Dele Giwa Biography (1947 – 1986)

Dele Giwa was a Nigerian journalist who was known for being highly critical of the government of the day. This article will be discussing the life and times of this powerful man.

Dele Giwa’s Early Life and Education

Dele Giwa, named Sumonu Oladele Giwa at birth was born March 16, 1947, to Musa and Ayi Giwa in Ife, Southwest, Nigeria. He had his religious education at a Koranic school and then went on to attend the Ansar-Udeen Primary School and the Authority Modern School in Ile-Ife and later on at Oduduwa College.

In school, Dele Giwa excelled. At his schools, his teachers considered him as one of their exceptionally brilliant students. In Oduduwa College, he became editor of his school’s newsletter, The Torch.

In 1977, he travelled to the United States of America to study at Brooklyn College. Unfortunately, he had to drop out due to lack of funds but after securing a job at the Chase Manhattan Bank, he continued his education and graduated from Brooklyn College. For his Master’s, he studied at Fordham University.

Dele Giwa’s Early Career

In 1974, Dele Giwa had a meeting with the desk editor of the New York Times, and there brought to his notice a grammatical error in one of their publications. This impressed the editor and the focus of their talk soon moved to journalism and the New York Times newspaper. Due to his boldness, Dele Giwa was hired by the New York Times and worked with them for more than four years. It was during his time that he met the managing director of the Nigerian Daily Times, Dr. Patrick Cole who asked him to return to Nigeria to work with the newspaper.

In 1978, Dele Giwa returned to Nigeria where he began working with Daily Times as their features editor. In 1980, he became the editor of the Sunday Concord, a newspaper owned by Moshood Kasimawo Abiola, a top presidential aspirant.

Dele Giwa was critical of the Shehu Shagari government and wrote many articles to this effect. As a result of this, he was arrested and thrown in jail. His boss, Moshood Kasimawo Abiola bailed him out and hired the lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi to take up his case. However, publishing letters between the Inspector General of Police, Sunday Adewusi, and the Federal Attorney General, Richard Akinjide, got Giwa was re-arrested and detained.

In 1984, together with fellow journalists Dan-Agbese, Ray Ekpu, and Yakubu Mohammed, he founded the Newswatch magazine. The magazine aimed at changing the “format of print journalism in Nigeria…and introduced investigative format to news reporting in Nigeria.”

When General Ibrahim Babangida came into power in 1985, the Newswatch was among his many supporters. However, when Babangida’s government took a more dictatorial path, the paper began to criticize him. Dele Giwa was the editor-in-chief of the Newswatch and so, personally oversaw the cover stories and opinion columns of the magazine.

Dele Giwa: The Letter Bomb and Death (October 1986)

Dele Giwa was highly critical of the Ibrahim Babangida administration and this often put him in trouble. He was accused by the government of trying to destabilize the country and radicalize it as well. He was also accused of trying to rile up Nigerian students at universities to carry out protests against the government, among others.

With these many accusations levelled against him, Dele Giwa began to fear for the safety of his life and his family. He communicated his fears to his friend, the Minister of Communications, Tony Momoh that he was afraid he was going to be killed. However, Momoh dismissed his fears but still promised to “look into the matter”. Dele Giwa also spoke with the Chief of General Staff, Augustus Aikhomu, with whom he had a personal friendship. The latter also promised to “look into the matter.”

On October 18, 1986, Colonel Akilu phoned Dele Giwa’s House spoke with his wife, and asked for directions to their house. When asked why he needed that information, he said the President’s aide-de-camp wanted to deliver a package to her husband. This was not new as Akilu had delivered some of the President’s speeches to Giwa in the past.

On October 19, 1986, Dele Giwa received a package bearing the seal of the Nigerian Coat of Arms. At the time, he was in the company of Kayode Soyinka, a fellow journalist. Upon opening the parcel, it exploded. Dele Giwa’s legs were crushed and Soyinka who was with him at the time fainted. Dele Giwa was rushed to the hospital and despite the attempts to save him, he died.

The Newswatch called for an investigation of his death and the dismissal of suspected officers who had a hand in the killing. Unfortunately, the Nigerian police called off the investigation, claiming that they could not find any evidence and had exhausted their leads.

After Dele Giwa’s death, Newswatch went into decline as its articles were termed as “poor and unimaginative”.

Dele Giwa’s Personal Life

Dele Giwa’s first marriage was to an African-American nurse in 1974 with whom he had three children. He already had a son, Billy from a relationship in 1967. He married Florence Ita Giwa but the two split up 10 months after. On July 10, 1984, he married Olufunmilayo Olaniyan with whom he had a daughter, Ayodele Aisha.

Quotes by Dele Giwa

  • Nigeria is on fire, and the citizens are amused.
  • Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.
  • The truth that all this brings home so sadly is that Nigerians, in the main regard themselves as passing sojourners on the geographical amalgam called Nigeria.

Reference (2021)

Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries (2021)

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