This is it! The most unimaginable nightmare! This is it! The most painful column I have ever written or will ever write. The column I wished I never wrote. The agonizing column. The column written amidst sorrow, tears and blood. Please, pray for me.
More than any time in my life, I need prayers. Prayer is the only healing balm for me now. Prayer is the only thing that can save me from these troubled waters, from this ocean of sorrow threatening to consume me. I write with a heart brimful with sadness.
By the Orwell River in Ipswich, England, where I am sitting, I am scribbling these painful words. By the time you are reading this, I should be home to face the shocking reality.
You know why I am writing, you Father of the fatherless, you Creator of all things good and bad, you giver of life and taker. You gave him to me, now you have taken him. You gave me a friend and a brother. Now, you have taken both.
Who will be my friend? Who will be my brother?
Sadness is now my name. Sadness like those missing girls stolen from us in the middle of the night and taken into captivity. Sadness is the tattoo mark emblazing my face like Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo.
I have been reading Mike Tyson’s bizarre memoir: MIKE TYSON, UNDISPUTED TRUTH, MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY and I was planning to write on it. But I am compelled to jettison that to write this sad column.
Oh, my God! You know why I am sad. My best friend is gone. My twin brother is gone. A good man is gone. A generous man is gone. A man who gave all his life serving God and journalism is gone. A man who is the other part of me is gone. Dimgba Igwe is gone. What will I do now? Who will I turn to now? Who?
Why must all my friends and heroes in journalism die so cruelly, landing on the front page? My editor Dele Giwa died the same way: killed dastardly through a letter bomb on October 19, 1986. And up till today, the riddle of his death remains unsolved.
It has become “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” to use a phrase by Winston Churchill. Like Giwa, Dimgba Igwe in the throes of death was crying: “I don’t want to die.”
For four hours, he was bleeding on the road to Golgotha. No ambulance. No oxygen mask. No Samaritan hospital. From St. Raphael Hospital to the General Hospital Isolo where there was no surgeon to attend to him, it was the story of Nigeria’s systemic failure as a country. He finally gave up at Lagos State University Hospital, Ikeja.
If I am angry at all, it is not with the bloody coward who killed him and fled in panic. I will forgive the hit-and-run killer. And the Dimgba Igwe I know, will forgive the man who killed him.
What I cannot forgive is a nation with health institutions that can do nothing, once your life is in danger. It’s the same story all over Nigeria.
Of course, you know that once you are taken to LUTH on emergency, you are as good as dead. And this is a country without a functional 911 which you dial in emergency and get help. Only in Nigeria will you commit this heinous crime and vanish.
In a civilized country, the killer would have been caught on camera. The security agents would have tracked the car down. Not so in Nigeria.
I remember the sad death of my other Sunday Concord friend May Ellen Ezekiel whose death in a Lagos hospital shook the nation. Dimgba Igwe and I were at the helm in Weekend Concord where he was my deputy.
The best decision I ever took in life was to choose Dimgba Igwe as my deputy. He complemented me in every way. Now, he is gone.
Like everyone else, I am confused. I am lost. Please, pray for me. More than any time in my life, I need prayers. Lots of them. Because I don’t know how I can cope without my friend, my business partner, my co-author, my soul mate, my chief critic.
He was the voice of restraint—always fearing for my life, because of my constant prone to accidents. I remember an accident in Paris, when I stumbled, crashed on the street and seriously injured my arm in the bid to protect my camera and photos.
Dimgba Igwe was there for me when I was down and out in Paris. And at the Golden Tulip, where we had lodged to write Governor Fashola’s biography, I had another accident in the night after my writing, resulting in a deep cut on my lower and upper lips.
Again, Dimgba and the hotel medical staff quickly rushed me to hospital where I was told I could have bled to death, if the broken glass had cut my throat. You read it all in this column!
Against this backdrop, I was the one more prone to death. In his last interview, Dimgba Igwe told YES INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE how he nicknamed me “Iniquity Man” because I won’t sit in one place.
As his twin brother four years older, I used to imagine a future where two of us would be old and I would die first and Dimgba would be there, paying me tributes, looking back at the lives we lived. But alas, the imagined future is dead and Dimgba is gone in his prime.
The Dimgba I know was a kind man who didn’t deserve this cruel death. If anything, he would have hated this big embarrassment of being on front page, killed doing what he loved best: jogging.
He believed the best way to prolong life is by exercising, by running and pumping oxygen into the heart. He was the one who introduced me to jogging. And for more than 10 years, I have been jogging with him.
Our houses are next to each other on that God-forsaken Dele Orisabiyi Street in Okota which has not for once seen any government repairing it in years.
Recently after returning from a first-time trip to Banana Island where he had gone to visit our friend, Elder Ekeoma whose daughter was marrying, Dimgba Igwe had an epiphany. He was so sad that he would be leaving the well-tarred streets of Banana Island and be returning home to that hell of a street in Okota.
“Ogbeni, we must work harder and have a place in Banana Island,” he told me. Dimgba was a hard-working man, a visionary who should have lived long to reap the fruits of his toil.
The greatest honour that the Lagos State government can do in memory of my departed friend is to tar his street. I am sure even the inhabitants wouldn’t mind if the street is renamed Dimgba Igwe Street after this great son of Nigeria—if the road is tarred for his sake.
That would make him happy in his grave. That was what he yearned for and even begged our friend, the governor who gave us his word that he would assist.
Every morning, we run on that bad road. I couldn’t join him last Saturday because I was in the UK with my family for my son’s graduation—a day I was looking forward to with the pride and joy of a father. Dimgba opted to stay and take care of the home front while I was away. Somehow, I feel guilty. If I had known it will end this way, I would have taken my beloved brother along.
Pastor Igwe must have prayed that morning. His first act at the break of every new day is to go on his knees. He sings in praise of God, blesses the name of the Lord, speaks in tongue and prays for the Lord to deliver him from all evils. But on that Black Saturday, the devil struck.
On the eve of his death, I had called him from Ipswich and told him the books I had bought for him. Books like JFK’s Last Hundred Days, by Thurston Clarke, The Virgin Way, by Richard Branson,God is not a Christian, by Desmond Tutu and an epic book on the history of Jerusalem from the days of David up to the current day. He was so excited. He was waiting for the books. He loved books. Now, the evil forces have brought him to book.
Adieu, my friend, my brother. Like King David mourned his friend Jonathan, I cry: “How have the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath. Publish it not in Ashkelon.” For a great man of journalism has passed away.
Our latest book is a book called 50 World Editors, featuring conversations with editors around the world whom we met in the course of our travels. We were planning to launch it, but see me now!
This morning, I came across the New Men’s Devotional Bible you gave me on my 60th birthday. Oh, you really tried on my 60th birthday and I was looking forward to celebrating in grand style your own 60thbirthday. But, see me now!
In the Bible you gave me, you wrote: “Ogbeni, be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6: 10)
My friend, I will be strong in the Lord. I will fly the flag and search for heaven that you so much cared about. Ogbeni, thank you. Good night and enjoy your freedom.
Mr. Awoyinfa was editor of the racy and highly successful Weekend Concord, where he collaborated and later forged a life-time professional and social partnership with the late Dimgba Igwe. Between them they have authored no fewer than three market leading biographical works on notable Nigerians.