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Olu Gordon, I salute you, even after death

Olu Gordon, I salute you, even after death

“Life, as it were, is not to be measured by the years one spends on earth. It is not those years that count but rather, what is done within one’s life”. Tributes are difficult to write and it is one that abhors me greatly. In plain language, it is better to praise someone when alive other than dead. Today, it is exception that I am paying my respect to a journalist whose mastery of the English language made me a permanent spectator on the sideline. I am not a journalist, for now, but the astuteness of Olu in creating his characters and presenting issues of national interest won him admiration from all and sundry. Like all human beings, he has his own dark sides on treating issues. Olu’s days at Fourah Bay College turned him into activist mogul. As his virtues stand, he was always agitating for reforms for the betterment of the entire student body.  (Photo: Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, author)

Out of college, Olu’s image was larger than life just as he was gradually becoming a household name in journalism. Soon, disagreement crept into the relationship between Olu and some of his contemporaries. Olu was a fanatic and extremist in his reforms . He was instrumental in publishing the Peep Column in For Di People newspaper of Paul Kamara.  He later resigned and started his own famous satirical newspaper.  Indeed you are gone for good.

Olu’s journalism career was exciting and it read like the stuff of which fairy tales are made. He was an enchanting prose stylist and a fearless and committed investigative journalist. He represented the best of his chosen profession. Olu took on the authorities, his pen through his column in Peep flayed those twerps who retarded Sierra Leone’s growth and foisted a regime of socio-economic inequity on the people. He was a thorn in the flesh of incompetent rulers and for that he suffered frequent harassment including detention by the government. Having known what it was to be poor, Olu saw journalism as a tool for social reformation. Olu loved life and lived it to the full even though his life was cut short by illness. He was an Auradical, Pan Africanist. He loved excellence too. He, together with George Khoryama, Bunting Davies, Pious Foray ,  took  Sierra Leonean  journalism to avant-garde heights and conferred respectability on the profession. The emergence of his Peep newspaper revolutionized, repositioned and redefined Sierra Leonean journalism. The quartet mentored a generation of intrepid journalists who are today maestros in every sense of the word. Olu  loved journalism, which brought him fame and fortune. He enjoyed the fame and its attendant connections which made him to be too close to both power brokers and the voiceless. His breathtaking reputation points to the fact that Olu cherished and prided his romance with men of power; a factor which made sensitive state secrets accessible to him. This was his undoing.  During the reign of the National Provisional Ruling Council, while some journalists were at rooftop hailing the Khaki boys in power, Olu was one of the first journalists to express skepticism. Some branded him as a sadist and pessimist. He stood his ground and in less than two years, the whole world saw what Olu was professing. Indeed you are gone for good.

the late Olu Gordon

Olu’s fame basically is on his understanding of human nature. Olu understands people as few other journalists have. He could see in a dramatic situation the qualities that relate to people. He could create characters that have meaning beyond the time and place of his writings. His characters are normal individual people. They struggle just as people do in real life, sometimes successfully and sometimes with pain and tragic failure. Olu had fought with all regimes during his times. His relationship with the Tejan Kabbah regime was not worthy of emulation. He was a masterpiece in dissecting, caricaturizing and lampooning people in authority. He had no sacred friends in his profession. Olu was one of the few journalists in the country who would lambast his friend for any wrongdoing in the papers without bias or favor. 

Olu was a modest man. He was noted for always wearing his traditional African attire with a raffia bag hung over his shoulder. At press conferences, he was always dressed like one of the clan members with his goatskin bag as in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. He was a senior member of the journalist clan.

Olu  has been physically and psychologically harassed by Sierra Leone’s topmost security chiefs. They accused him of sensationalism and plotting a socialist revolution. However, most of the top security chiefs would disclose in secrecy that Olu was a classical investigative journalist. He pursued the killers of Harry Yansaneh as far as the last days of the SLPP. Though unto this day, the police have not been able to answer the question that made the headlines a few years ago, “Who Killed Harry Yansaneh?” Indeed, Olu is gone for good.

Olu was considered a friend of the President, but on certain occasions, Olu had lampooned the President over certain decisions. Olu was a member of the Anti-Corruption Commission Advisory Council, but has still gone on to criticize the Commission on the way certain corruption cases were handled. That was the way Olu was.

Olu’s death signaled man’s descent into the Hobbesian state of terror where life is short, nasty and brutish. Olu’s credentials and achievements in journalism were as profound as they were intimidating. He had no respect for sloppy journalism or bad copy. He had a pathological hatred for creeping colloquialism in news writing.  He was a man of wisdom and intellectual capacity, a reformer and an accomplished journalist who had his immense professionalism in exposing corruption and indecency in the society.

Olu, as your soul has joined the ranks of our ancestors, I pray to Allah that He shines His perpetual light on you so that you may rest in peace. The people of Sierra Leone miss you but God loves you best.

Indeed, Olu is gone for good.

I salute you even after death.

Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, California

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