Sierra Leone Telegraph: 07 January 2021:
The sad death is reported today – Thursday 7th of January 2021, of Alhaji Mohamed Sallieu Thomas – fondly known to many as Pa Salu of Aberdeen, Freetown aged 100.
Alhaji Sallieu celebrated his 100th birthday in Aberdeen last October 2020. He was the oldest person alive in the community and one of the oldest in the capital of Sierra Leone – Freetown.
Alhaji Sallieu is survived by his wife Haja Bussainatu Thomas, several children including Haja Fatmata Thomas of Aberdeen, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces – in Sierra Leone and overseas, including the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas.
Alhaji Sallieu will be buried tomorrow Friday, 8th January 2021, in Aberdeen, Freetown.
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 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 (17th October 2020) celebrated his 100th birthday as the oldest citizen of Aberdeen and one of the oldest in the capital Freetown.
Today, Alhaji Salu has passed away. May he rest in perfect peace. His legacy shall live forever.
In honour of his 100th birthday three months ago, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Tourism and the National Monuments and relics Commission presented Alhaji Sallieu Thomas with gifts.
This is what the National Monuments and relics Commission said:
“Celebrating 100 years in good health and strength, Alhaji Mohamed Sallu Thomas reveals the secret to longevity”
It is not often that people live to celebrate their 100th birthday but whenever they do, society tends to celebrate them. In Sierra Leone, centenarians are hard to come by, but what really is the secret to longevity? The Monuments and Relics Commission’s TV Show Salon Kontri Pot finds out.
To be born in 1920 and still going strong remains an outstanding feat. Alhaji Mohamed Sallu Thomas spent his entire life in the Aberdeen community in Freetown aside from the few years he spent in Guinea acquiring education.
His voice sounded like any 40 year old. Old age has favoured the centenarian to an extent that even close to 100 he was still driving himself around. He does not overdo anything and stays positive almost all the time. He spends time with his family and eats fruits and vegetables often.
He has not for once smoked cigarettes or consumed alcohol. He never parts with water. He eats moderately, walks a lot and sleeps for eight hours everyday.
His wife Haja Bussainatu Thomas is 89 years old and they have been happily married for nearly 70 years. She attributed the success of their marriage to her submission and obedience.
The Salon Kontri Team presented a gift to the celebrant. He thanked and appreciated the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and Monuments and Relics Commission for the gift and prayed for continued direction to lead well.