By Musa Jibril
President Buhari would lead an array of governors, political leaders, captains of industries and the high and mighty in Nigeria to pay homage to two Nigerian journalists from different tribes whose enduring friendship even in the face of death, has become a model for the Nigerian dream and an echo of the old national anthem which says: “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
For over thirty years, starting from Sunday Concord where they met under the legendary editor Dele Giwa, Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe had taken friendship and brotherhood to a record high, until death struck and took Dimgba Igwe away. He was jogging along the street on Saturday in the early hours of September 6, 2014 in his Okota neighbourhood in Lagos, preparing for a lecture on community development he was to give among his kith and kin from Igbere town of Abia State when a mystery vehicle knocked him down and vanished into thin air. Up till today, the killer and the vehicle have not been found.
For four hours, Igwe battled for dear life as he was moved by his wife and close relations from one hospital to the other all unable to help him. By the time he was eventually taken to the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, he bled to death. A doctor sadly came out of the operation theatre to announce: “Sorry, Mr. Igwe couldn’t make it. We lost him.”
Instantly, the news of his death travelled around the world first through the social media, turning the homes of Igwe and Awoyinfa who live next to each other on Dele Orisabiyi Street, Okota, into a Mecca of sorts visited by political leaders and influential Nigerians who came to commiserate with the two families. Among those who visited was Buhari, the then presidential candidate of the APC who had to break away from the campaign trail to commiserate with the Igwe family. A teary-eyed and crestfallen Buhari listened as Awoyinfa told the pathetic story of how his friend was killed with the system unable to help a man whose life could have been saved anywhere else but Nigeria.
Awoyinfa who was holidaying with his family in Ipswich, England, had to break his holiday and took the next available flight home. It was the first time he was travelling out of Nigeria without Dimgba Igwe. And it was the last.
Among the high-profile visitors were the former governor of Lagos State Babatunde Fashola and his predecessor Senator Bola Tinubu. There were array of other governors too who came visiting or sent their representatives. From religious leaders to captains of industry to party stalwarts, the sirens kept blaring along the bumpy road of Dele Orisabiyi which was made partially motorable by the state government but is now back to the hell that it was before Dimgba’s death.
To immortalize his friend, Awoyinfa has instituted the annual Dimgba Igwe Memorial Book launch whereby every September, a book will be launched which will still be co-authored even though one of the authors is no more. Mike Awoyinfa said: “The fact that my friend is not here does not change anything. He would be writing with me from the grave. Every book I write, from now till I die, will bear his name. For me, Dimgba Igwe’s name will never die.”
On Tuesday, September 15, starting from 10a.m. at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, the first memorial book launch will take place with the presentation of 50 World Editors, a book of interviews with editors of the world’s most influential newspapers, all sharing their experiences on the lives they have lived covering and editing the news. They include editors from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday (New York), Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian of London, The Mirror, The Mail, BBC, CNN and the rest of them, including Nigerian media icons. The book launch is expected to be a big media event, attracting who is who in the news media in Nigeria and the world through the International Press Institute (IPI) whose representative would pay tribute to Dimgba Igwe, an active member of the IPI.
Also expected to pay tributes to Dimgba Igwe are giants and moguls like Mike Adenuga, Aliko Dangote, Dele Fajemirokun, Orji Kalu, Elder Ekeoma, Babatunde Fashola and Senator Bola Tinubu whose biographies Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe have written or are working on. They would share their experiences on the Dimgba Igwe they know.
More tributes would come from governors, friends, associates, church leaders, fellow journalists, schoolmates, people he had mentored and readers of his Tuesday SIDEVIEW column in the Daily Sun, a paper which he created from the scratch along with Mike Awoyinfa and managed to a record level of profitability unheard of in the history of Nigerian journalism.