He was at the breakfast table with his friend and colleague, Kayode Soyinka. Sunmonu Dele Giwa did not expect any visitor. But in the middle of the late breakfast, a bicycle-riding postman came. His message was clear, to deliver a parcel to Dele Giwa.
The parcel, which bore the coat of arm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was received by Dele Giwa’s eldest son, Billy, then 19 years old. Billy handed over the parcel to his father. The latter looked at the parcel over and over again, and said in an assuring voice: “This must be from the president”.
Dele Giwa was unsuspicious of any foul play, just like Kayode who was sharing the breakfast with him. With self-assuring gesture, Dele opened the parcel. And behold, what looked like a mere harmless parcel turned out to be a letter bomb meant to blow Dele Giwa out of existence. Suddenly, the relaxed ambience of 25, Talabi, Street, Ikeja, Lagos, where Dele and his family lived, turned somber. Armageddon had visited. The bomb explosive parcel badly lacerated Dele’s body, shattered and charred his breakfast set and other domestic appurtenances. This was on Sunday, October 19, 1986.
While Dele Giwa was wriggling in pain, he persistently moaned a refrain, “they have got me!” He sustained the refrain until he gave up the ghost at the hospital where he was rushed to. Who did he refer to as “they,” remains a riddle till today.
All indications show that Dele Giwa saw his death coming. Few days to his gruesome murder, he was harassed by Nigeria’s top-most security chiefs.
According to Giwa’s Attorney, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (now late), the State Security Service (SSS) officials summoned Giwa to their headquarters on October 17, 1986, just 48 hours before he was murdered. The Deputy Director of the SSS, Colonel A.K. Togun had accused Dele Giwa of planning a socialist revolution and of gun-running. Twenty-four hours later, the Director of the Military Intelligence, Colonel Halilu Akilu, had allegedly telephoned to confirm Giwa’s home address. Dele Giwa was about to challenge his accusers in court when the friends of hell snuffed life out of him.
Like a splash, 25 years have passed since the murder of the founding editor-in-chief of Newswatch through a cowardly anonymity of a parcel bomb, yet there are no clues as to his mysterious death.
Throughout the tenure of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, under whose watch the cruel murder occurred, the police and other security apparatuses expressed helplessness, repeating their now familiar refrains of “no fresh leads”, ‘we have no clues yet, but we are still on it.” The case file of the slain journalist remained open for several years, with the police, like the Godot, awaiting information from the public that could lead to the identification of Dele Giwa’s killers.
Ray Ekpu, with whom Dele Giwa founded Newswatch, along with Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed, in 1984, wonders why “such an unusual and sophisticated elimination method, (used for Giwa) which ought to excite the interest, curiosity and concern of the IBB government in a more than routine fashion” seems to be lost on the Nigerian police.
Not even monetary inducement offered by the Newswatch and Professor Wole Soyinka and his Pyrates Confraternity has helped to unravel the mystery of Giwa’s death. The helplessness of the Nigerian State Security Services on the matter has therefore been interpreted by many people to mean that Giwa’s death must have had the endorsement of highly placed security personnel under Babangida’s regime.
The succeeding regimes after Babangida’s merely turned a blind eye to the case, or better still, played to the gallery, thus giving the impression that the occasional dusting of the case file may have been finally closed.
Even when late Gani Fawehinmi took the case to the Oputa Panel, in 2000, the number one suspect in the murder case, former president Babangida, frustrated the proceedings by refusing to appear before the Oputa Panel. Since then, the question has remained, “who killed Dele Giwa?”
Dele Giwa’s killers thought they could stop a man’s cause by killing him. How wrong they are? His killers are little tyrants of the least wisdom, who only succeeded in immortalising their victim.
It is better that a man falls as a martyr in the prime of his youth when the spark is still burning than to live hundreds of years and die as a villain or coward. Better still when a man dies in pain and agony within the fragments of blood and bones than to kiss the dust quietly, uncelebrated.
Realising that time, age and the Nigerian state might conspire to deny him his presidential dream, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, captured the essence of life thus: “it is not the life that matters, but the courage you bring into it”.
And indeed, while cowards and villains end up in the footnotes of history, the lives of martyrs are sustained in death. Through martyrdom, many men were made great and their achievements made greater. Jesus the Nazareth, perharps, wouldn’t have been so acclaimed and venerated if he had not been betrayed by Judas Iscariot, or if he had lived 70 years on earth.
Joan of Arc was the youngest martyr in modern history. She was the maid of France who at 19 was burnt at the stake by the English. So inspiring was Joan at death that France mounted an aggressive attack and drove the English out of their country to proclaim independence. This was the same course Joan could not achieve when she was alive marching alongside regular troops to instill courage in her compatriots!
The Libyan sage, Umar Muktar, was another man made greater by death. He was a torn in the flesh of the Italian fascists before he was captured and hanged in the full glare of his people. While in prison, Muktar reiterated his unwavering belief in the immortality of his course at death. So brutally touching was Muktar’s death that from the depth of Libyan sorrow arise a monumental resolve built by men, women and children to fight on. And they did not relent until Libya was emptied of Italian overlords.
There are many other lives that have been sustained in death. Socrates, Julius Caesar, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and the 23-year-old celebrated poet, John Keat. The same could be said of our Own M.K.O Abiola who was killed for winning a Pan African election, and Ken Saro-Wiwa who was hanged for championing the cause of justice for his Ogoni kinsmen.
This is also the story of Dele Giwa, the media pearl who fell to the cowardly anonymity, of a cruel parcel bomb, 25 years ago. Like Muktar, Ghandi, Ken, Abiola and a host of others who made the endless list of men and women immortalized by death, Dele Giwa’s life is sustained in death.
Born on March 16, 1947 into a humble home, Dele Giwa lived a life of existentialism, even though his life was shrouded in contradiction. Dele was admitted into Oduduwa College in Ile Ife, but was suspended from the college as a result of the romance he had which gave him his first child, Billy, at the age of 19.
In 1971, he left the country for the United States where he took up many menial jobs before bagging a Bachelor of Arts in English from Brooklyn College and a Master Degree in Public Communication from Fordham University, both in New York.
His vibrancy fetched him a reportorial job at the famous NewYork Times, but in 1979, he came back to Nigeria on the invitation of the then Daily Times Chief Executive, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, to become the Daily Times Features Editor. He left Daily Times for the Concord Press where he was the pioneer editor of the Sunday Concord.
“To live in Nigeria I heard is hard, but as a young Nigerian, I heard a ringing call to come home, a call to give the best of me to my profession and my people. So home I’m coming”, wrote Dele Giwa in his piece titled “Golden fleece? I think I got it”.
Ever a wordsmith, Dele was an enchanting prose stylist and a fearless investigative journalist. He was not the type of journalist so enamoured of the meretricious affectation of diplomatese, to call a spade another name. For Dele, a spade is a spade.
And of course, he was not your usual run-of-the-mill journalist you know in most newsrooms today, nor an editor of a cheap ego. Dele was, by every standard, a first class journalist, who by sheer force of tenacity and carriage, got himself close to the corridors of power. This, unfortunately, was his undoing.
With a good dosage of ego, carriage and personality that makes you want to embrace him, the slain media icon brought glamour and vibrancy to the Nigerian media and transmogrified journalism from all comers affair into a profession that is good only for the chosen few, even though a dozen of quacks who tumble into the noble calling for want of better things to live by, are still around.
A gem of journalism and a paragon of excellent prose, Dele Giwa’s “Page Seven” column in the then Daily Times, and his famous “Parallax Snaps” in his beloved Newswatch were indeed a must-read for those who appreciated good prose and understood the nuances of English language. His treatise provoked, more often than not, a stinker of replies from his readers.
Most of Dele Giwa’s articles remain till today, not only refreshing but indeed socially relevant that you would think they were written yesterday. In his scathing piece, “Peculiar Nigerians called Journalists”, the celebrated journalist bemoaned the status of the media he met in Nigeria thus:
“Most of those in Nigeria who go by the occupational reference of journalists tumble into the calling for want of better things to live by … going about as though they have something against looking well …, turning press conferences into money sharing ventures”.
That is vintage Dele. To think such a man is dead is to be clever by half. A writer doesn’t die. That’s why most of us will continue to regard Dele Giwa’s killers as tyrants of little wisdom, ignoramuses of the simple way of life that you cannot stop a man’s cause by killing him when there are numerous offsprings and admirers to pick up the flag where he left off.
What epitaph can be greater to Dele than what his killers did by transforming a man who only aspired to be a simple journalist, into a martyr of all ages?
The Wike That I Know
Several comments, interpretations, narratives and theories have greeted the recent letter written by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State to President Muhammadu Buhari, expressing the sincere appreciation of the Rivers State Government and people to Mr. President, for approving the sum of N78.9 billion to the state, as refund of monies expended by the State on federal projects in the state.
Most of these responses have either been mischievous, absurd, totally misleading and some even trying to conjure and configure fabulist narratives, celebrating the mystique and magical influence of the power of money on the human psyche.
But the most remarkable of these is the one written by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, titled: WIKE VINDICATES BUHARISTS.
To be sure, Femi Adesina’s opinion on any topic immediately attracts considerable attention and commands tremendous weight, not just for the fact that he has been a seasoned journalist over the years, but indeed in recognition of his status as the Special Adviser to Mr. President Buhari on Media and Publicity; which makes him one of the recognized spokespersons of our President, whose views unequivocally represents the opinion of the Presidency in all matters.
It is therefore, in due cognizance of this latter responsibility and authority of his portfolio, that one must appreciate and commend Femi Adesina for his endorsement of Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to thank President Buhari for approving the refund of N78.9 billion to Rivers State, and also the quite remarkable request for the President to oblige Rivers State with a State visit.
Of course, Femi Adesina’s admiration of Governor Nyesom Wike and his bold Thank You letter are embedded copiously in his article, though couched in the unerring profiling of the Rivers Governor in some lyrical passages and in some truculent, pro-Buhari obsessiveness in others.
The point needs to be made unambiguously, that the Rivers State Government, by way of emphasizing what Governor Wike rightly stated in the letter, appreciates the magnanimity of President Buhari,with profound gratitude and deep sincerity.
It was Aesop, the legendary Greek fabulist and writer of fables, who said that “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” There is certainly no doubt that one man who stands tall and proud, courageous and fearless with great nobility in today’s political space, is definitely Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
For instance, what Femi Adesina describes as “crying wolf” and “pontificating” is nothing more than the ability to say and do things which other people are too frightened or lily livered to say or do; what we refer to in Nigeria as “dying in silence. ”
What Mr. Adesina surely knows is that one virtue that Governor Wike possesses is courage. He has never hesitated to call anybody out including the President, his own party members and even multi-nationals operating in Rivers State, whenever the need arises and Adesina himself, has already agreed, by confessing to responding to some of these wolf cries in his write up, that these calls were necessary at the time they were made.
If Governor Wike’s courage to speak up when others are silent and cowering in fear, leads to the approval of the refund of the N78.9 billion which the Federal Government owes Rivers State, then the expression of gratitude that recognizes and appreciates such appropriate magnanimity is the highest form of nobility.
Like Mr. Femi Adesina rightly pointed out in his essay, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Buhari, approved the REFUND of N148 billion to five states in the country for repair of Federal roads, for which Rivers State got N78.9 billion. But that is not even half the story.
For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, it will be germane at this juncture to tell the true story of the refund and set the records straight, as presented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, once and for all.
Giving a background to the reimbursement, Lai Mohammed had explained that the decision was sequel to a huge bill sent to the federal government by the entire 36 states of the federation in 2016, seeking a refund of funds they expended on the repair of some federal roads in their respective states.
He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads. This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed, these projects were actually constructed. Were they completed in line with the federal government standards?
“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Works and Housing which also had ministers of education, transportation (and immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi), minister of finance, minister of state for works, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and permanent secretary, cabinet office as members, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes, indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.
“But the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun – failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation. So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee.
“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.
“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyover bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”
From the above therefore, three important points stand out for particular interest and reference, viz:
1. The money is neither a generous loan gift or a desperate bailout package as people like Femi Adesina are shaping the narrative to sound, but a REFUND of monies already spent by Rivers State on Federal projects.
2. Rivers State was initially denied the refund until proper documentation was provided; a situation which many Rivers watchers will recall, prompted the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to visit Rivers State in March this year.
3. Rivers State got the approval for the amount of refund simply because Rivers State did the most comprehensive, qualitative and enduring projects.
For record purposes, let us state clearly that President Buhari has the authority to visit any state he wants to in Nigeria, whether he is Invited or not. He is the father of the nation and Rivers State enjoys a candid, honest and robust relationship with the present Federal Government, especially the presidency.
On August 19, 2017, Governor Wike was among the dignitaries that welcomed President Buhari after 103 days in London where he received medical treatment for an undisclosed illness.
While naysayers were busy misinterpreting the gesture, Governor Wike explained that no sane person would not be happy that his sick President was back home.
Recall alsonthat Governor Wike was the first PDP Governor to congratulate President Buhari after his second term election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in September last year. Indeed, the warm, cordial, respectful relationship between President Buhari and Governor Wike, captured in several widely circulated photographs, of the President’s visit to Rivers State to commission the international wing of the Port Harcourt international airport speaks volumes.
We need not also remind Mr. Adesina that as far back as February 2017, when Governor Wike was not even up to two years in Office, he had already been christened “Mr. Projects” by none other than the Vice President himself, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who not only affirmed that Rivers State was an important state to Nigeria and the Federal Government, but has since endeared himself to Rivers State and Governor Wike.
This brings us nicely to the part of the letter where Governor Wike unequivocally appeals to President Buhari to honour Rivers State with a Presidential state visit and we ask Mr. Femi Adesina: ‘what is wrong with the Rivers State Governor inviting the President for a state visit. Is he not the Father of the nation again. Is Governor Wike not one of his children?
Considering the fact that the approval for the refund was also made for monies expended by Rivers State for Federal Projects, isn’t it equally apt that Governor Nyesom Wike should invite Mr. President to come and at least see the work for which the refund was made? Indeed, it will also provide Mr. President the grand opportunity to see first hand, the amazing and fantastic infrastructural wonders which Governor Wike is delivering in Rivers State. This is absolutely the right thing to do by a grateful recepient.
Governor Wike has aptly pointed out that the decision to thank Mr. President and the appeal to invite him for a state visit was not a personal one, but a collective decision taken by the State Executive Council, to assure Mr. President that all is well with Rivers State and Rivers people are quite happy with him for approving the refund.
Like Femi Adesina correctly noted in his article, the N78.9 billion cannot be the reason for Governor Wike’s thank you letter and invitation to Mr. President. According to him: “I don’t think so. Rivers is by no means a poor state. The amount is handsome, no doubt, but the state is oil rich, and can hold her own when it comes to finances. I don’t agree less with Adesina because Governor Wike does not speak from both sides of his mouth and does not play to the gallery. His moral upbringing makes him to speak the truth at all times not minding whose ox is gored.
Finally, it is important to commend Mr. Adesina for articulating and justifying the decision of Governor
Wike to thank Mr. President and invite him to Rivers State. There is absolutely no doubt, as he so succinctly pointed out, that millions of Buharists would have actually advised the President not to approve the refund to Rivers State, and while many of them are still wailing and bellyaching at the President’s magnanimity, the icing on the refund cake is the chagrin and consternation, which even Adesina admits, has greeted Governor Nyesom Wike’s letter in their camp.
While Rivers people will not complain that the money was actually reduced from the original amount and that it even took so long for President Buhari’s fairness and justice to touch Rivers State, while he has been fair and just to other states, we are all still very happy and grateful that this approval for refund has been made, finally.
Attempts by people like Adesina to make political capital out of the genuine stance of a statesman will not be bought by well-meaning Nigerians.
What makes Adesina’s grandstanding more worrisome is that he will never comment or let the world know how much the South-West States received as refund for federal projects executed in that part of the country.
Governor Wike’s letter of appreciation and appeal for a presidential state visit is thus a clear indication that what the people thought was lost has now been recovered. All is well that ends well and Rivers people are happy.
For the avoidance of doubt, the letter to Mr. President was delivered to Aso Rock, three weeks before it was published.
Governor Wike is not like Adesina who knows how to speak from both sides of his mouth. In 2008, he said this about the Chief of Staff to the President: “Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now 13 years after, the shackles are still tied around his neck, threatening to asphyxiate him. What an eternal lesson for fawning bootlicking grovellers to learn. Old sins indeed have long shadows.”
Now that Gambari is Chief of Staff to the President, people have been asking if Adesina still sees Gambari’s sins’ shadows or he(Adesina) has turned to a bootlicking groveller?
There is no doubt that he is currently savouring the office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity as a compensation, having used his positions as former Editor-In-Chief of The Sun Newspapers and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to feather his own nest.
Adesina should be told that no amount of political mischief will turn Governor Wike from a hero to a villain in this matter.
The Wike that I know cannot be swayed by pecuniary interests. He will always stand for the truth and defend the interests of Rivers people.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
By Paulinus Nsirim
WIKE: Striving To Make Rivers State Safe
“Fundamentally, during the campaigns, we also promised to secure our State. No government is worth any value if it cannot guarantee the security of lives and property. I assure you that never for a moment will our administration be a captive of politics, when it comes to public security. We have the political will to fight, defeat crimes and criminality in Rivers State. There will be effective coordination, collaboration and synergy with the Federal Government, the law enforcement agencies and our community leaders in the prosecution of the war against cultism, kidnapping and armed robbery. We urge our people to fully co-operate with us in this direction.” – Nyesom Ezenwo Wike These were the words of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in his inaugural address to Rivers people on Friday, May 29, 2015, at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium ,Port Harcourt. Dispassionate analysts and Rivers watchers will agree that the Governor.
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