By Adekola Afolabi & Saheed Ibrahim
As the gruesome murder of the late Newswatch Magazine Editor, Dele Giwa marked its 37th anniversary, Veteran Journalists have called President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to identify and prosecute the killers of the journalism sage.
While urging journalists to emulate the writings of the late Editor, they also called on the government to protect journalists, who are the conscience of the country.
Dele Giwa was killed on October 19, 1986, during the regime of the military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Journalism veteran and astute lecturer, Chief (Dr) Dayo Duyile said Dele Giwa was killed by those uncomfortable with his writing style.
“No doubt, his investigative journalism skill was one of the factors responsible for his untimely death. His column was a marketplace for readers in the Newswatch Magazine, which he co-founded with two or three of his professional colleagues.
Duyile added that investigative journalism took a back seat after the death of Dele Giwa in Nigeria, as not many journalists wanted to investigate corrupt practices in the polity.
He said, “though all trained journalists have the knowledge to do justice to journalistic inquiries, the courageous ones have either departed or chosen to be silent.” The veteran admonished journalists to follow Giwa’s courage of ‘chasing the tigers in their habitat’.
“As one of Nigeria’s accomplished columnists, Adebayo Williams, once wrote on November 10, 1986: Dele Giwa was the ‘Great Gatsby of Nigerian journalism. If Giwa had been told that his exit from this world would be marked by inevitable violence, he would most probably have chosen to die in a duel. He was a happy warrior,” he stated.
Veteran journalist and former Chairman of Ondo State Radiovision Corporation (OSRC), Chief Sanya Oyinsan, described late Dele Giwa as a fearless and courageous journalist who always reported issues based on facts and figures.
Oyinsan, however, said journalists of nowadays are unable to perform like in the days of Dele Giwa because of fear, lack of resources, inadequate trainings, and poor remuneration.
“Dele Giwa was killed under a military regime and under the military the practice of journalism was regimented and completely restricted. So, we cannot compare it with the practice of journalism under a democratic regime.
“In terms of freedom of speech and opinion, I’m more than satisfied that the journalist of today is freeier, less harassed and more at liberty to express opinion if he is not biased. A journalist today is seen more as a gateman who sees both the inside and outside of situations than in the days of military.
“You cannot compare journalism under Buhari/Idiagbon or under Babangida and even Obasanjo to journalism under a democratic regime as we have today. Therefore, we have everything to be proud of today. However, the big problem is, we do not have the passion of the old. We do not have the dedication of the old.
“I want to tell you very very confidently that Dele Giwa was fearless, very daring. He had firm opinions based on investigation of facts and figures. The resources were there given to him to do it by his proprietor at that time.
“Today, every journalist is more or less on his own. A journalist that is not given equipment to work with, a journalist whose job involves traveling and wants to buy certain gadgets and he does not have the means. A journalist is poorly paid now than in the days of Dele Giwa. Dele Giwa was an institution as an editor. The proprietor gave him everything that he needed, but this is not so anymore.
“So, you can do less investigation now that in the days of Dele Giwa because you have less resources. You are poorer and poorly paid now than in the days of Dele Giwa. I’m sorry, you cannot compare those days with now and that is the truth. It is worse now in terms of equipping journalists now than before”, the veteran stressed.
Also, a journalism scholar, Dr. Raphael Gbenga Abimbola, described the late Newswatch Magazine Editor as the epitome of investigative journalism in Nigeria, who was bold, fearless, and objective until his death.
He said despite the autocratic and repressive nature of the military regime then; Dele Giwa remained fearless and daunting in speaking against government ills. While stating that other heroes of journalism, such as Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, also upheld the ethics of journalism, he said Dele Giwa was an exemplary journalist.
Speaking on the implication of his death on journalism in the contemporary era, the scholar said many journalists today see the profession as a trade, not a calling. “In the yesteryears, journalists were interested in making names for themselves; they were the conscience of society, but nowadays, many journalists see the profession as a career, not a calling.
He said while many journalists shy away from investigative journalism, some editors also see no necessity to engage in investigative journalism. He added that the influx of the Internet has also influenced journalism, adding, “I am not saying we do not have people like Dele Giwa nowadays, but they are very few.”
The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ondo State Chapter, Prince Leke Adegbite, said that even though the assassination of Dele Giwa on October 19, 1986, strengthened journalism, it suppressed investigative journalism by 80% in Nigeria. He said many young journalism enthusiasts, including him, were discouraged from venturing into the profession due to the assassination of the then-Newswatch Magazine Editor.
He said it was shameful that 37 years later, the federal government has failed to identify and prosecute the killers of the journalism sage, saying it would cost the government nothing to apprehend the killers within 24 hours.
Adegbite called on the present administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to establish a special panel to identify and prosecute the killers of Dele Giwa, saying this would serve justice to the late veteran and bring relief to the family.
In this tale of unresolved echoes, the stalwarts of journalism unite to honour Giwa’s memory and demand justice.