With pop tunes and poems; in paintings and sculpture; Nigerians mourned the murder of Dele Giwa last year and sought in every possible way to immortalize his name. His death has touched off such a tidal wave of mementoes: T-shirts, bumper stickers, umbrellas, calendars, notebooks, jotters, caps, nylon bags, photographs, badges and posters. Painters went to work, reproducing Giwa in colour. Sculptors came in handy with statues and busts.
In Lagos, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, changed the name of its conference centre to Dele Giwa Hall. The union also instituted a roll of honour and gave Giwa a post-humous award, the first journalist to be so honoured. In addition, the union immediately lifted the ban on the Concord newspaper’s chapel, an amnesty “in honour of Giwa’s memory as a man of peace.” Similarly, the suspension of Bola Adedoja, a former president of the union and now commissioner for information in Oyo State, was revoked, all in honour of the slain editor.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State Council of the NUJ renamed its press centre, Dele Giwa Memorial Press Centre, ‘for his immense contribution to the development of journalism.” In Jos, Alex Fom, a well-known medical practitioner also renamed his hospital blocks after the slain journalist. He said he was making the gesture “as a practical demonstration of the need to immortalize the name of a prolific writer.” In Shendam, Plateau State, the Youth Agrarian Enterprises, similarly renamed its 1,000-hectare model farm after Giwa “to ensure that his ideals as a model journalist and tireless advocate of social justice, as crystallized in Newswatch, survives.” The department of mass communications of Calabar Polytechnic on its part instituted the “Dele Giwa Memorial Award,” for the best student reporter.
Samuel Oyebanji, an Ilorin-based artist painted a life-size portrait of the fallen hero. He took it all the way from his workshop to the Kwara State Council of the NUJ, where he presented it to Bayo Osagbemi, chairman of the council. “This man was a superstar,” Oyebanji said and left in tears. Similarly, Bamiji Lawal of Lap Artistic Products, Ibadan, painted a beautiful portrait of Giwa and presented it to Ray Ekpu, Newswatch’s editor-in-chief. So also did Kunle Arts, a Lagos-based art studio. At the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, Giwa was mourned on stage in a drama titled Yelling for Dele, which ended with the artists breaking down on stage. And in Benin, Bendel State, David Omonhimin, a sculptor, made a full-size bronze statue of the assassinated editor. Henry Onwufuju, a Lagos-based businessman paid N30,000 for the statue.
The teeming population of school children and youths, who saw Giwa as their model and folk hero, were not left out of it. They littered kiddies pages of newspapers with rhymes and drawings captioned “Dear Dele Giwa.” At the government school, Akamkpa, Cross River State, the Press Club changed its name to ‘Giwa Club” and members are now fondly called “Giwarite.” At nursery and primary schools in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, little tenderfoot children replaced the wordings of their favourite songs with Giwa’s name and made it a point of duty to sing the song every morning before marching into the assembly hall for prayers. Teachers loved it and sang along with them.
Talk about songs! Professional musicians cashed in on it too. Orlando Owoh was the first to come out with a long-playing (LP) album on Giwa. The record was a runaway sell-out. The Mandators, in their chart-busting reggae LP, Crisis, sang to protest “letter bomb in Nigeria.” And only last week, just as preparations for the anniversary of Giwa’s death were in top gear, a talented young musician, Ottong Peterside, released a six-track LP, Senseless Killing. In two tracks, “Senseless Killing,” and “Last Laugh,” the reggae artist sings emotionally about the death of Giwa and the inability of the police to track down the culprits. The album is rated by critics as “one of the best reggae albums to be made in Nigeria.” As Peterside sings in his album: “Jah, let not the wicked laugh the last.”