Adieu Olu Gordon
Back in the days when he was Richie Gordon, in the 1980s when he was just beginning to discover himself as a Pan-Africanist and an articulate voice of the voiceless, powerful men as Bambay Kamara (of blessed memory) were jittery about this (then) young, smart, Just-Come boy who had returned to Sierra Leone to get his University education after successfully completing his secondary education in the Grammar School in Lagos, where he spent most of if not all of his adolescence days. It was no wonder that a carefree, young, brainy and fearless personality as Gordon could be in the frontline of anti-government campaigns – a preoccupation he was somewhat synonymous with till he passed away peacefully on April 4, 2011 in a London hospital – not waiting to see the great day all Sierra Leoneans are looking forward to celebrating. The picture of the last meeting we had still took front row in the pew of my mind replaying the episode of a fleeting drama nearly 20 years ago. It was in front of my former office RITCORP on Siaka Stevens Street, and we were discussing the politics of the NPRC take-over. I can still hear his voice as he cautioned: “Let’s not be hasty in our judgment of these young soldiers –let’s wait and see what time will tell!”
Also on my mind is another episode…After making several vain attempts at inviting Richie Gordon for a drink, a frustrated Bambay Kamara lamented to Cleo Hanciles (also deceased): “Cleo, you nor get problem for kam around, but dah you broder dae, Richie! Nar problem.” That was the Richie Gordon I knew; a bone in the throat of public officials. Richie had always maintained a respectable distance from Government Officials he considered ”enemies of the people and/or their progress ”. This ‘bone-in-throat’ position, did not however make Richie Gordon to turn the other way, when in the course of the NPRC interregnum the CID boss was summarily executed making him the victim and not at his curtain-call in life, the perpetrator he had come to be perceived.
I marveled at the zest with which Olu (he had by this time become so wired on Pan-Africanism and African consciousness that he quietly metamorphosed from Richie (a Zionist identity) to Olu (a typical African name he will additionally qualify with another African name so that his family name rang a resonant African-ness that made him popularly known as Olu Richie Awoonor-Gordon.) I marvelled at Olu for stoically lambasting the NPRC junta for the execution of Bambay Kamara and others during that infamous era when the barrel of the gun was the language of the government and people were petrified to speak out. That was our Olu – the man who opposed objectively regardless of who he was up against or who he was supporting. He was such a principled person, that his friends Dr. Ibrahim Abdallah, Prof Ismail Rashid, aka I-Rash, Pios Foray, Jeff Bawule Williams, I.B. Kargbo, Frank Kposowa, Paul Kamara and hundreds more (if not thousands) respected and admired the golden-hearted fellow. That was the Olu Gordon I knew. He was a strong advocate of JUSTICE FOR ALL.
As his close friends and associates would have observed, Olu Gordon never owned a car, did not wear a coat and tie like most Creoles of his caliber love to do, did not care for material things to the extent that he got lashed at on a radio programme by an opponent who referred to him as a “failure” simply because he did not own a car or live a luxurious life. And this did not come as a surprise to me or those who knew Olu well because Olu never intended to have a car. He once ridiculed a friend who made a statement that, after FBC, his main goal was to own a car. “Is there where your vision stops for Salone?” Olu bickered.
It is indeed an irony of fate that Olu would not be around to witness the 50th Independence Anniversary celebration of a Country, whose democracy and freedoms he tirelessly fought to protect throughout his adult life. Time has a way of playing tricks on us. Time has passed so soon. JUST YESTERDAY, I was in my early 20’s studying African History as a qualifying year student at FBC… it was at this super highway of Sierra Leone’s education that I first made contact with the young man that I would come to respect and love till death snatched him away. He later became my mentor and academic advisor. Looking back I always felt proud to be on the same political platform on issues affecting us and our people. Our youthful escapades consequently resulted in us paying the ultimate price, for crimes that we did not even commit. Just because we were not understood, we were booted out of the University, after a hostile student demonstration in 1985. To a great extent, I owe my mentor a lot as he was the one who recommended me to a University in Ghana, where I continued with my higher education after being jackbooted on Fourah Bay College campus. Now, I cannot make that tiny gesture of appreciation I had planned. He won’t need it no more.
I had gone to the Sierra Leone Embassy on Wednesday in preparation for my visit to Freetown and top on my agenda, as I told a long lost sister Betty Foray, whom I had bumped into by chance, was to visit Olu at his Peep Newspaper office in Freetown. To my great disappointment, I was told that he was “not keeping well” and taking treatment in London. As God could have it, Betty told me she would get me connected to family of Olu so he and I could talk. My plans from that moment on were to stop over in London, where I was going to make seven hours transit on my way to Freetown, to see my mentor. On Saturday, Betty called to say that she was reliably informed (oh journalists) that Olu was not going to make it. She was broken. Then on Sunday, she arranged a conference call between Olu’s sister, herself and me and we held fruitful discussions including arrangement on how to see Olu during my stop-over in London. There was hope.
The sister and I stayed in touch by phone as Betty Foray had insisted we exchange numbers to make it easy for us to communicate without hindrance until my arrival in London. Then the sister told me Olu’s condition has suddenly dropped but we kept our fingers crossed. Next thing I know, within minutes of Olu’s call to the beyond, Betty Foray calls me and gave the message that ran a chill through my body. I was reassured on Sunday morning that all would be well and was not prepared for this u-turn that pulled the carpet from beneath the torrents of my emotions. I let the tears flow silently. Rapidly.
All sorts of images flashed on my mind. Olu is gone… It was not meant to be. Olu stood for the truth and he died fighting for the truth. He will be dearly missed. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
by Felix Foday Sesay
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