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Letter to Dr. David Tam-Baryoh presenter of the popular monologue radio show

Letter to Dr. David Tam-Baryoh presenter of the popular monologue radio show

Dear Dr. Tam Baryoh:   Thank you for the good work on this show and thanks also go to Mr Alex Terina CEO of Star Radio Sierra Leone the one and only Radio station with reception in many parts of the world. You will agree with me that there are always two views to any situation in life, those who like your show and those opposed to it for different reasons. That’s what life is all about. In any country, there are always two groups of journalists, those who support the current political establishment and see nothing wrong in what it does and those who loathe it and never see any good in its performance. This is normal and we got to accept it that way without any feeling of rancour. For unless there is criticisms of a system, the Government may feel it is always on the right path. Criticisms make a Government behave properly.  (Photo: Anthony K. Kamara Snr., author)

There are times I personally dislike the way you cover certain episodes simply because of its one sidedness. I was in Freetown when you covered the AKK versus a lady in China who sounded tearful on the show concerning her encounter with her former benefactor the Ambassador. The unfortunate thing about listeners is that the programme does not allow phone-in calls to give their opinion of that unfortunate incident. Up to the time of my return AKK was never given a chance to give his side of the story. You even promised to buy her a ticket to go home and give her whole account on Monologue. No problem with that.  All listeners heard was one side of a story with the lady in tears, be it fake or real. as no one saw her. Monologue can be much more popular if you can feed the nation and listeners with a Pro and Con of any situation. You make a person seem guilty without getting his own side. Otherwise there is no doubt that Monologue has a World-wide popularity because of your investigative skills, your sense of humour and manner of presentation. The only ‘but’ is not allowing another side of the coin. For this it’s ‘kudos’ to you.

I listened to your show of March 15 which followed the passing away of the Late Alhaj Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, former President of our country. I was particularly interested in your interview with Sheikh Swarray, the questions you put to him and how he tried to dodge the response. To remind readers here is a paraphrase of the questions:

President Kabbah lived his life as a staunch Muslim and according to the teachings of Islam as contained in the Holy Quran.  Why is President Kabbah not given the burial of a Muslim, that is, have him buried within 24 hours of his expiration?

Why is President Kabbah not going to be buried in the grounds of Parliament on Tower Hill? This question was for Jarra Kawusu-Conteh who promised to get back to you in 25 or so minutes, but never came back.

President Kabba has been ailing for quite a long time prior to his death at his private home at Juba Hill. Even persons known to be his best friends, persons known to have been catapulted into positions where they licked their hands and fingers, never visited him while in his sick bed. Why?

On the Late President’s delayed burial, Sheikh gave his reason as President Koroma’s absence from the country. The question for the Shekh is, “Why does the country have a Vice President a staunch Muslim and an Alhaji for that matter? Does the Vice President not normally act in the absence of the President?”  President Koroma for whom the burial was delayed, according to Sheikh Swarray, is a practising Wesleyan Christian (not even a pastor) expected to lead mourners and sympathizers in prayer for the deceased?

In my humble opinion, religion should be above politics and the two must be completely separated and observe the teachings of the Quran for the Muslim, otherwise what’s the point in a man struggling throughout his life time observing the teachings of a religion, praying five times a day, Fasting throughout his whole life, going on pilgrimage, helping the poor and needy only to be given the send off of politics. Sheikh is one of those who had the privilege of travelling to study in one of the countries of the Middle East given the Ph.D., to return home and preach and interpret the religion to his people as he was taught, but only to give his personal interpretation of the Religion of the Holy Prophet.

I am firmly convinced that President Ernest Koroma did not request delay of the internment of the Late Leader due to his absence because he knows he has someone to always represent him and do things in the right way. But the Sheikh was able to persuade the National Council of Imams to score political points for himself. What the Council of Imams did was not based on Quranic teachings but on politics. I believe  President Tejan Kabbah would not appreciate his delayed burial because when a man dies he needs immediate rest in his final resting place, hence the final universal wish R.I.P. (Requiescat in pace) or REST IN PEACE in the English. Sheikh Swarray must practise what the Holy Book says and not deviate. Tam-Baryo reminded him of Sanni Abacha’s death. Abacha died at about 0100 and by 0600 that very morning he had been buried. What about Omar Yaradua, his remains were immediately disposed of within 24 hours. Islam is no respecter of a corpse. Immediate burial saves the nation of thousands of dollars which might have been spent on elaborate, unnecessary and expensive ceremony to give the impression that he was very much loved. True as a human being, he was the darling of many and also the hated person of perhaps many more. After all a corpse is a corpse; nobody wants it anymore, not even family members.  Funeral homes are not for Muslims, but for Christians (a people with a passion to display their wealth in death). Let us not perform double standards when we expire for politics. Sheikh Swarray’s response was unconvincing.

On why President Kabbah is not buried in the grounds of Parliament. First, no country anywhere in the world turns its grounds of Parliament into a cemetery for present, past, or future leaders. Jarra Kawusu-Conteh could not get back to you as promised because  his bosses from whom he tried to get answers did not know the answers either.  Rather than tell the anxious nation he doesn’t know which would have been embarrassing for the young Communications Director he preferred to remain silent rather give a response which would one day come back to hunt State House. But let’s also not forget the fact that over 50 percent of staff at State House was born after 1964 and so have no answer to many if not most of these things. I’d be even surprised if anyone up there even knows why or give a convincing response.

The simple logical answer: the first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai deserves that place as his final resting place. This was a unanimous ‘yea’ by our national parliament. Why? Sir Milton not only freed us from colonial bondage, but left us with the most important infrastructure a new country needed, I mean that modern House of Parliament, a Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), the SALPOST and the LODGE at Hill Station. He also built out of pocket the MMCET at Goderich, the Milton Margai School for the Blind, and the Cheshire Home in Bo. That’s the way we, the nation of Sierra Leone chose to say our thanks to him. His achievements for this country are unparalleled. He is second to none. He is a true Sierra Leone soldier, a political champion for us. His successors take it from where he left off.

The only other leader who deserved a place on Tower Hill is President Siaka Stevens. Why? He went further to completely free us from the British Crown and gave us REPUBLICAN STATUS with our own Sierra Leonean Head of State, he becoming the FIRST EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT of the nation. Furthermore he transformed the former BROOKFIELDS STADIUM into what it is today. He gave us YOUYI BUILDING where most ministries are housed.  He started the 15 storey Sam Bangura’s Tower though completed under Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. These achievements put the two leaders in a commanding position to deserve the two places on the grounds of Parliament.  No other president has a place in Parliament’s grounds except there is a future President who would build the Dream Bridge connecting Kissy Terminal to Tagrin.  Either you are the first or you are not,or do something that excels all the others combined because of its huge expenditure. In this case I hope the public will now understand why no other present, past, or future president will have a place on Tower Hill. It does not matter if a President dies in office or as retiree. President Kabbah knew he would not be buried on Tower Hill hence he chose to lie by his Mom’s grave at the Kissy Road Cemetery. The nation has done what he willed in his life time. People must have the right to choose their place of burial except choosing Parliament’s grounds. If a leader forgot to choose his final resting place, his wife will decide or in her absence, family relations. Some people argue that because he brought peace to Sierra Leone, he deserved burial up there.

The situation compares to the Olympic Games. Either one is a gold medalist or is not. Silver and bronze are consolation awards to encourage athletes to try again next time. If not the gold medal, one is a loser. Therefore in our national politics, there are only two political Gold Medalists, Sir Milton Margai and President Siaka Stevens, and no one else. The rest till the end of time will have to make arrangements for their places of burial, and their choices will be respected. Can one imagine what the grounds of Parliament would look like 100 years from now if every deceased President is buried there? The area would be infested with ghosts who would be terrorizing the MPs and disrupt debates.

President Joseph Saidu Momoh like Sir Albert Margai has no place on Parliament. Hence Sir Albert chose his home town in Gbangbatoke. The place of birth is the best place to bury a leader who is not among the FIRST if he so chooses. Otherwise there is always a place at Kissy Road cemetery or even Race Course Road but surely not King Tom cemetery. The country has lost three former Heads of State who died out of office. President Stevens, Joseph Saidu Momoh, and now President Kabbah.  Let’s not also forget that President Momoh was toppled in a military coup and therefore did not even deserve a cent of retirement benefits. For a leader to be treated and receive Retirement benefits he must exit the stage gracefully; but once toppled, all benefits are lost. It means his people have rejected him. But President Kabbah out of sympathetic consideration allowed President Momoh to return home and receive retirement benefits; a very humanitarian gesture by President Kabbah  Captain Valentine Strasser is not lucky to have similar compassionate treatment probably due to the summary executions that opened his rule. The nation cannot therefore reward a killer.

On President Kabbah’s loss of friends during his period of retirement and ailment, honestly it is normal. He built up very many Sierra Leoneans today, but once one retires, he ceases to be a magnet. No one cares about a retired leader. He remains unvisited by anyone except his family members. Power is gone and will never come back to him. The leader may not even be given a State funeral. If the system does not favour the idea, forget it. This explains the reasons why leaders try to make themselves irremovable from office with periodic amendment of constitututions and also explains why the military intervenes because when the people want change and the leaders refuse to accept. The army remains the only strong force to punch out a stubborn government. Once retired, no one cares about what they may have benefitted from a leader of yesterday. No more political favours, political appointments. What makes him a magnet is gone. True no one wants to be called former President because he loses friends and contacts, and it’s really a painful and sadistic experience. But our leaders know full well that they are in for 10 years at the end of which they got to exit the stage or multiply enemies.

I also listened to the commentary from Star Radio, thanks to Mr Terrina’s Star Radio. Throughout, I did not hear any mention of a single Head of State from the Sub region attending the funeral. Perhaps I missed that part of the commentary. But assuming that no foreign Head of State attended, it again sends the message that one loses even fellow Statesmen or neighbouring Heads of state. They are sitting Heads of State, while you are described as Former. That adjective ‘Former’ or ‘Past’ Head of State makes you unmagnetic and  and therefore unattractive. You no longer talk the same language. While in office a Leader has hundreds of friends but with power slipping away friendship flies out of the window. Many may not even attend their funerals because no one’s presence seems to matter in a funeral of hundreds or thousands.

Let me conclude that Monologue is a popular weekly Radio programme, but whatever your personal opinion of a situation, let listeners get the other side of a problem, and they will pass the verdict. Listeners never feel bored because it’s a once a week affair. Otherwise, thank you for Monologue.

By Anthony K. Kamara (Snr.) Winnipeg, Canada

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