Dele Giwa On Our Mind, By Tatalo Alamu

imageIt is just as well that Dele Giwa’s troubled ghost slipped back into our national consciousness just twelve months to the thirtieth anniversary of his martyrdom. As evident by the contradictions of democratic change, the ethical sandstorm in the senate, the swift blurring of line between political heroism and grandstanding villainy, the strange feeling of unease in the land, it is clear that the system is still working off the harmful effects of prolonged military rule.

Yet it would have been better to leave the ghost of Dele Giwa out of this painful and protracted process of national healing. Some wounds take much longer to heal and they react negatively to inflammation. Nigeria already has too many ghosts and their living survivors to contend with: from war orphans, coup widows, relics of assassinated politicians, poisoned patriots, state-executed exemplars, etc, etc. If we are to resurrect all these people we have sacrificed at the shrine of the nation, what an endless cortege of misery and shame!

But it is obvious that some people feel no misery or shame. A people that have not acquired a culture of shame in the course of their long history are an endangered people. After a long period of honourable silence over his questionable role in the official cover up of Dele Giwa’s murder, Chris Omeben, a retired Deputy Inspector General of police, has returned to the ring flagging his questionable red bull again.

In a bizarre ritual of self –exculpation, Omeben was reported to have told a press conference that his investigation into the death of Dele Giwa was impeded by the denial of access to the principal suspect: Kayode Soyinka who was the London Correspondent of Newswatch at that point in time. Soyinka was so close to his boss that he usually spent his official trips to Nigeria in Dele’s residence.

Omeben’s story is an old wives’ tale which does not dignify anybody, not the least a man who could easily have become the nation’s top cop. Soyinka’s response was bristling with fury and contempt. According to him, it was Omeben who actually prevented the principal suspects from being investigated. Ray Ekpu, Soyinka’s former boss and the man who succeeded Dele Giwa, weighed in along the same line virtually accusing Omeben of perfidy and dishonesty. There seems to be too many living historic witnesses willing to prick and puncture Omeben’s balloon of lies.

It is possible that in the twilight of his earthly sojourn, Omeben’s compromised conscience is finally pricking him. But repeating old lies is not the best way to go about restitution. Snooper can reveal to Omeben that he (columnist) spent the independence anniversary of October 1st 1986 in Dele Giwa’s house as his guest, that is two and a half weeks before his assassination. The conversation and the ambience remain as fresh as ever.

Like a self-healing wound relying entirely on its own internally produced anti-toxic agents, this nation is going through a painful and slow process of recovery. The martyrdom of Dele Giwa may well be one of the prices to pay in the tortuous and tormenting journey to authentic nationhood. This is why this morning, we bring you a piece which puts the Dele Giwa and Newswatch saga in proper perspective. Written exactly ten years ago to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the magazine, it has also turned out an unwitting obituary as the great magazine folded up shortly thereafter.

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