Dele Giwa’s assassination: The verdict of history , By Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, & Yakubu Mohammed

October 19 this year marks the 30th  anniversary of the gory assassination of Dele  Giwa, the first Editor in Chief of Newswatch, Nigeria’s path-breaking newsmagazine. Dele’s life was cynically shortened by the novel method of a parcel bomb that was delivered to his house at No. 25  Talabi  Street,  Ikeja,  Lagos  on Sunday October 19, 1986 at mid-day.

Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge. The matter has continued to be in the laser glare of the public eye. Those who did the dirty job may have thought that killing the famous journalist will be a quick job, quickly done and quickly forgotten. Yes, it was quickly done but obviously not quickly forgotten: thirty years down the road the matter is not dead. It is alive and well and not ready to die any time soon.

However, over the last 15 years or so a man who played a tangential,supervisory role in the  matter, Chris  Omeben, has been doing his ineffectual best to mislead the public on the matter by playing  footsiewith the facts. Mr.  Omeben  who retired as Deputy Inspector General of Police in 1989 is now the Archbishop of Jesus Families Ministries. He will be 81 years old on October 27 this year.

With a  frison  of surprise this man has been effing and  jeffing  apparently championing the cause of his sponsors but his sloppy analysis is not receiving a storm of applause from the public. It is apparent that the public knows that this man is a truth-shredder. While he has the intuitive freedom to lie we have the obligatory duty to put the facts before the public, since he has been pointing accusing fingers in various directions. These include Florence  Ita  Giwa, Dele’s ex-wife,  Kayode  Soyinka, Newswatch London Bureau Chief at the time and Dele’s  colleagues, Ray  Ekpu, Dan  Agbese  and  Yakubu  Mohammed. His flippant gyration  on the matter therefore deserves a multilateral response so that his lies will not be  inadvertenly  validated and the hard earned reputations of innocent people are not brought down by his swinging axe.

(1)Kayode  Soyinka:  Kayode  Soyinka was the London Bureau Chief of Newswatch. He was in Lagos for an official business and lodged at Dele’s residence.  Omeben  has sought, vainly, to pin the assassination on him simply because he was in the study together with Dele when the parcel bomb exploded.  Omeben  says he sent out people to locate him but he could not be found. “We later learnt that he went out of the country through Idi-Iroko.” This is a farrago of lies.

Here are the facts:  Kayode  was sitting opposite Dele when his son Billy delivered the parcel to his father. When the parcel exploded at Dele’s attempt to open it,  Kayode  was thrown on the floor. His ears were damaged and he was hospitalized at First Foundation Hospital in  Ikeja where Dele was rushed to after the incident. For more than a year  Kayode’s  ears were dysfunctional.

Mr.  Omeben  says that  Kayode  left the room where he and Dele were as soon as Billy  Giwa  brought in the parcel. He says  Kayode  stayed out until the parcel exploded. “It was while he was there in an adjacent room that the parcel detonated; the metal partition separating the  dinning  room and the kitchen was destroyed. Lies!  Omeben  thinks that since the two men were said to have just had breakfast, the breakfast session was in the  dinning  room. And  dinning  rooms  are more often than not near  the kitchen. This is pure conjecture. They had their breakfast in the study, not  in the  dinning  room and the study was not near the  dinning  room or kitchen.

Kayode  was never in hiding. After the bomb explosion which rendered Dele’s residence uninhabitable.  Kayode  and members of Dele’s family  moved into Ray  Ekpu’s  wing of the building. Dele and Ray lived in this twin duplex.  Infact,  Kayode  was  interviewed by several newspapers during the period  that he was in Nigeria; he was interviewed by the Police at least twice and he submitted written statements to them; he attended Dele’s burial at  Ugbekpe  Ekperi  in Edo State along with  other  Newswatch staff.

Mr.  Omeben  has said that Newswatch directors shielded  Kayode  from being arrested by the police. This is a lie. Throughout the period of this incident  Kayode  was available. He was not a fugitive from justice. He was a victim of the dastardly act. If we prevented  Kayode  from being arrested by the police (and we deny it vehemently) why did the Police not arrest us for obstruction?

If  Kayode  was considered a suspect in the matter why have the Police not arrested him since then because criminal cases are not time  barred.Kayode  has come to Nigeria very many times in the past 30 years without the police accosting him. Twice, he contested elections for the governorship of  Ogun  State, campaigning there for months on each occasion. Why was he not arrested by the Police?

The allegation that  Kayode  escaped from the country through the NADECO route at  Idi  Iroko  is nonsense.  Kayode  left Nigeria through the  Murtala  Muhammed  International Airport on British Caledonian Airways accompanied by his wife and children who had to join him in Nigeria when they heard of the incident.  This  information can be crosschecked with the various authorities at the  Murtala  Muhammed Airport.

Before  Kayode  left Nigeria on Sunday November 16, 1986 the Police had come the day before, that is Saturday November 15, 1986 asking him to make a statement on his movement between the day of the bomb blast and the time of his discharge from the hospital. He did. But  curiously and fully aware that  Kayode  had left Nigeria the day before the police came on Monday November 17, 1986 to say they had some more questions for  Kayode. A letter signed by A.  Kaltungo, Deputy Commissioner of Police was delivered to Ray  Ekpu. The letter asked  Kayode  to report to the Police on Wednesday November 19, 1986. Ray replied to the letter that same day informing the police (as if they didn’t know) that  Kayode  had returned to London. He gave the police  Kayode’s  London address and phone numbers. It is elementary wisdom that no one could sit in a room where he knew a bomb was going to explode except he is a suicide bomber. And  Kayode  was not one. He had a wife and children and a flourishing career. His demographics do not fit into a sensible analyst’s  silhouette  of  a suicide bomber.

For every crime there must be a motive. Why would  Kayode  want to kill his Editor in Chief? If he killed Dele he would never have become the next Editor in Chief of the magazine. He would have had to kill Ray  Ekpu, Dan  Agbese,  Yakubu  Mohammed,  Soji  Akinrinade,  Nosa  Igiebor, Dele  Omotunde,  Onome  Osifo  Whisky and a few other senior editorial staff to get to the Editor in Chief’s chair.

It is curious that a policeman who retired as a Deputy Inspector General of Police does not know that a murder  allegation does not expire and that even if  Kayode  lives in London, Interpol could have got him to come to Nigeria and answer for the alleged crime if the Nigeria Police had concrete information on his involvement.

(2)Newswatch Directors: Ray  Ekpu, Dan  Agbese  and  Yakubu Mohammed. Mr.  Omeben  has alleged  a couple of times that there was boardroom politics in Newswatch where the board members would want to eliminate themselves. The external board members of Newswatch were all successful businessmen who only invested in Newswatch because we the executive directors – Ray, Dan,  Yakubu  –  were their friends. There was nothing for them to fight for in Newswatch.

But Mr.  Omeben  has mentioned the three of us a few times by namemaking allegations or insinuations that tend to give the impression that we were suspects in the case. This is a most uncharitable, wicked and despicable piece of defamation. In the first place, we never had any crisis of notable dimension that could have warranted the existence of a plot to kill our friend and business partner. If we killed Dele what would we get? His Newswatch shares? We have our own. His  wife? We have our own. His children? We have our own. The position of Editor in Chief? Most unlikely for  four  reasons: (a) Each of the four of us had been editor of a newspaper or two before we came together so the editorial chair did not offer such an overwhelming attraction for any of us to  harbour  the thought of physically eliminating our friend and business partner (b) All the four of us were on the same salary and allowances. No one earned higher and no one earned lower than the other. (c) The positions in Newswatch at its inception were determined by Ray and  Yakubu. Both of them decided that  since Dele and Dan  were unfairly treated in their last offices in Concord and New Nigerian, it was wise to assert our confidence in the two of them by offering them the positions of Editor in Chief and Managing Director respectively. Ray and  Yakubu  opted to be called Executive Editors. It was not a mark of anybody’s superiority or inferiority because we all took active part in the editorial activities of the magazine and had equal shares (15 percent) in the company. It was meant to be a confidence booster for the two men. (d) The three of us believe in the inviolability of friendship. We see it as a bank account to which you must continue to make deposits so that it can grow. It is a sacred relationship, a present of unquantifiable value that you  must give  to  yourself. So our world view does not include killing your friend for whatever reason. No reason is good enough for “friend-ticide.” A lot of people ask us what is the magic behind our strong relationship of almost  40 years. The  answer: friendship. 

We retired from Newswatch on May 5, 2011 but we are still together today, why? Friendship. Since that fateful day of October 19, 1986 our lawyer, Chief  Gani Fawehinmi,  had made every effort, using the mechanism of the courts from High Court to the Supreme Court to bring the suspects to justice. At every turn that resolute and indefatigable fighter was harassed, assaulted, charged to court on trumped up charges so as to kill the matter.

Every effort was made by the  Babangida  government to kill the magazine and render us jobless by the proscription of the magazine in April 1987 on spurious charges. Our corporate and personal accounts were frozen. We continued to pursue the assassination issue with as much  vigour  as we could. On September 11, 1987 we wrote a letter to the then Inspector General of Police,  Alhaji  Muhammadu   Gambo,reminding him about the Dele  Giwa  matter. We  never got even the courtesy of a response from  Alhaji  Gambo. We also appeared at the  Oputa  panel with Chief  Fawehinmi  in Lagos and Abuja in pursuit of  justice.

Worthy of note is the fact that  Alhaji  Abubakar  Tsav,  the investigating Police Officer,  had testified at the  Oputa  panel on July 3, 2001 in Abuja. He told the panel that in his interim report he had recommended that Col.  Halilu  Akilu  and Lt. Col.  A.K. Togun  should be made available for interrogation and voice identification. He also recommended that their special privileges should be withdrawn so that a search could be conducted in their offices and residences for items of evidential value. The case file was submitted to Mr.  Omeben. He never returned the case file to Mr.  Tsav, nor did he reassign the case to someone else. He simply sat on the matter until he retired.

Since his retirement Mr. Omeben has been claiming that we had very powerful links in  government  so we were able to block the investigation. This view is quite flattering but it  is patently false. We had no such influence otherwise we would have blocked the proscription of the magazine, our serial detentions for spurious reasons, the freezing of our accounts. Mr. Omeben’s words are aflame with dishonesty. He is evidently a truth shredder who works as an echo chamber of his sponsors. But truth is like pregnancy: you can’t hide it for too long.

During the  Oputa  panel deliberations in 2001 Ibrahim Babangida, Akilu and Togun went to court and obtained an order restraining the  Commission from summoning them to appear before it. Justice Oputa said that the Commission had the power to issue arrest warrants for the trio but decided against this “in the interest of national reconciliation.”

Murder is a criminal matter. Isn’t it curious, therefore, that people who are accused of murder should seek to run away from the opportunity to clear their “good names.” We would have thought they would embrace such an opportunity warmly instead of engaging in legal gymnastics.

However, the panel in its report stated: “As for the case of Dele  Giwa  we are of the view that beyond the legal technicalities that some of the key witnesses clung to, the federal government should be encouraged to reopen this case for  proper investigation.” It stated further: “On General Ibrahim  Babangida, we are of the view that there is evidence to suggest that he and the two security chiefs, Brigadier General  Halilu  Akilu  and Col.  A.K. Togun  are accountable for the death of Dele  Giwa  by letter bomb. We recommend that this case be reopened for further investigation in the public interest.”

We urge the  Buhari  government to reopen the matter and ensure that the growing scourge of assassinations in the country is guillotined.

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