to the men of power or Commissioners or Media Aides.
In Nigeria some notable professional journalists had served leaders in different epochs in our national history. Duro Onabule served Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; Ima Niboro served the late President Yar'Adua, Doyin Okupe served former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, Louis Odion served ex-Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as Commissioner in Edo State, Rueben Abati served ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Olusegun Adeniyi served the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu are currently serving the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari etc.
Many journalists around the world had made name and money for themselves by doing their jobs dilligently and professionally. Some had won awards and others are languishing in prisons for 'crimes' they did not commit! Many Presidents and Heads of governments hate journalists and hold them in low esteem for striving to tell truth to power. The inconvenient truth being told sometimes helped in ruining despotic tendencies of some leaders while investigative reports had helped to abruptly bring governments down -- though not in Africa.
Last week Thursday, May 3, was the date designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the World Press Freedom Day, to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments globally of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
In Nigeria the event was marked with the remembrance of some journalists brutally eliminated in the course of doing their job. Names like Enenche Akogwu, Zakari Isa (killed by the Boko Haram terrorists) Godwin Agbroko, the former Chairman of the ThisDay Newspaper Editorial Board killed gruesomely inside his car in Lagos on December 21, 2006, Ogunbayo Ayanlola Ohu who was shot and killed at his home in Lagos on September 20, 2009 by suspected armed robbers, Edo Sule Ugbagwu murdered at his home on April 24, 2010; Ikechukwu Onubogu eliminated on November 15, 2017.
But, above all, the name of Sumonu Oladele "Baines" Giwa (popularly known as Dele Giwa) was mentioned with bloody nostalgia on the minds of participants. Born on 16 March 1947 in Ile-Ife, Osun State south-west Nigeria Dele Giwa had his higher education in the United States at the Brooklyn College in 1977 and later enrolled for a graduate programme at Fordham University. He was intelligent, energetic and charismatic! He was the Editor-In-Chief and CEO of 'Newswatch' magazine in Lagos. Alongside Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed and Dan Agbese he founded the pioneering investigative magazine upon his return from the States. Before returning to Nigeria from America he had worked as a News Assistant with the New York Times. He would go on to perfect his trade in the defunct National Concord and the Daily Times newspapers in Lagos.
The late Giwa and the 'Newswatch' team revolutionalized the print journalism in Nigeria (as Omoyele Sowore did to digital whistle-blowing journalism with the New York-based SaharaReporters) barking and biting, investigating and revealing dirty hidden truths about the military despot in power then. They consciously told the colourless truth to power without compromise -- perhaps only compromising their safety -- daring the dictatorial order for a 'fight'. Babangida and his confused military top brass, having corrupted good manners and democratized corruption, were afraid of their shadows, hence the urgent need to take out Giwa permanently.
Flashback October 19, 1986. It was a day that would forever remain etched in the book of infamy. On that black bloody day somewhere in Lagos Dele Giwa was full of life, hale and hearty, as he ate his breakfast at home. Billy, his son, was there as well as his London correspondent, Kayode Soyinka. That morning Billy had innocuously told his father that he had received a parcel from Musa Zibo, the security guard, for onward delivery to him. Giwa took it and opened the parcel marked "from the C-In-C" and upon opening same he was blown into smithereens by the lethal bomb it contained! Before anyone could shout 'Holy Jesus' the body of Giwa laid wasted in pieces on the floor -- torn to shreds by the letter-bomb! He was 39 years of age then with a bright future well ahead of him.
The odious crime was perpetrated with such cold-blooded, brutal technique only the Military could have pulled off at the time. Lt. Col. A.K Togun, the then Deputy Director of the State Security Service (SSS) and Col Halilu Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) were accused then as the purveyors of the parcel that terminated Giwa's eventful life. The military Head of State then, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, was not at ease with the kind of un-African journalism been practised by 'Newswatch' and he made his feelings known to his security goons.
Prior to that black Sunday in Ikeja (precisely On 22 April, 1985) a certain Ms "Gloria Okon" was caught with heroin and hard drugs at the Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano. She was headed for London. According to some accounts, Ms "Okon" did not even exist! Her real name was Chinyere. Chinyere, according to the conspiracy theorists, was a drug mule for Maryam Babangida, the late wife of IBB. Babangida, by crudely eliminating Giwa, was protecting his wife from possible exposure -- something the late Edo-born journalist was professionally working on.
Alas Dele was silenced in a brutal fashion but his espoused Americanized ideas of democracy, full disclosure, openness, free enterprise and liberty lived on! Today, three decades after his gory end Nigeria has changed for good. Democracy is here to stay, free enterprise is thriving and freedom of speech is in existence more or less. And the society, although institutionally imperfect, is more open than when he lived.
Today, IBB, is terrorized by both old age and radiculopathy that he literally limps ever closer to his grave! Akilu and Togun have both slipped into oblivion, humbled by obscurity and powerlessness. The evil trio are awaiting the very day the grim reaper, in its indiscriminate nature, would come visiting! Of course, mortality is destined for all men post-Adam. Therefore, thou shall not kill!
The late legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi, had fought tooth and nail judicially to uncover the killers of Giwa and their motives but he died while trying. Since Gani's death no one had taken up the case from where Fawehinmi had left it. Many more journalists had been killed by the state or enemies of press freedom yet justice is never done. Even a serving sitting Minister, Bola Ige, was assassinated during the imperial presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo without the assassins being apprehended or tried!
Today, thirty two years after his barbaric elimination, we remember the great Dele Giwa with grief in our hearts. The grief is made more grievous given the fact that justice post-humously is still crying naked to be done to his case! But for lovers of freedom of expression we take solace in two Biblical chapters to wit: 2 Timothy 1:7 (For God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, of power and of sound mind). And 2 Timothy 4:7 (I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith....Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness...).
Adieu big brother! May your soul however never rest in peace until justice is done and seen to be done! May Giwa's spirit never rest in peace until his killers -- IBB, Akilu, Togun -- are arrested and prosecuted. May it, therefore, continue to haunt them, torment them and give them nightmares whereever they are -- here or hereafter! Restless be thy soul!