Time to lay down my sword

Dr. Sama Banya

11 January 2013.

Dr sama BanyaIt was the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Holy Bible, who stated that  I am not a journalist, nor have I ever claimed to be one. But I have been involved in the business of writing for the newspapers over a long period. 

The Puawui column has been equally popular among SLPP supporters as well as among many non-partisan  men and women of value, who liked my style of writing, coupled with the factual logic and moderate language that I always use.

Although mine has been an unfinished business, I am reminded of Siaka Stevens’ saying: “In this mundane world of dog eat dog, no one man is indispensable.”

The SLPP has a cohort of well informed and good writers, people who could now take up the cudgel, if they so desire.

I certainly would have been happy to join the excitement of the President’s Agenda for Prosperity, which it has to be admitted has begun on a strange note, that is: NO fuel, on top of a non-availability or irregular and unreliable “twenty four hours of uninterrupted and affordable electricity.”

Yes, the composition of the new APC cabinet is interesting. However, these and other matters – including the future handling of the SLPP election petition, must now be taken up by others.

But sadly, the SLPP appears to have a penchant for self-destruction. Just when things appear to be going well in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties, someone or a group, presses the party’s divisive and disruptive button.

Instead of exploiting the party’s sustained popularity, some very senior party members have opened another controversial front, pertaining to Maada Bio’s post election position in the party hierarchy.

But I am turning my back even on that. I leave with my head erect and my chin up, as they say: ‘and on a positive note’.  I have fought the good fight, although the prize has eluded me.

My writing career began at the Prince of Wales School in King Tom in 1951, when the expatriate Principal – J. V. Taylor, suggested the idea of a weekly news bulletin.

Awoonor Renner, now a retired University Don and I, took up the challenge and began publication of “The LOG”.

But before that time, while in the Bo School, I sent reports of social events in Bo to the Guardian newspaper, under Mr. Thomas Decker. I was also an avid reader of Wallace Johnson’s African Standard, which was later banned in the school, because of its strong language.

In 1968 Prime Minister Siaka Stevens’ APC government declared a state of public emergency, in which every supporter of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and many other prominent men and women, including Paramount chiefs were detained in Mafanta prison or in Pademba road.

siaka stevensWhen Siaka Stevens declared a second state of emergency and proscribed the newly formed northern based United Democratic Party, which was a direct threat to his APC, I wrote criticizing him in the Sierra Leone Daily mail newspaper, concluding that he was not fit to rule this country.

Dr. Raymond Sariff Easmon – a former supporter of Stevens, wrote a similarly scathing article.

He was detained, but I was not touched even though I was all set to go. It may be that Stevens’ conscience pricked him, after what I had said to him following my release from Mafanta and Pademba road prison.

My foray into regular newspaper writing was an open letter to the deposed President Joseph Saidu Momoh in Conakry, who it was rumoured, was planning a counter offensive against the NPRC. I advised the former head of state very strongly against any such misadventure.

I reminded him that former President Stevens had not selected him as his successor for his efficiency, suitability or any other reason, than to protect his (Stevens) interest.

I added that, not a finger had been lifted in his defence by the people of Freetown, but that on the contrary the coup was very popular.

Since then, the rest is history, except for a two year break when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

I have made many friends in the media over the years and at the same time attracted quite a few detractors. I am proud that with most of the latter, it was just vilification which lacked any bases whatsoever.

I had never crossed their paths; they simply picked on me for reasons which only they knew.

Sama Banya campaigning in KenemaIt is amazing what crude methods have been used, in the hope of tarnishing my reputation or destroying my character. Oh for the filth that has been written about me; but I thank God that I have survived it all.

I have sometimes wondered, if people didn’t really know me well, whether they would show any interest, were I to be put up for public auction because of some of the filthy articles about me.

Some of the lurid stories will come up in my Memoirs on which I plan to start work quite soon, thanks to a brand new Toshiba Laptop from a Canadian friend of many years. But the process will be slow, because I type with my hands rather than with my fingers. It’s too late to learn now.

The Puawui column has been equally popular among SLPP supporters as well as among many non partisan people – men and women of value, who liked my style of writing, coupled with the factual logic and moderate language that I always use.

Although mine has been an unfinished business, I am reminded of Siaka Stevens’ saying: “In this mundane world of dog eats dog, no one man is indispensable.”

And I certainly would have been happy to join the excitement of the President’s Agenda for Prosperity, which it has to be admitted has begun on a strange note, that is: NO fuel, on top of a non-availability or the irregular and unreliable “twenty four hours uninterrupted and affordable electricity.”

Yes the composition of the new APC cabinet is interesting. One could say to the learned Attorney General, that when the Forster Commission recommended that S. B. Kawusu Conteh be barred from politics for five years, it was not in the constitution, but Siaka Stevens implemented it.

However, these and other matters including the future handling of the SLPP election petition must now be taken up by others.

But sadly, the SLPP appears to have a penchant for self-destruction. Just when things appear to be going well in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties, someone or a group, presses the party’s divisive and disruptive button.

Sama Banya and President KabbaThis is what is in the air at the moment. The party had produced the most popular Presidential candidate, whose popularity could only be compared with that of former President Tejan-Kabbah in 2002.

But instead of exploiting that sustained popularity, some very senior party members have opened another controversial front, pertaining to Maada Bio’s post election position in the party hierarchy.

I wonder whether the party does not need to take a Pilgrimage to Sir Milton Margai’s grave.

But I am turning my back even on that. I leave with my head erect and my chin up as they say: ‘and on a positive note’.  I have fought the good fight although the prize has eluded me.

Sir Rider Haggard’s Umslopogas in Allan Quartermain cried; “I die I die, but it was a keenly fight”.

By the Grace of God, I am not dying. They say that Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away. I won’t even fade away.

Just this week, the Independent Observer newspaper reproduced a website article in which modest me is compared with the most famous, most successful and most widely read and respected only female newspaper publisher, who will soon be appointed to the super deluxe post of Special Executive Assistant to the President.

She will supersede both the Secretary to His Excellency and the Chief of Staff. I refer to the one and only Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.

We are both medical doctors engaged in journalism, which makes it clear that neither of us is a journalist. Yet, based on certain criteria, I was technically the better writer.

It is on that high note that I now lay down my pen as a columnist.

I extend my gratitude to my editors of New Vision, Democrat, Unity, Global times, Satellite, Salone Times, Sierra Express and New Storm newspapers; and to the on-line New People, and to Abdul Thomas of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, all of whom have exercised great patience with me.

There is a special sentiment of appreciation to my readers everywhere. It’s been fun and I have enjoyed it.

I thank you all.

Editor’s note: He will be back. Puawui will be back. “A word-smith cannot hang his pen to dry”.

 

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