10 years ago, Dr. Suraj Giwa lost his life in a motor collision that involved Nollywood actress and former Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) president Ibinabo Fiberisima.
Punch spoke to the deceased doctor’s sister – Biola Giwa-Adeyemi – and she details the relationship Ibinabo has had with their family since 2006, and says they have forgiven her, even though she never visited their mum.
She said she thought the case had ended a long time ago, and they’re not being vindictive, as the case is in the government’s hands.
Here are excerpts.
Were you in Nigeria when your brother, Dr. Giwa died?
I have always lived in the US. I was home when the accident happened. I have been living in the US for the past 33 years. We have forgiven Ibinabo. We have moved on with our lives. My mum is still alive. She cannot talk to anybody on this issue. It is going to be a fresh wound. Some people are saying we have not forgiven her. But that is not true. The Giwa family has moved on. It was an accident and accidents do happen. When people go out every day, I don’t think anybody sets his or her mind to go out and kill somebody.
So why is Ibinabo’s own different?
It wouldn’t have been like this. It was just the way she conducted herself after the accident. When the accident happened, she fled the scene of the accident. She doesn’t have good advisers. The state government had to find out who the owner of the car she was driving was. That was when it was found out that the car belonged to Daniel Wilson.
Didn’t you know who Ibinabo was then?
My first time of hearing that name was the day of the accident. I had been in the US for over 20 years then and there was no way I would have known anything about her then. I had another brother who was also in the car when that accident happened. You can imagine two people of the same mother and father in that car. They didn’t try to help them out, they all ran and left the scene of the accident.
But some eyewitnesses said Ibinabo didn’t flee but was rushed to the hospital…
If some other people were in the car with her, what about those people? How come they didn’t try to help? Somebody should have stayed at that scene to say he or she was with Ibinabo. But nobody said anything. And how come the eyewitness is coming out now to talk? Where was he all these years? I read he said my brother was shouting, ‘I am a doctor, don’t hold me like that.’ But that is a lie. Have they forgotten that there were other occupants in the car?
Did you meet your brother alive when you got to the scene?
No. The other car was right on top of his car. The other occupants were able to crawl out.
We learnt you said you would never forgive Ibinabo and you would make sure she was sent to jail…
Why would I want to say that? Is it not God that forgives? I don’t even know her, so why would I say I wasn’t going to forgive her? I didn’t know who she was. We weren’t even bothered about her. My mother had two kids in that car. My brother’s wife came from England and we were having a prayer session. That was when I saw Ibinabo. Would I say anything like that during a prayer session? We were all crying. One of them went to my husband and somehow, it was arranged that they meet me. My other brother who was involved in the accident works in the US and he had to go back. He asked me to stay for a little while so that one of us would be with our mother. I had to stay.
But did you at any point have a one on one discussion with her?
God is my witness, my husband was also there, she got out of the car and she came to me. The people she came with were just somewhere there, they didn’t even come close. I asked her what she wanted and she said she had come to plead so that the charges would be dropped. I told her it wasn’t between us and her but between the state government and her. But I told her I would rather give her an advice that would work for her. I told her if I were in her shoes, I would apologise publicly to the masses and also to the family. I advised her to throw herself to the mercy of the court. If she had done that, people would know she was remorseful and they would know she had indeed apologised. But she said she wasn’t going to do that. She said it would damage her career. Believe me, if not that so many eyes were on us, I would have kicked her for saying that. My husband was beside me when she said that. He even looked at me. I couldn’t believe it. What? Dr. Giwa was the head of physical rehabilitation medicine in LASUTH. He was the only one that had that credential then in Lagos State. Dr. Giwa was valuable to the state. He had helped a lot of people out. We have forgiven her; my mother has moved on, Dr. Giwa’s kids have moved on.
Weren’t you offered money as a form of compensation?
What money? We don’t need her money! We are all good! Dr. Giwa wasn’t the only breadwinner. Every one of us is doing very well.
Was it that what you needed from Ibinabo was public apology because we learnt she kept apologising to the family and nobody wanted to listen to her…
Did she apologise publicly? I just wanted her to apologise publicly so that people would know she was remorseful. But I don’t think it was a wrong advice I gave her. She couldn’t apologise publicly back then but now, she wants Nigerians to pray for her. But I say it again; it is not me versus Ibinabo. It is not Giwa’s family versus Ibinabo. I am married and I am still with my husband with three wonderful children. My kids are all grown. What do I need from her? We are not in the same age group. I am older than her for God’s sake. I am in my 50s and I am the youngest of my mother’s kids. I am even good because if you talk to my other sisters, they would be ranting. She couldn’t apologise publicly because she put her career ahead of her.
But Ibinabo reportedly said she had been visiting your family in Nigeria here but she was warned not to come close again…
But that is a lie! How could she say that? My mother is in Lagos. Ibinabo has never visited my mother! My mother does not even remember her name. She doesn’t know if Ibinabo is white or black. Why would we warn her from visiting my mother? I read that story in the papers and I had to ask myself what is wrong with her. If she truly said that, then she lied. She doesn’t have good advisers, I must tell you that again.
Was it before the judgement?
Oh yes! The case had dragged on for so long. The magistrate court had found Ibinabo guilty. The DPP department took over the case; we weren’t the ones that took her to court. It has never been us. They found her guilty and sentenced her to prison for five years with an option of N100, 000 fine. So who wouldn’t look for N100, 000 to pay? Are you saying the life of the doctor was worth just N100, 000? The state went to high court and the high court found her guilty and said the N100, 000 should be returned to Ibinabo. The court said there shouldn’t have been an option of fine. Ibinabo went to appeal. It is all about her ego. The appeal court dragged on so long. Believe me, I never knew the case was still on.
Are you saying you people weren’t following the case all along?
No. People just told me about this judgement last Friday. Some people called me from Nigeria and I was even amazed that the case was still on. I have already moved on with my life. I do come to Nigeria and I spend some time but it has never been because of this case.
We learnt you were excited about the judgement…
No. I wasn’t when I heard it. I was not excited and I was not sorrowful either. I just said we needed to thank the justice system because the case was delayed for so long. If we don’t thank them, they will not put people to order, they would think they could do anything and get away with it. Accidents happen and that is why it is called accident. But your attitude towards it is what matters most. Some people have accidents less than this and you would see how remorseful they would be.
But couldn’t the Giwa’s family have asked the state to drop the case?
No. It is not done that way. It is not done like that in the US where we live. I wouldn’t know if it is done like that in Nigeria. You don’t even tamper with the judicial system. If you are taken to court, then you are taken to court. Justice is in the hand of God.
Don’t you think Ibinabo has suffered enough? She was in jail at some point…
She was in jail for about three weeks and she was bailed out. Nobody is above the law. I always behave myself. I always pray to God that I don’t get involved in any kind of accident. I always beg God not to take me through accident. I don’t want to hit anybody and I don’t want anybody to hit me. I can’t go to the government and ask them to drop the case