By Lanre Arogundade
We were in his office to drop a press release and have a chat with him on some of our plight as students’ union leaders of the University of Ife. The ‘we’ included Fajemifo Christopher, the President; Mafo Ola John, the PRO; Sola Ebiseni, the Welfare Officer and myself, the General Secretary. He was the Sunday Editor of National Concord and his secretary felt we were too impatient. An altercation soon ensued and within a jiffy he rushed out of his office, apologised profusely and quickly had an audience with us. We left Concord premises talking about how fine a gentleman he was. Our story got published. That was sometime during the 1982/83 academic session and it was my first encounter with Dele Giwa.
What perhaps would have been the second encounter was destined not to be. It was about a year after graduation and the hunt for job had begun. Staying with an Uncle – Akanbi Owofolaju – in Bariga area of Lagos, I decided to try my luck at the newly established Newswatch magazine and promptly drafted an application addressed to the Editor-in-Chief. Part of the plan was to remind Dele Giwa of the Sunday Concord encounter, If I got to meet him in person. As I made my way to Bariga bus stop that morning of October 19, 1986, I noticed an unusually agitated crowd at the newspaper stand, some shouting: ” haa won ti pa” (Haa they’ve killed him). I managed to see some of the headlines of the brutal murder by parcel bomb and it was a rattled me that quickly returned home to announce what had happened.
Two years later I started my journalism career at The Republic newspapers and nine years on , I became the chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) with the question still hanging: ‘Who killed Dele Giwa?’. The year 1996 was the tenth anniversary and as our contribution to the deserved immortalisation of Dele Giwa, the authoritative media book: Journalism in Nigeria – Issues and Perspectives, edited by Dr. Tunji Dare and Dr. Adidi Uyo was published and dedicated to him.
Now, 35 years on, it is sad that the alleged killers of Dele Giwa have not been prosecuted after being fingered by Chief Gani Fawehinmi in his prolonged legal battle particularly in his bid to establish that he had the right to privately prosecute the alleged killers. Gani couldn’t get them tried, but he won for Nigerians at the Supreme Court, the right to private prosecution. The question today should therefore be: when will the alleged killers of Dele Giwa be tried? Or, will they ever be tried?
It is sadder that since Dele Giwa, many other journalists including Bagauda Kaltho of The News Magazine, who was also killed through a bomb, and twelve others have lost their lives. Eight of the twelve have been categorised as murder by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Other forms of attacks on journalists are almost a daily occurence and the other tribute we can pay to Dele Giwa and other journalism matrys besides asking for justice for them is to relentlessly defend press freedom and freedom of expression. They are the chief enablers of democracy.
May Dele Giwa’s soul continue to rest in peace.
* Lanre Arogundade, journalist, human rights activist, and public affairs analyst, is the Director, International Press Centre, Lagos.