A good number of my readers this morning would struggle to know what role the person of Dele Giwa played in investigative journalism of Nigeria’s political history same way the Premium Times, or Sahara Reporters are playing today thanks to what seem to be a democratic Press Freedom.
Cutting the Long story short, Dele Giwa was assassinated in the line of duty this day 33 years ago in Lagos.
Read the Plot Below (Source:Wikipedia)
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Dele Giwa was killed by a mail bomb in his Lagos home on 19 October 1986.
The assassination occurred two days after he had been interviewed by State Security Service (SSS) officials. In an off-the-record interview with airport journalists, Lt. Col. A.K. Togun, the Deputy Director of the SSS had claimed that on 9 October Dele Giwa and Alex Ibru had organised a media parley for media executives and the newly created SSS. Togun claimed that it was at this meeting that the SSS and the media executives reached a secret censorship agreement. Under this agreement, the media was to report any story with potential to embarrass the government to the SSS before they tried to publish same.
Giwa had been invited by the SSS to their headquarters for the first time on 19 September 1986 after writing an article in which he described the newly introduced Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) as “God’s experiment” and suggested that if SFEM failed, the people would will stone their leaders in the streets. Giwa was interviewed and his statement taken by two SSS operatives. He was later taken to meet with Lt Col Togun, the deputy director of the agency in his office. Togun is reported to have told Giwa that he found nothing offensive in the story as Giwa had also stated in the same story that he was hopeful that Babangida seemed determined to make SFEM work.
According to Giwa’s neighbour and colleague, Ray Ekpu, on 16 October 1986, Giwa had been questioned over the telephone by Col Halilu Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) over an allegation that Dele had been heard speaking to some people about arms importation. SSS officials reportedly summoned Giwa to their headquarters again on 16 October 1986, and on the next day Ekpu accompanied him to the SSS headquarters for the interview. Lt. Col Togun accused Giwa and Newswatch of planning to write the “other side” of the story on Ebitu Ukiwe who was removed as Chief of the General staff, to General Babangida. The magazine had published a cover story titled, “Power Games: Ukiwe loses out”, in its edition of 20 October which was on sale on 13 October 1986. Togun also accused Giwa plotting with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and students to carry out a socialist revolution. Giwa was also accused of saying that Newswatch would employ the suspended police public relations officer Alozie Ogugbuaja. Ogugbuaja claims that on 16 October 1986, a bomb was defused by the police bomb squad at his official residence in GRA, Ikeja, Lagos. Ogugbuaja also said that he suspected that his phone might have been bugged because Giwa and Ray Ekpu in one of their telephone conversations with him had indeed promised to employ him in Newswatch if the police dismissed him.
Ray Ekpu also believed that their houses and phones may have been bugged because he did discuss employing Ogugbuaja in Newswatch with dele Giwa over the phone only; he said that he found two bugging devices in the cover of two books inside his study.
Lt. Col. Togun while questioning Giwa had claimed that he wasn’t aware of the fact that Akilu had already questioned Giwa over the gun running allegations the day before, this was after Giwa had brought it to his attention
On twenty October, the day after the bombing, the government convened a press conference presided over by Augustus Aikhomu. Before the press conference started, all press photographers, foreign journalists, and Nigerians that worked for foreign news media were ordered out. Those left behind were told that the briefing was “off the record” and Aikhomu would not be entertaining any questions
Aikhomu then went on to ask Ismaila Gwarzo, the Director of the SSS and Haliru Akilu to render their accounts of what had transpired between Dele Giwa and their agencies in the recent past. Gwarzo confirmed that the SSS had invited Giwa for questioning over allegations of gun running. Akilu on his part confirmed that he had called Giwa’s home on 18 October to ask for directions to the house so he could stop over to see Giwa while on his way to Kano through Ikeja airport. Akilu also said that he had wanted to visit Giwa at home to “prove a Hausa adage that if you visit someone in his house, you show him you are really a friend.” Ekpu claimed that he remembered Gwarzo saying that the killing was “quite embarrassing” and also that Tony Momoh had described it as “a clear case of assassination”; later he was quoted saying, “a special probe would serve no useful purpose”.Graffiti of the time implied a belief that the SSS had been responsible.
In a newspaper interview years later in retirement, Chris Omeben who at the time was the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of the Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) at Alagbon, on his part recalled that he was the second officer to have handled the case file after he had taken it over from his predecessor at the FIIB, Victor Pam. Omeben explained that he had done what any competent investigator would have done in unraveling the circumstances surrounding the death of Dele Giwa. He went on to say that he had examined the crime scene and found it suspicious that the toilet adjacent to the blast site which Kayode Soyinka alleged he was occupying when the explosion occurred had also suffered damage from the blast but Soyinka was left unscathed. Omeben described the force of the explosion to have been strong enough to blow out the steel bars over the toilet window (burglary protection), which in his own assessment made Soyinka’s story less convincing. Omeben also claims he requested to interview Dan Agbese, Ray Ekpu and Kayode Soyinka. Of the three, only Agbese turned up, he was later to find out that Soyinka had fled the country. Omeben also recalled that in the course of his investigations he had cause to interrogate both Haliru Akilu and Tunde Togun. According to Omeben Akilu defended Giwa’s invitation to the DMI by saying Giwa was invited to clarify statements he made to a New York daily which had been assessed as having potential to paint the country in a bad light in the international press.The only known interview Giwa gave to any New York daily was one published eight months earlier in a New York Times story about rising religious nationalism and extremism in Nigeria. On the issue of rising Islamic nationalism, Giwa gave this singular quote in the story, It’s a dangerous, explosive trend,…in the worst case, I see a situation where die-hard Christians and die-hard Moslems are fighting in the streets. Omeben said he was satisfied with the reasons Akilu and Togun gave for inviting Giwa.
However, Soyinka has come out to reply Omeben and accused him of spreading deliberate falsehood with his comments on him on his involvement with the parcel bomb incident. In an interview he granted The Nation newspaper of Lagos of Saturday, 19 January 2013, Soyinka strongly denied that he ran to the toilet when the bomb exploded. He said he did not know where Omeben got that false information from. When questioned, Soyinka requested to not be required to relive the experience again.
In all of these, i hope Nigeria remembers you as you continue to rest on.