The name ‘Godwin Agbroko’ may not quickly ring a bell in the ears of Nigerians. He was chairman of THISDAY newspaper editorial board and one of the very few dynamic investigative journalists the nation has ever produced.
However just as Dele Giwa, he was shot dead in a mysterious manner by armed bandits in Lagos around December 2006.
Baring her mind on what his absence has cost the family, Ruona Agbroko-Meyer, his closest confidante and daughter relieved the experience in the infamous British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Documentary, “Sweet Sweet Codeine” that saw three pharmaceutical companies – Emzor, Peace Standard and Bioraj shut down. The 53-minute video has since gone viral on youtube with 1,575,763 all-time page views.
“We knew for a long time that he was going to be killed. My family learnt about the news via a phone call from my then newspaper editor. He said “Ruona, I can’t lie to you. We had to go to press and I just realized that nobody has told you people.”
And I said, “Wait! Wait! What is going on?”
He replied, “Your dad is dead!”
In an emotion-laden vice, the young journalist said “I am not going to lie because this is the first time I will be saying it openly. I felt relieved!
“I felt relieved because we knew for a long time that he was going to killed (burst into tears)… There were so many threats. Just so many! We had people following us (around) because of what he used to write. My father was killed for fighting injustices. And it tore our family apart.
“I went the way of work and my brother went the way of addiction. Grief pushed him into a bad crowd as it does with many addicts I met. So I would think if my dad was here, would things have turned out like this? (sobs again). Once he fell into addiction, he quit school and disappeared for months. I found out he was using codeine syrup through messages on his Facebook page.
Presenting the photograph of a baby who she described his ‘very handsome’ brother when he was still a toddler, Ruona continued her story, “My brother, Seal, has struggled with addiction for a long time. He did not want to appear in this film but has agreed for me to share his story. He has taught me what addiction can do. His trouble began a few years ago after our father, an investigative journalist like me, was assassinated.”
“Some journalists pursued stories for fun or money. I am pursuing this codeine story in anger, rage and love. I am doing it in memory of my father and love for my brother. If I can stop one person or family from falling to this codeine saga, I think my job is done.”
It would be recalled that late Godwin Agbroko, veteran journalist and Chairman, THISDAY Editorial Board was killed by armed bandits in December 2006. He was on his way home at about 10pm from the office in Apapa, when he ran into a robbery scene at Daleko fly-over, Iyana-Isolo. The bridge links Isolo to Mushin. Agbroko was found in a pool of his own blood with his car and valuables in it untouched. He had his seat belt intact, with music and the air conditioner on. Three policemen and two bystanders were also killed in the area at about the same time Agbroko was killed. The bandits who killed Agbroko were suspected to have killed the policemen.
As at press time, THISDAY could not obtain an official report from the police on the incident. But an officer at the Lagos State Police Command who pleaded for anonymity said, “the information about Agbroko’s murder was picked from our radio message, indicating that after killing the victim, they went ahead to kill three policemen on patrol in the area.” He confirmed that Agbroko was found in a pool of his own blood.
The highly respected columnist will be best remembered for his column, This Nation that runs on Tuesdays in THISDAY. He gives an uncommon insight into issues. The last column published on Tuesday was a satire on the PDP Presidential primaries, which he described as an electoral magic. “As things go, only the PDP can bring about this electoral magic,” Agbroko wrote on the emergence of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket.
Ruona Agbroko-Meyer is a London-based journalist and her work has been published in The Financial Times, Reuters, The Mail & Guardian South Africa and NEXT newspapers, Nigeria. Winning Reuters’ Niall Fitzgerald Prize For A Young Journalist in 2010, Ruona studied at Wits University South Africa, where she blogged for the journalism department and bagged a postgraduate honours degree with a distinction. She recently landed a big job with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).