Dele Giwa

Dele Giwa
Dele Giwa. Photo: Premium Times

Dele Giwa; Journalist and executive of the Newswatch magazine, a foremost Nigerian periodical founded in 1984. Allusions to the motive behind Giwa’s assassination in 19 October 1986 did not abate several years after his death. His journalistic career which began in the United States reached its prime in a four year period interluded by notable professional hazards. As reflected in his editorial, Dele Giwa believed the rarer the the story, the more important. This attitude, carried into his coverage of stories categorized by the Decree of 1962 as official secret earned him several hours behind bars. In most of his legal charges Dele Giwa was represented by renowned lawyer and rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, and in an instance, Gani secured for him a court order that a public apology be tendered for detaining him unlawfully.

With Giwa’s contribution to Nigerian journalism he became a conscious agent of modernization and change. Dele Giwa was ironically free from suppression for which the regime of Major General Buhari was alleged but had issues with the more press friendly administration of General Babangida. He answered summons to the State Security Service severally, with one in which he was accused of planning to import arms into the country particularly unsettling him. He believed an attempt was being made to bring him to disrepute in preparation for a major attack. In one October morning of 1986, Dele Giwa, settled at his study for his breakfast, received a parcel which exploded on him as he unsealed it. Concrete walls were shattered and the steel windows bent. When on 9 December 2007 President Yar’Adua directed the police to reopen the files of all unsolved murders, activist Gani Fawehinmi, from his own sickbed wrote Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro, that Dele Giwa’s death is one of curious assassinations that should be probed[i].

Dele Giwa being drilled by security agents
Dele Giwa with security officials. Photo: ASIRI


Dele Giwa’s father, Musa Isa, migrated from his ancestral abode in Ugbekpe-Ekperi in Etsako area of old Bendel State to live permanently in Ile-Ife[1]. A peasant in search of livelihood, he left for the southwest in the company of Ayiyi Eleika, Dele’s mother, who he had married for only four months.
Places of Growth

Dele Giwa was born 16 March, 1947 in Ile-Ife, an ancient town which occupied traditional prominence in the history of the Yoruba people, the dominant ethnicity in the southwest. The boy commenced schooling in 1955 at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Ogbon-Agbara, Ile-Ife. His primary education would be completed at the Modern School, Ile-Ife where he went to from 1961-63. Although he was brought up in a poor home, he enjoyed the privilege of sharing a house with the affluent family of his childhood friend, Dipo Fadiora.

As a child, Dele Giwa was bookish, handsome, and a careful dresser. He showed bravery too in an instance during the political crisis of the southwest when young supporters of the party in opposition to the Action Group where Dipo’s father belonged stormed the premises of his house with the aim of burning it. Dipo stood up to would be arsonists, apparently underestimating the dangers doing so portends, but was successful in making them leave.

Dele was the first child of a Muslim migrant family of the Yoruba heartland of Ile-Ife. As a boy he answered a name which friends considered funny, therefore chose the name by which he is now remembered.  Dele’s father died in 1974, three months after a heartfelt letter to him. He raised a family with Ann, an African American girl from middle class home, and three other women, Florence, Stella, and Funmi.

After months of saving, Dele Giwa decided sometime in 1971 to leave for the United States. Being one from a humble background, he started off in New York roughly, but characteristically had a way of getting what was ordinarily beyond his reach. Few months before his graduation in 1974 he got a job with the New York Times in which scores of his articles had already been published. He rose to become a member of the United Nations Bereau before his resignation and return to Nigeria in 1979.

Tony Momoh who was himself a journalist served as Information Minister under General Ibrahim Babaginda. He had dispelled a couple of days earlier, Giwa’s anxiety about his encounter with the State Security Service before the bomb incidence.  Kayode Soyinka, also a journalist was a good friend and survivor of the bomb attack which occurred while they were in the same room.

Dele Giwa joined the Daily Times as Features Editor in 1979. For another four years he presided at The Concord newspapers of MKO Abiola. With an equally promising colleague in Concord, Ray Ekpu, and two more bright fellows; Dan Agbese newspapers editor and General Manager of the Benue State Radio, with Yakwubu Mohammed, editor of National Concord. Joining hands, they began to publish the successful Newswatch magazine on 3 December, 1984.

Believing such was the kind of jobs which would afford him the life he wanted for himself, Dele Giwa had taken a shot at a banking institution in Lagos and a Broadcasting Corporation at Ibadan.
[1] Dele Giwa, Joseph Magnate, New Academy Publications Limited, Lagos, 1987

[i] TheNews September 21, 2009

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer