EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF HOW VETERAN JOURNALIST DIMGBA IGWE WAS KILLED BY HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER

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A detailed account of how the Vice-Chairman of The Sun Newspaper, Dimgba Igwe started his journey to the world beyond after a hit-and-run driver plowed into him while he was jugging at Okota in Isolo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State has been given by an eyewitness.

Saturday Sun authoritatively revealed that the car that served as the harbinger of death, is a Toyota Camry.

This fact was made known by Igwe himself shortly after he was knocked down. He spoke to Chima Okeke, the young man, a fellow jog¬ger, who, in the company of Mrs. Jane Chinelo Ezenduka-Chukwu, another jogger, put him in a car and took him to St. Raphael’s Hospital, Okota, where he was first treated before the harrowing journey that eventually ended in his tragic death, began.

It was a journey that ensued after he was suddenly hit by a man both Okeke and Chukwu believed to be drunk or sleeping or making or taking a phone call (being early Saturday morning, he was probably coming from a night club, they said). But owing to the pitch-black hue of the day, it was difficult to make out either the colour of the Toyota Camry or its plate number, although the driver was said to have temporarily stopped after hitting Dimgba before zooming off again into the thin air. “If we had known that he would escape, my fellow joggers and I would have used our cars to block him,” Chukwu not¬ed regrettably.

Anger and change of mind

As you read this, Chukwu, a Masters degree holder in Business Administration, from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, and owner of a flourishing business outfit that deals in children’s wears at Ajao Estate, Lagos, is still miffed by their inability to stop the hit-and-run felon on that black Saturday.

Initially, she had vehemently refused to speak on the matter, when you broached the topic to her over the phone, with the excuse that she would not want undue publicity. And she had refused to have her photograph taken by our photographer.

But she had to change her mind, on the is¬sue of speaking, when you told her that what she had to say might help the police to trace, nab and bring to justice, the escapee driver.

Reminded that Kayode Aderanti, the new Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, had, during his condolence visit to The Sun assured that the police, following the earnest plea of Femi Adesina, the Managing Director of the newspaper, would not to relent in its effort to bring the killer of Igwe to book, while appealing to members of the public to give useful information to the police on the case, Chukwu said she was willing to come out of her shell and talk if that can help the security agents to fulfill their promise, although Okeke wondered aloud why the operatives or detectives have not visited the scene of the accident nor made preliminary enquiries from eyewitnesses like them since the incident took place.

When the driver from hell arrived

Chukwu, who was jogging some metres behind Igwe that fateful morning (there was another jogger, a male in between us, she said), recalled that the ghastly accident happened between 5.45 and 6 am. “You know it was too early, still dark,” she said. “So, he was jogging before me. We were coming down the hill on Ibeh Road (Okota, Lagos). We’d already jogged up the road and were coming down. We were facing traffic, which is the normal thing.

The car that knocked him down came from the direction of Okota roundabout. We were on the left side of the road, close to the median when I just heard kpum kpum, just those two sounds. I stopped jogging. I was right behind him but after him there was one man who was also jog¬ging.

Then I was at their back. When the thing happened, everybody stopped. I now found out that in hitting him, the car knocked him so hard that he fell on the other side of the road, although I wouldn’t know whether he was try¬ing to jump to safety before it happened or it is the car that knocked him down. The hit was so hard that the hubcap of one of the front wheels of the car came off and fell on the road. The driver initially made as if he wanted to stop but later zoomed off when he noticed that some people were beginning to gather on the scene. They were just looking at his leg that had some serious injuries on it. They didn’t know he had a wound and bleeding somewhere.

Taking Dimgba to hospital

“You know the normal Lagos scene. People were gathered around him and they were like, ‘let him get space,’ ‘let him get space.’ And, I looked at him. He is an old man, old enough to be my father. So, I said, no, ‘let’s take him to hospital.’ Some people were saying, ‘it’s not hospital; let’s allow him to catch some breath.’ I said, ‘It’s not about him catching his breath; let’s take him to the hospital.’ I now looked down and saw blood on the floor. I said this man is bleeding. By the time people now knew he was bleeding, they said, ‘ok, who has a car?’ I said, ‘I brought my car. Let me go and bring it. I parked in front of the First Bank up Ibeh Road. That’s where I usually park when I came with car. You know, being a woman I can’t just jog from home that early morning. So, I usually come with my car, see people and jog with them. I now went to bring my car.”

Gain Control Over Your School

It was while she went to do that, Okeke, also a jogger and a neighbour of Dimgba and Mike Awoyinfa (he lives on the same Dele Orisabiyi street with them although he confessed that he knows them from a distance, as they are not that close as to know one another by name or face), reached the scene.

“I was running on Ibeh Road, say about 5.45 am when I noticed that someone was lying on the ground on the other side of the road and people were gathered around him,” he told Saturday Sun. “But because it was a bit dark I couldn’t see who the person was.

Initially, I thought it was someone who passed out, someone who was jogging and just became exhausted. It was not until I reached the end of the road at the Okota Roundabout end of it and turned round and came back and reached the scene that I looked close and saw that it was oga Dimgba, Mike’s friend. He now said he was just hit by a car. He asked for a phone to call his wife.

So, I gave him my phone. He was very conscious. He called his wife and told her that he’d been knocked down by a car. By then Chinelo had gone to get her car (an Infinity SUV FS. 35). She eventu¬ally brought it and we took him to the hospital. Now, when he spoke with the wife, he was fully conscious. Nobody knew that the injuries were that serious. Before we took him into the car, he was sitting on the tarred road and the only place we saw bruises was on his ankle. That’s where blood was coming out from! And that’s where he said we shouldn’t touch him, that that place is really paining him.

“He was in the car and I was asking him: ‘do you have any hospital that you have a doctor?’ Chukwu added. “He said we should take him to St. Raphael’s Hospital (which is a stone’s throw away from the scene of accident), at least for first aid. I said ok. By then he had called his wife. Mr. Dimgba personally spoke to his wife. He was fully conscious and speaking, although very weak.” “He was conscious and talking,” Okeke readily agrees. “He said the car that struck him was a Toyota Camry but he couldn’t identify the driver to know whether she is a female or he is a male. When we got to the hospital as we were leaving, he personally asked me if I knew him and I said yes,” Okeke recalled. “He asked me where I knew him and I told him.

He even said a little prayer for us for taking good care of him and we left. The only place he complained of pain to me was the pelvic area, right below his abdomen, that is, apart from the injury on his ankle which he earlier complained about.”

First treatment and discharge

They made it to the hospital at about 6 am and were about bringing him out of the car, when his wife, Obioma, (who was on her way that Saturday morning to see their son, Chinedu, a 200 level student read¬ing Information and Communication Engineering at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, before she was in¬formed of the accident and had to turn back somewhere at Cele Bus Stop, Isolo, Lagos), arrived in company of her driver.

With her arrival, Chukwu and Okeke, took their leave while praying for his speedy recovery from what they see as a serious but not life-threatening accident. But not be¬fore Obioma had asked, and obtained from them, their phone numbers, with which she intended to keep in touch.

“When we arrived, we were look¬ing at the injury,” Chukwu recounts. “We thought it was the normal knock-down injuries, let him just go for a first-aid treatment. But it was after we brought him down that I saw that my car was full of blood. I said, ‘ah, ah, this man is really bleeding.’ The hospital had to give us gloves and we took him in there. They were treating him while we were busy cleaning my car. When we finished, we went inside and his wife said that it is like he had a deep cut inside his laps and he is really bleeding and that the doctor was trying to stop the bleeding. I said it is ok. To me I thought that normal stitching would stop it. The wife said we should go, that she would continue. The wife now asked for my number for appreciation. I said, ‘don’t worry now; it is a normal thing and I have been doing it because it could have been me.’ She still insisted. I gave her my number. I left and went back to where I was jogging to continue the jogging.”

So did Okeke. Thereafter, Obioma put a call through to few other close relatives, confidants and church lead¬ers/members. They include Mrs. Gloria Oriaku, an executive of Mc¬Dee Communications Ltd (the busi¬ness outfit that deals in publishing and belonging to Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe, is located on Ago Palace Way, Okota), at about 6.15am and Rev. Paul. A. Toun (a retired Ma¬jor General of the Nigerian Army, and General Overseer, Evangel Pentecostal Church, Okota, Lagos, the church where Dimgba served as Deputy General Overseer before his death), at about 6.30.

“I guess it should be about 6.15am that the wife called me that oga went for jogging and he was knocked down,” Oriaku tells you at Dimgba’s house, against the background of Femi Kuti’s music blaring from a neighbour’s house and the sound of an aeroplane flying overhead. You wished the plane had come in handy that black Saturday. “I said, ‘where are you?’ She said she is at St. Rapha¬el’s. I said I am coming. So, I quickly told my husband and I dressed up and went to St. Raphael’s Hospital. Then I met her there and the doc¬tor said we should take him to Isolo General Hospital, that we should move him there.

“I asked the doctor: is there no other good private hospital around here that you can recommend for us? He said no that the injury he has is such that we are better off in a gen¬eral hospital. So, my husband, and the wife’s nephew put him in the car and left for Isolo General Hospital.”

In the meantime, Okeke, in the company of one of his friends called Tobi, returned to St. Raphael’s, after their jogging to see how Dimgba was doing while Chukwu left for Lekki to see to some personal mat¬ters. On arrival, Okeke was surprised by the turn of event. That was when he knew that the situation was not as simple as they had initially thought.

“The doctor and nurses at St Raphael’s were prompt in commenc¬ing treatment on him when we got to the hospital,” Okeke reveals. “The nurses were prompt and the doctor really tried. That was why we left because we felt they could do it. We hoped they would stop the bleeding. So, after jogging, at about 7.25 am, on our way back, my friend, Tobi, and I, decided to check up on him. It was when we got there that we dis-covered they were moving him to another place. It was that time we saw that this was something serious. The doctor said he couldn’t locate the artery or whatever that was causing the bleeding and advised that he be taken to an emergency unit of Isolo General Hospital as quickly as possible. They brought him out. We helped in putting him in the car. You could see the urgency in the doctor’s voice that this is serious and that they should take him to general hospital. I think he gave them a note.”
Journey to Isolo Gen¬eral Hospital

In a chat with Saturday Sun, Oriaku admitted that much. “When we got there (Isolo General Hospital, that is), I quickly ran out,” she recalled. “Traffic was building up. You know it was early morning. We didn’t go through the Okota-Oke Afa Road because we already knew they were doing some construction work on that road. So, we took the Ibeh Road. It was at Isolo that we met a small traffic. I was shouting and the people were clearing the way. It was just me, his wife and their driver. My husband was driving behind us.

“We got to Isolo General Hospital. I didn’t really know the place. So, I asked them at the gate. I said where is your emergency unit. They directed us. We quickly got there. I ran in, saw one of the nurses on duty and told her that we brought an accident victim. The nurse followed me immediately wearing her gloves. I gave her the paper given to us by the doctor at St. Raphael’s. We were shouting that he needs a surgeon, the doctor said he needs a surgeon. She looked at the note and said, no, no, that they don’t have the facilities to handle this here, that we should go to LASUTH.

“I asked her: is there no private clinic around here? She said no, that he (Dimgba) may need blood, that if he does, we may not get it in a private hospital. She, therefore, strongly ad¬vised that we go to LASUTH. I asked her: how are you sure we will get a surgeon there? She said we should go, that we would get. We reversed and came out to the gate. I saw this Lagos State ambulance owned by LASAMBUS (Lagos State Ambulance Service, established in March 2001, to offer pre-hospital care for the residents of the state on a 24/7 basis. “The services of LASAMBUS are run with the objective of reducing the risk of emergencies resulting in fatal outcomes,” posting on the website on the state’s ministry of health tells you. “The crew are trained to be the first responders in medical and surgical emergencies, and the ambulances are equipped and manned for the purpose”).

“At the gate, I asked people there that this ambulance does it move?,” Oriaku further said. “Is the driver around? They said no, that if we want an ambulance, there is an ambulance, these private-owned ambulances, across the road. I can’t remember exactly the answer he gave me. It is either he said it doesn’t move or the driver is not around. But I asked specifically for that ambulance. It was parked right at the gate of Isolo Gen-eral Hospital. I asked this ambulance here can’t we use it? They said there is another ambulance here but it is privately owned. I told the man I asked to tell the driver to come.

“Quickly, he ran across the road and came with the ambulance driver. We paid him N10, 000 to take us to Ikeja. He wanted to move him (Dimgba) into the ambulance. I said no, it will take time: ‘Just go and be clearing the way so that we will fol¬low you.’ He was doing that and went inside Isolo and all those places until we now saw ourselves on Osolo Way. Although there is a direct road that leads to that Osolo Way, there was traffic and he was trying to beat the traffic. When we got to the DHL office, instead of going to Oshodi, he took the other way and climbed that steep hill until we burst out on Airport Road. Then we took the toll gate and continued until we got to Ikeja Gen¬eral Hospital gate.

Consolation and sorrow at LASUTH

“As we got there, I ran in again. I said, ‘please, please, we have an emergency. One of the nurses came, looked at him and said we should quickly go get a card. I ran in to get the card while the wife stayed with him. They were trying to bring the stretcher. You know how they do. The wife was shouting, ‘he needs surgery,’ ‘he needs surgery. They said he needs surgery.’ I remember clearly one of the nurses saying, ‘the person that told you that he needs surgery, why didn’t he follow you here?’ But you know in situations like that you don’t listen or reply to such comments. The wife was crying and the other nurses were saying, ‘Madam, stop crying, stop crying; we are here. We will help. Stop crying. It is ok, it is ok.’

“He was seriously bleeding and we were all pleading that something urgent be done to help him. They wheeled him in. By then I have called some of our people. They met us there. They wrote out drugs for us to buy. She (Dimgba’s wife) ran to go buy from their pharmacy and then they didn’t have one. So, she sent her driver to go look for it and buy. He bought and came back. Then one of the nurses came out again and said we should buy two pillows. We sent the driver out again. He bought two pillows and came back. Then they said they needed blood. We went to buy from their blood bank and gave us a bill of N9,000. With the receipt the guy we met there gave us, we went and paid and came back.

“When I came back, I told one of the medical personnel there to take the paper from me. He said, ok, ok. I said, ‘come on now, let’s go get the blood. I have paid.’ He said, ‘Madam, wait, wait.’ So, I just stood there waiting for about 10 minutes. Later one of the doctors came out and said who brought Igwe? I said it is me because the wife was on the phone then. I ran to him and the wife followed me. He asked us, when did this happen? What time? When did you get to the first hospital? You know he was just asking us questions. By then our Pas¬tor (Dickson Anyanwu) has come close. He said, ‘who is this?’ We said, ‘he’s our pastor; we came with him.’ He now said, did we come with any other male relative? I said, yes, my husband is here.

He said I should go call him. I came out and called my husband. He came with me. He now took Pastor Anyanwu and my husband in. He said, we should go, that’s the wife and I. The wife said, ‘why should you ask me to go? I brought him. I am the wife.’ He said no, there are some things they want to show the men.

“We waited and waited till my husband came out. I asked him. He said, ‘everything is ok, that they are working on him.’ I said, ‘Look at me in the face. Tell me the truth. What is going on?’ He said, ‘Ehn, everything is ok.’ That was when I knew that there is trouble.’

With tears welling up in her eyes, she said: “I suspect the guy who re-fused to follow us to go get the blood knew that oga has passed on, so he didn’t want to go for the blood again. I didn’t know what happened after that but oga didn’t want to die. Al¬though he was in pain, he continued to talk to us until we got to Ikeja General Hospital. He kept asking how far and where we were at every point and I was telling him as we were moving. He is an intelligent man; he is not just anybody you can bamboozle. When we got to the gate, I told him, ‘Sir, we are already at the gate; help will come now. Don’t worry; we are at the gate.’ Right from the time we were at St Raphael’s, to Isolo General Hospital, to Ikeja General Hospital, he continued to encourage his wife, ‘I will make it. Don’t worry; I will make it.’ But see now, Nigerian system couldn’t allow him to do so.”

Sorrow that will not go away

She shook her head vigorously and bowed down her head in grief. Emotion sometimes can be contagious. Moved by that sight, you too did not know when you became over¬whelmed with emotion and bowed down your head in tears. From Dimgba’s neighbour’s house, located across the fence, the refrain of Femi Kuti’s song continued to waft into your ear: I sorry for Nigeria; sorry, sorry o,/ I sorry for Africa; sorry, sorry o….

“If this country has things that other countries take for granted, he wouldn’t have died. And that is what is paining me and breaking my heart, that what he feared most is what eventually happened to him,” Oriaku said to you as she finished drying up her tears. “Here they used to call us doctors without certificate because he could analyse medical situations very easily. We used to talk and he would say that you know in this country if you have med¬ical emergency you are gone o.”

And then the tears starting rushing down her cheeks again: “Oh no, he shouldn’t have died this way because this is a man that is careful about what he eats, careful about what he drinks. He is not a frivolous man at all. He is careful about himself, about his well-being, that’s why he even jogs, all of us, his wife and me, he made us to jog.”

Time magazine edition of September 22, 2014, was right when it noted that, “in Nigeria, where road infrastructure can be poor, rural clinics are often unprepared to deal with major medical emergencies.” “He was martyred by the Nigerian system,” Awoyinfa lamented during Mr. Peter Obi, ex-governor Anambra State’s visit to Igwe’s home in Lagos, last Sun¬day. “His death was due to the failure of our medical support system,” Toun, agrees.

“It is the Nigerian system that failed him,” Oriaku insists. “No ambulance. Nothing. It was just me and his wife in the vehicle.” Now, many Nigerians fear that the system may yet fail him again in the area of finding out who knocked him down and extracting from him the needed justice. Shortly after the chilling news of Dimgba’s death swept through the nation, the acting Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, had promised “a detailed investigation”.
According to a statement issued in Abuja, by the Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, the IGP assured that the police would not leave any stone unturned in its bid to unravel the circumstances surrounding the late journalist’s death. Re-enforcing the directives from the force headquarters to fish out killers, during his condolence visit to The Sun corpo¬rate headquarters in Lagos, the Lagos State new Commissioner of Police, Kayode Aderan¬ti, had promised to get to the root of the matter.

But so far there is no evidence that the Po¬lice has been to the crime scene to make any investigation, nor spoken to eyewitnesses, nor visited Dimgba’s family to take any statement from them. However, in a curious press briefing held at the police command, Ikeja, early in the week, on why they have not arrested Dimgba’s killer, Aderanti said: “Despite the ‘intensified’ efforts made by detectives to get the killer arrested, it has become so difficult as there was nobody to give useful information on who committed the dastardly act.” All the same, he said, investigation has been ‘intensified’, as the police would not want to narrow down the incident as a mere accident.

Nigerians like Duro Onabule, the former editor of National Concord, and one-time Chief Press Secretary to President Ibrahim Bbangida are sceptical of such promise, which to them, presents nothing but a sense of deja vu. Writing in his column in Daily Sun of September 11, 2014, he chided the Nigerian media for allowing themselves “to be exploited for cheap publicity. Or what was the silly impres¬sion created that Nigeria Police was treating Dimgba Igwe’s killing, as a sad event to be specially investigated on the directive of Police Inspector-General?

“Otherwise, Nigerian media should have assessed the police boss’ directive for investigation of the killing of Dimgba Igwe for what it is – a normal ritual, which should not have been celebrated. It is a ritual of the police aimed at playing down public outrage at such un¬solved crimes. For the media in particular, did the police not similarly instruct investigation into the murder of The Guardian man, Bayo Ohu, inside his house on a Sunday mid-day? Was there any outcome or did the media fol¬low up police failure to prosecute that crime?

“Godwin Agbroko of THISDAY, news¬paper was murdered along Daleko market in Lagos, driving home from work. What was the outcome of the promised police investigation? A lawyer and visiting member of The Guard¬ian editorial board, Kunle Fadipe, was mur¬dered in his house at Ifako, Lagos. The mur¬derer (not the suspect) was arrested during the crime and handed over to the police. Has there been any police prosecution since then? That particular murder crime already investigated itself. The trick in the delay is for Nigerians to forget all about the murder crime. In Dimgba Igwe’s case, Nigerian media will emerge with its traditional role of leading Nigerians to for¬get.
“No newspaper will follow up the public pledge of Nigeria Police to investigate the manslaughter of Dimgba Igwe. Any concern currently being expressed, especially by the media will end with the coverage of the commendation service for Dimgba Igwe in Lagos and the burial in his hometown.”

Message for the hit-and-run driver

In the visit to The Sun, Aderanti had prom¬ised that investigation into the Dimgba’s death will not be business as usual, that it will be not end up as one of those unresolved murders. Only time will tell who is correct: Onabule or Aderanti. But in the meantime, Oriaku has one appeal to make to the hit-and-run driver who knocked down Dimgba with his Toyota Cam¬ry and one message that she would want Saturday Sun to deliver to him and to do strongly.

“If you are reading this story, one thing is certain: your conscience will never set you free until you have to come out to admit what you did,” she said. “You may think you killed him. You didn’t. He lives on. But for your own good, for your own peace of mind, for you to make peace with God, you should come out and own up. That’s my only message for you.”

Source: Saturday Sun

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