Who Killed Dele Giwa: The Question Persists 32 Years After

By Eric Elezuo

In every daily newspaper or weekly magazine during the days succeeding October 19, 1986, the day the man, Dele Giwa was brutally murdered in his home, the question, Who Killed Dele Giwa, with the picture of the mangled body of the first class journalist, were displayed. As rhetorical as the question may be, every reader’s conscience was called to reflection.

I remembered vividly as a very young man watching the National news at nine o’clock, of course that was the major source of news – you really have to wait till nine to have the events of the day at the national level un-bundled – that was when the news was shockingly broken. I can’t remember exactly whether it was Ruth Ibenamesia, Elizabeth Nze or Sienne Orwell Brown who was casting the news that said night, but the emotion in the voice made it clear that the disaster was national in outlook. Much as I didn’t know much about him then, his relationship to Newswatch made me understand. Yes, everybody read Newswatch!

On the day which incidentally was the same day Wole Soyinka became a Nobel Laurette, Dele Giwa, the Editor-in-Chief of the reverred Newswatch Magazine was killed in his home in Lagos through a letter bomb; the first of its kind in Nigeria, even across sub Saharan Africa.

Almost immediately, investigations began, to unravel the mystery behind the brutal murder. And even as accusations and counter accusations trail one another from every corner, the killing remained a mystery till date.

The assassination occurred two days after Dele Giwa was 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.

Many other theories emanated on why Dele Giwa may have been killed; some said because of the story he wrote on Ebitu Ukiwe, who was just removed as Chief of General Staff, others alleged that it was the revelation that Gloria Okon, a drug peddler, who reportedly died in prison was still alive and spotted in London while some others felt it was a JAMB related story that did him in.

All in all, some people were seen as key suspects; they were Lt. Col. A.K. Togun, the Deputy Director of the SSS, Col Halilu Akilu of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and Giwa’s own colleague, who was Newswatch’s London Bureau Chief, Kayode Soyinka. Soyinka was at the scene of the blast, directly facing Dele Giwa, but he escaped unhurt.

As many theories that has been proffered and efforts made by both lawyers and investigative officers, Dele Giwa’s death still remains unsolved, and so the question persists: Who killed Dele Giwa?

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