Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 October 2020:
Born on 17th October 1920, Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas is one of Freetown’s oldest residents, and arguably the oldest in Aberdeen, West of Freetown, Sierra Leone. He is the patriarch of the Thomas family of Aberdeen – descendants of Liberated Africans slaves who founded and settled at the Aberdeen Creek in 1829.
A strong member of the Aku Krios of Freetown, the Thomas family of Aberdeen have long maintained their Muslim heritage which is believed to have come from the educated and liberated Yoruba’s of Abeokuta in south-western Nigeria.
Last Saturday, 17th October, the extended family members of Mr. Mohamed Sallieu Thomas – fondly referred to as Pa Salu, and hundreds of residents of Aberdeen village – including the Jamaat of the Aberdeen Mosque, converged at his home where they celebrated his 100th birthday with Muslim thanksgiving prayers.
The ceremony which was performed in typical Aku Mohamedan tradition, saw top Islamic scholars reciting the Holy Quran as the women prepared an enormous feast.
Behind the celebration lies an intriguing story of a man who survived the odds – transitioning between the colonial administration and Sierra Leone’s post-independence era, and made immense sacrifices for his family, his community, and his country.
Mohamed Sallieu Thomas was schooled by the colonial administration, but his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer was short-lived after he found himself in a clerical job, as an unpaid volunteer for the Electricity Unit of the Public Works Department (PWD).
That unit was located at Falcon Bridge in Freetown, and is still in use today.
The National Power Authority (NPA) or Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) as we know it today, was actually a very small unit at the Public Works Department.
As a volunteer clerk in the colonial PWD, Mr Thomas was one of the few Sierra Leonean professionals who successfully transitioned between the British colonial administration and the post independent Government of Sir Milton Margai.
As a result of his administrative prowess, dedication to duty and great work ethics, he was confirmed as permanent staff, after nearly five years of volunteering service.
Mr Thomas’ courage and tenacity to break new grounds, subsequently elevated him into the middle tier level of the works department. He then seized an opportunity to be among the first batch of civil servants to be trained at the Sierra Leone Civil Service Training College.
This singular move transformed Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas into a consummate civil servant, who served with unrivalled diligence in every district of the country.
One of the highpoints of his blistering career was his call to public duty, taking responsibility for overseeing and coordinating the launching of the Kailahun and Kabala power stations.
The launching of those two power stations, he said, was presided with great fanfare with the country’s Prime Minister – Sir Milton Margai in attendance.
Despite working in an era where the average salary of a middle level worker was Three Pounds Sterling, his zest to overcome every hurdle and a rock solid commitment to help lay the foundation of a modern Sierra Leone, left Mr Thomas far stronger to accomplish every task set before him.
In the 1960s, Pa Salu was the proud owner of the most famous and iconic Land Rover – the only one in Aberdeen village.
By the time he retired, he was already Chief Auditor in the Electricity Department, an enviable position at the time.
A proud and dedicated family man
A father of five children as well as several grandchildren, nieces, and nephews both in Sierra Leone and abroad, Mr. Mohamed Sallieu Thomas hails from a typical African extended family.
After his four brothers died, he was left to look after their children, and this proved a major challenge considering his meagre earnings at the time.
Incredibly, he was able to raise them well and treated them like his own biological children. Today, those nephews and nieces who have become quite successful, regard him as the centrifugal force and a strong pillar whose generosity and kindness have left indelible marks in their lives.
Philosophy About Life
Pa Salu Thomas’ philosophy about life is deeply rooted in respect for elders, and a positive attitude toward anything we come across in life. This, he believes has been a huge contributing factor to his good health and longevity, as well as the love and the respect he continues to enjoy from his family and members of the Aberdeen community.
“In our day, when we meet an elderly person carrying a heavy load, we take that load from him or her, and carry it for them…..This is one form of respect we gave to our elders, and I believe it is the blessings we received from them that enable us to live longer.”
While this may sound like a biblical allusion, it is not too difficult to understand that one of Freetown’s oldest residents would probably be with us much more longer to serve as an inspiration for those who believe in a life of purity, calmness, love and selflessness.
Indeed, the best way to celebrate and acknowledge these great accomplishments by a worthy patriot is when they are still here among us. And as Sir Albert Margai once said; “A life spent worthily is measured in deeds, not years”.
It indeed would not be out of place for the Freetown City Council, in keeping with its tradition of honouring the city’s centenarians, to acknowledge Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas of Aberdeen, who last Saturday celebrated his 100th birthday as the oldest citizen of Aberdeen and one of the oldest in the capital Freetown.
Another centenarian celebrates his birthday – Mr Sorie Sesay
Also, this week, saw the birthday celebration of another centenarian in Sierra Leone. He is Mr Sorie Sesay of Tengbeh Town in Freetown – the oldest and only remaining ex-World War Two veteran in Sierra Leone.
May God continue to bless both Mr Mohamed Sallieu Thomas and Mr Sorie Sesay, wishing them continuing good health and happiness.
Source Credit: Amin Kef Sesay.