It’s hard to believe it was thirty years ago. I remember that day as vividly as I recall laying in bed with a stunned disposition — pondering how I would be able to navigate a world that would try to prevent my desire for more.
Newswatch was founded in 1984 by Giwa, Soyinka, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, and Yakubu Mohammed. The first edition was circulated in 1985. Due to the exposure granted by my parents, specifically my mother, who was a TV executive, I developed a voracious appetite for information in any form available to me.
Social media was still an idea that hadn’t hatched yet — and I often times wonder how that might have affected my tendency towards hard-hitting news — as opposed to the fluffed up version that currently dominates the web.
I am certain that growing up at a time that was devoid of man-made distractions and the insatiable need for attention at any cost — saved me from the ongoing crisis that most of you harbor.
The inability to decipher between what is real and what is make-believe.
Everything that is relevant has been coerced into a fantastical plot that thickens with the encouragement of more dramatics. The election season is proof of how badly dislocated the media is when it comes to thorough reportage. Breaking News relies solely on the exploits of paraded heathens who gladly perform for the pleasure of being touted for better or worse.
Nothing is off limits and even more jarring is the realization that nothing really matter enough to ensure that we don’t slip and slide into the slope that leads to the murky waters of shamelessness.
There is no challenger to rise up from the ashes and declare that we do better. There is no functioning body to hold traffic long enough to direct us back to the path that so many before us have tread with pride and conscience. There is no way we can’t comprehend that the man running for the highest office in the land — wouldn’t have made it this far — if social media and all its poisoned news links, reels, and moments hadn’t infested the judgment of robotic editors who still can’t enough of the word — pussy.
Clicks and baits were not the language of my existence back in 1986.
All we had was the pledge by a community of brave souls who were willing to make the sacrifice for the glory of justice and the people that were being deprived of it.
In 1989, three years after Giwa was killed by the Nigerian government — Newswatch was still going strong. It still is. But after recently revising its history — I stumbled upon a stellar description of its mission that was written that year and it took my breath away:
It changed the format of print journalism in Nigeria [and] introduced bold, investigative formats to news reporting in Nigeria.
Even back then, as a girl in her teens, I knew that I wanted to somehow be a part of a world that encompassed all the traits of literary martyrdom. I was too young to fully understand the risk the team at Newswatch were taking to expose the bribery and corruption of the Nigerian government — under the feistily dangerous regime of General Ibrahim Babangida — but, I had witnessed enough military coups and listened to the energetic debates amongst family members and our equally spirited neighbors.
I knew that speaking out against the system could get you into trouble. On October 19, 1986, I found out that you could you be violently silenced for your actions.
Dele Giwa was onto something. The country was soaked in the blood of innocents that were being shed for their betrayals and the erratic turntable of leadership was affecting the overall morale which gave those in power the pure joy of governmental negligence. Infrastructural revisions lay dormant as more and more citizens were losing their limbs or their lives to ghastly road accidents. In fact there is not one Nigerian alive today — who can boldly say that they haven’t lost a loved one in a car accident — myself included.
Hospitals lacked and still lack the capabilities to efficiently serve the public. It’s either you have the resources to seek treatment abroad —or you surrender and die of a “mysterious ailment.’ It’s dubbed that way to accommodate customary rhetoric.
Giwa was displaying his skills as a journalist who declined to paint the picture that would assuage his eventual murderers. He targeted the mothership of chaos and mayhem. The epicenter of all the reasons why Swiss banks were overloaded with bank accounts — containing money that was meant to fuel the growth of a starving nation.
He was just too inquisitive for his own good and just as he was about to quench that thirst, he was sent a parcel of goods that turned out to be a bomb. He was blown to bits and died hours later.
I watched the announcement of his death with my mother. I probed for more but like any dutiful parent — she thought it best to leave me in the dark. So, I laid in the dark, and gave my wild imagination permission to mercilessly taunt me with images of what Giwa’s torturous final moments were like. I wrestled with my spirit as I contemplated the reality of my heritage.
I was living in a country that kills people for asking too many questions. For printing too many words that reveal too much. For expecting too much at the expense of losing it all. I knew that when I grew up — I would have to be Dele Giwa — someplace else.
I still want to be Dele Giwa when I grow up.
There are many in his likeness who roam the corridors of doubt and discontentment and channel their energy in the quest of tearing down the walls of bullshit — that still separates Nigerians from the leaders that lie to them with rhythmic freedom.
They question the whereabouts of the Chibok girls, and like me — lean back with registered awareness whenever the world is stunned by new developments that don’t ever add up.
I haven’t realized my dream of transforming my inquisitiveness into a career that comes close to what I had in mind the night Giwa died. But, I still harbor the power to use my words as a testimony of what he believed in, and I praise the ones who are currently under siege for continuing the work that took his life.
I’m still haunted, but not by his spirit — it’s the awakening of the thirteen-year-old pleading to know more.