Dele Giwa was, at the time of his death, the editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine, Nigeria's, and probably Africa's, most prestigious news magazine. The son of a washerman, Dele Giwa, through dint of hardwork, grit and courage rose from obscurity to celebrity. After a chequered adolescence and early adulthood in Nigeria, he left for the United States of America in search of the proverbial golden fleece. He studied English and Communication Arts at the University of Brooklyn and achieved the rainbow tinted dream when he bagged the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees respectively. His star shone when he was employed as a journalist with the prestigious New York Times and he left no one in doubt that he was a journalistic thoroughbred. He soon became a highflier.
In 1976, he returned to Nigeria on invitation to work with the Daily Times group, then Africa's most prestigious newspaper. He excelled at Daily Times and by the early 1980s the business mogul turned politician, Late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola invited him to join in starting the Concord Group of Newspapers. Dele Giwa edited the Sunday Concord and the paper became an instant hit. At the Concord, Dele Giwa's image was larger than life just as he was gradually becoming a household name in Nigeria. Soon, disagreement crept into the relationship between Dele Giwa and his employer, Bashorun Abiola. He soon resigned and became part of the quartet that founded Newswatch the first news magazine solely owned by journalists in post-independence Nigeria.
Dele Giwa's journalism career was exciting and it reads like the stuff of which fairy tales are made. He was an enchanting prose stylist and a fearless and committed investigative journalist. He represented the best of his chosen profession. Dele Giwa took on the authorities, his pen through his column PARALAX SNAP flayed those twerps who retarded Nigeria's growth and foisted a regime of socio-economic inequity on the people. He was a thorn in the flesh of incompetent rulers and for that he suffered frequent harassments including detention by government. Having known what it was to be poor, Dele Giwa saw journalism as a tool for social reformation. Dele Giwa loved life and lived it to the full even though his life was cut short at youthful 39. He loved women and wine. He was also debonair. He loved excellence too. He, together with Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed took Nigerian journalism to avant gardist heights and conferred respectability on the profession. The emergence of their brainchild Newswatch revolutionised, repositioned and redefined Nigerian journalism. The quartet mentored a generation of intrepid journalists who are today maestros in every sense of the word. Dele Giwa loved journalism which brought him fame and fortune. He enjoyed the fame and its attendant connections which made him to be too close to power. His breathtaking biography Born to Run written by Dele Olojede and Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo points to the fact that Dele Giwa cherished and prided his romance with men of power; a factor which made sensitive state secrets accessible to him. This was his undoing. The powers that be had thought that Dele Giwa knew too much, and that was dangerous. He had to leave and not live to reveal what he knew.
Dele Giwa was at home having a late breakfast with a colleague, Kayode Soyinka when a postman brought a parcel addressed to him. The parcel was delivered to his eldest son, Billy; then 19 years old. Billy handed the parcel over to his father. The latter looked the parcel over and commented "this must be from the president", because it bore the seal of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Dele Giwa tried to open the parcel and lo, it emitted a deafening and deadly explosion! The parcel was a letter bomb meant to blow Dele Giwa out of existence. The bomb badly lacerated Dele Giwa's body, but he didn't die immediately. He was rushed to the hospital and he sustained the refrain'they have got me!". He gave up the ghost.
Dele Giwa's death was by no means fortuitous. He saw it coming. Days to his earthshaking exit, he was physically and psychologically harassed by Nigeria's topmost security chiefs. They accused him of gun-running and plotting a socialist revolution. Dele Giwa had asked his attorney, Chief Gani Fawehinmi to sue the security chiefs before death was delivered to him through the parcel bomb. After Giwa's death, Fawehinmi was unrelenting. He pursued the killers of Dele Giwa as far as to the Oputa Panel in 2000. Unto this day, the police have not been able to answer the question that made the headlines 20 years ago "Who Killed Dele Giwa?"
Dele Giwa's death signaled Nigeria's descent into the Hobbessian state of terror where life was short, nasty and brutish. Since then there have been scores and scores of murders whose causes remained unresolved. But Giwa's spirit is resilient, it will not die. It lives in poems, books, essays he wrote and those written about him as tributes. Dele Giwa shall never be forgotten. This was the theme of the madrigal by school pupils at Ugbekpe-Ekperi, Dele Giwa's native soil and final resting place 20 years ago. In a tune reminiscent of "Beast of England" in George Orwell's Animal Farm the pupils had sang:
In Nigeria, West Africa
There was once a journalist
On the 19 of October
When they killed our journalist
Dele Giwa, Dele Giwa
Dele Giwa you are gone
Dele Giwa, our journalist
We shall never forget you!
Ita Giwa who became a senator,was Dele Giwa's ex-wife.Giwa was married to another woman Fumi at the time of his death.Hence("His wife and infant were upstairs.....")Ita Giwa's only son with Dele,Billy was 16yrs when Dele was bombed.It was Billy who brought the parcel to his father,from the messenger of death;the bikeman. According to Giwa's lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, State Security Service (SSS) officials summoned the popular editor to their headquarters on October 17, just 48 hours before he was killed. Giwa was accused of planning a social revolution and of smuggling arms into the country.
The government's coat of arms appeared on the outside of the package, according to Nigerian press reports. Although police investigated the murder, no one was ever prosecuted. In 2001, former Nigerian dictator Ibrahim Babangida, who ruled the country from 1985 to 1993, refused to testify before a national human rights commission about the Giwa murder.
Dele Giwa was married to Ita Giwa, who later went on to become a Senator and an Adviser to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In 2008 along with other activists such as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Ken Saro Wiwa, the Government of Nigeria named a street in the New Federal Capital Abuja after Dele Giwa.