19 October 2018

Nigeria: Dele Giwa - the Flaming Journalist

Today marks the day Dele Giwa died.

Sumonu Oladele "Baines" Giwa was born in 1947 to a family who worked in the palace of Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the Ooni of Ife. After his secondary school education in Ile Ife, he headed to Brooklyn College, USA to study English. In 1974, he married an American nurse. After his graduation in 1977, he proceeded to Fordham University for his graduate school.

Upon return, he landed a job with Daily Times newspaper. He went on to marry former senator Florence Ita Giwa but the marriage lasted 10 months.

In 1984, he and other journalists Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yabuku Mohammed founded the Newswatch magazine. The magazine redefined investigative journalism in Nigeria.

That same year, he married to Olaufunmilayo Olaniyan. In 1985, the paper attracted the attention of the new military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida which it praised in the beginning. By 1986, he had become a terror and irked the new administration because of the Newswatch criticisms.

He had written about the newly introduced Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) and stated that if SFEM ( "God's experiment") failed, people will "stone their leaders in the streets". This did not go down well with the government who invited him to the State Security Service (SSS) office on the 19th of September 1986.

On the 9th of October, the deputy director of the SSS Lt. Col. A.K. Togun organised a meeting with airport journalists to state that any report that will embarrass the government be given to the SSS before publishing it. Col Togun alleged that this meeting was also held with Dele Giwa and Alex Ibru of the Guardian Newspaper.

Again, on the 16th of October 1986, Giwa was questioned by Col Halilu Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) on the allegation that he was speaking to people about arms importation and for attempting to write the "other side" of the story on the removal of Ebitu Ukiwe as Chief of the General staff to General Babangida in the cover of Power Games: Ukiwe loses out.

After his return, Giwa told his friend Prince Tony Momoh, the minister of Communications that he feared for his life but Momoh joked that it should not be taken seriously.

The following day, a staff of DMI requested for his office number from his wife. Attempts to reach him at his office failed hence the call once again to his home only this time, Col. Akilu spoke with his wife asking her for directions stating that the president's ADC has something to give Giwa.

The following day, Giwa called to find out why there was a call and Akilu told him not to bother. 40 minutes after that, Giwa received a parcel which it turned out was a letter bomb. He was rushed to the hospital where his last words were to his friend and medical director of First Foundation Medical Centre, Ikeja. According to a report, the veteran " 'in burning pains took a look at the Medical Director who was said to be his friend and told him: "Tosin, they've got me.' "

He died on this day in 1986 at the age of 39.

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