• Friday, February 23, 2024
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Dimgba Igwe; death at dawn

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The morning was still fresh; the plants bathed in the early morning dews. The sun was just rising and gradually conquering the night. Nature was beaming with freshness and life.  The day was a toddler, fresh and innocent but hopeful and full of promise. In a typical Saturday morning in the Okota neigbourhood of Lagos, home of Dimgba Igwe, the veteran journalist, there is usually some calm with little early risers.  As it is his custom, Dimgba would steal out of bed to the quiet streets in canvass and sports attire to catch the untainted air and the freshness of the day. He would jog, not like the Olympians with all the fixating energy, but in short kingly steps just to keep fit and be healthy. He tries to burn off some excess sugar and cholesterol by perspiration. Then, breathe in the untainted open air of dawn. Besides ensuring good heath, this routine of early romance with nature has a way of stimulating his creative imagination.  Dimgba would return to a warm bath before breakfast and before setting out for the day or retiring to his study. It has been a way of life for this literary legend.

But, penultimate weekend, Saturday, September 6, Dimgba did not return to his warm bath. He did not return to his home. He will not return to that home forever. In the search for health and life, he met death. By the time he sprang out from bed that Saturday morning, unknown to him, that was the last he would sleep on that bed and the last he would have his breakfast or retire to his study. A reckless hit-and-run driver was on a mission of death. He knocked down a brilliant and promising midlife. From the road, with all his dreams and promises, Dimgba set out for a journey of no return. He ended in the last ward of the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), where all men rest after a life of toil and struggle.

Indeed, I had once entered into the last ward, the mortuary. I had gone home in 2004 to see my dead mother at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Aba mortuary. I was weeping but the mortuary attendant promised me that I would stop crying by the time I step into the mortuary. He was right. There, I saw a community of men and women of all ages, young and old. They were laid on tables, all lifeless and resting and far from the maddening crowd. There was a bewitching air of quietude in this hall of the dead. This is where Dimgba Igwe, the media icon, author and social critic is resting right now – untimely, unprepared. But, he was not yet tired. He did not opt to rest now. Dimgba was full of life and full of promises. He had lofty and noble dreams and ambition yet to be accomplished. He was not yet done with the development of the media in Nigeria. Not yet done with his family; not yet done with The Sun Newspapers. Ambition will mock his useful toil. Though as Shakespeare said: “He who cuts off twenty years of life, cuts off so many years of fearing death,” Dimgba’s death was not a “benefit”,  but a sad and pathetic loss and a cruelty against humanity  by a reckless and  irresponsible driver.

We will never read his column, ‘’Side View”, again. We will never draw from his rich and sublime wisdom which he used to dish out freely in his writings. We will never be guided by his counsel of peace and a just society anymore. We will never be entertained by his simple style of narrative prose. Dimgba has strutted and fretted his hours upon the stage and will be heard no more. He did not buy life with so much care, yet he lost it so abruptly and tragically. His would have taken the shape of the classical tragic hero but there are no known tragic flaws that advanced his ill-fate. And, like the tragic hero, his unfortunate fate makes us to agonise.

From Mr. President, through the governors and all well-meaning Nigerians, it has been a season of mourning over the soul of the departed Dimgba. Indeed, if to live is to be known, Dimgba lived life to its fullest. If to die is to be forgotten, he truly shall never die. He shall forever live in our hearts. He shall be remembered for adding verve and drama to Nigerian journalism when in 1989 he co-founded the Weekend Concord with his friend, Mike Awoyinfa. He shall be remembered for giving birth to The Sun, the Nigerian premier tabloid that has become an essential aspect of lives, an instrument that accommodates the vanities of our common humanity. We shall remember him for his devotion to his calling and his defence for truth and the public interest. We will remember Dimgba for many things, and significantly as a man who stood out as a giant amongst men, not just because of the ingenuity of his writings but more importantly for the amazing capacity of his heart and brilliant mind.

Life is a stage and for 58 years, Dimbga was at it: a loving husband, caring father, committed editor, loyal friend and dedicated Christian; an instrument of hope and inspiration to many, an affable mentor, a humble leader and a magnanimous provider, and above all, an illustrious son of Abia State. We shall celebrate this thorough professional who was an epitome of honour, integrity, and selfless service to mankind; a man who created his own ceiling and set many records; a friend who showed the way for others to follow and a man whose entire life was a total commitment to God and mankind Death, where is thy sting?  Where is thy long knife with which you mowed down this great and illustrious media icon? Death, where is thy cold hand with which you silence men into everlasting slumber? Where lies thy power that subdues heroes and warriors alike?  How many hearts shall be maimed? How many tears shall be shed? How many heroes shall fall? How many scores of years and centuries shall pass before we conquer death and resolve the mystery of this great finality?

We are travellers on a pilgrimage in a vast wilderness where we are bound with sorrow and death. The boast of life, the pride of ego and all that life ever gives await the inevitable hour. Today, Dimgba has crossed the twin bridge between the material and the transcendental. On this bridge is an ever busy traffic: some are coming in (by birth), some are taking exit (by death). Thus, is life and death, are part of the natural continuum. We all shall die; so let it be.

Let it be that Dimgba is gone!