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DELE GIWA – THE UNRESOLVED STORY OF A GRUESOME MURDER

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Twenty-four years ago today, the media world, nay, the whole world was shaken to its foundation by a parcel bomb that exploded in Lagos in the home of the editor-in chief of Newswatch Magazine, Mr Dele Giwa.

By the time the commotion caused by the explosion was over in a matter of minutes, Dele Giwa, one of the world’s best journalists, had been reduced to shreds. Dele Giwa was dead; and the world listened in disbelief.

It was a brutal and fatal climax of the persecution and land minds that had riddled the path of journalism practice.

Rewinding the event a little, one readily remembers Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson, the duo that were sent to the gulag because of the obnoxious Decree Four promulgated in 1984 by a vengeful military regime with an intent to shield it and its minions from being accountable to the Nigerian people. The intent of the decree was clear - to silence opinion, speculation and even the truth.

For about a year, Irabor and Tunde remained silenced but the world was not; the truth was not hidden. And that regime is now history.

Similarly, before Irabor and Thompson debacle, Minere Amakiri, the Rivers State correspondent of The Observer, then owned by Midwestern State, later Bendel now comprising Edo and Delta states, was arrested, taken to Government House Port Harcourt, shaved, tortured and given 24 strokes of the cane on the order of a military governor for a very trivial issue.

It has been the norm; where the journalists could not be manipulated through a kangaroo legal system to jail, they were subjected to brutish treatment, horror and disgrace.

But it wasn’t until Dele Giwa was bombed that it dawned on the whole world that journalists in Nigeria were becoming endangered specie; that the time has come to sleep with one eye open.

Photo: Military dictator General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was head of state when Dele Giwa was murdered.

After Dele Giwa was the celebrated case of Baguada Kaltho, the Kano State correspondent of The News Magazine, who was blown to shreds by a bomb in Hamdela Hotel, Kaduna in 1996. That violent death still remains a mystery till date.

Alifa Daniels, the then Lokoja chief correspondent of Concord Newspapers, just managed to escape death in 1992 in Lokoja, Kogi state, but not before he was bathed with acid. And just last year, on September 20, 2009, Mr. Bayo Ohu, the deputy political editor of the Guardian was silenced by assassin’s bullets.

One disturbing trend about the murder of these journalists is the fact that security agencies and all those charged with providing security to the Nigerian citizens have not been able to fish out even one of the perpetrators of these crimes.

By the time the sound of the bombs or guns used in silencing these gentlemen of the press ceases, what normally happen are empty promises; mere frenzy and sometimes phony arrests which prosecutions have not been conclusive. So justice is not only done but has not been seen and heard to have been done.

This is a very unfortunate trend especially as it affects the people who normally assume the responsibility of fighting for the less-privileged, the deprived and the underdogs. It is saddening and disturbing to observe that a people whose duty it is to fight for justice for others; to struggle for the emancipation of the nation right from the colonial days; who fought to bring about the current democratic dispensation now enjoyed by all, are the ones made to suffer the greatest form of injustice.

The bomb culture which hitherto was alien to our society has now been elevated to a position where it could be displayed a few meters from Eagle Square, on October 1, 2010, the day all eyes were on Nigeria as she celebrated her Golden Jubilee of political independence.

And like the killing of journalists, the bomb explosions which claimed lives of many innocent Nigerians, have degenerated into controversies of claims and counter-claims which may at the end muffle justice.

But just as we mourn and will continue to mourn the gruesome murder of these colleagues of ours, and other Nigerians destroyed in premeditated violence, we are still reaffirming our faith in Nigeria; we are expressing once again our resolve to work for a better Nigeria where everyone is free to perform his lawful duties irrespective of creed, breed or status.

We are still proud to say that the pen is mightier than the sword; we have resolved to uphold the tenets of our profession by being fair to all manner of people.

But we are making this appeal: let every Nigerian, young and old, the leaders and the led, begin to respect the sanctity of human life. Let murder, parcel bombs, AK 47 and other instruments of destruction, kidnapping and others; give way to informed reasoning, argument and dialogue.

Let us be made to begin to have confidence in our security system believing that no crime is too complicated to be resolved.

As we mourn today, let us believe that one-day, the Question: “Who Killed Dele Giwa?” would be answered to the satisfaction of the whole world. Until then, may God continue to bless Nigeria?

Rest In Perfect Peace Comrade Dele Giwa!

NUJ, AKWA IBOM STATE CHAPTER

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