Olu Gordon Died Six Months AgoJuly 24, 2011
Richard Awoonor Olu Gordon, commonly called Olu, was no stranger to me, at least before he died April 4, 2011 in London. In September 2010, Olu and I had more than two hours of discussion at his office on 14A George Street in Freetown. Our discussions veered towards his mother who had just died in Nigeria and how he too was having problems with his health, especially slower vibration of his heart and very low blood circulation in his hands and legs. He was not happy that his case to re-teach at FBC was badly handled by the review committee that he thought had more biases than the real reason for de-lecturer-rising him.
He wanted to tell me a few things I suspect he thought I should know. As we began to talk, he put fire to his cigar and though he waved off my warning about the dangers of smoking, he confirmed to me that he was no longer drinking beer as I was becoming frequently friendly to. Olu’s few coughing told me his chest must have been little congested for my comfort but that this was no sign of worry. After I told him that the poor proof reading of his newspaper was a telling effect of his eyes becoming bad, he agreed that he still was used to writing first his scripts, before being typed by a secretary; invariably making me believe that the poorly educated fifth form girl as his typist must also take some blame.
Being my boss in 1997 as the secretary general of the journalist umbrella body, and me his deputy, Olu had become used to my way of thinking and I had been defensive about his weird approach to national issues; though, our closeness came when we were fighting for the Independent Media Commission Bill in 2000. Unlike many few other senior Sierra Leonean journalists who would perhaps loathe the professional development and successes of other younger practitioners, Olu ever never scorned at anyone’s growth, even if it meant some people using younger journalists to get at him.
Intrinsically, Olu did not believe in violence. Getting closer to him told me this in very many words as we often disagreed on how to handle certain national issues. Seeing that I appeared violent in mood than in action, Olu once asked me; “you sure you don’t have a Themne parental blood in you?” what ever that meant. Olu believed in the power of the mind through the contest and empowerment of words over violent activities.
Six months ago, I saw in Olu the implicit track record of a man who had abandoned any taste for material and earthly wealth save for what would carry him through the day’s hassle. He certainly did not seem to be happy about many things in the country, including the contentious issue of what he believed was the over northernization of Ernest Bai Koroma’s cabinet and government. Olu had his tenuous thoughts about very many issues that people did not fully understand as to why he did or mostly wrote what he wrote. Our society is not keen on, but often suspicious of novelties and strange personal or professional behaviors. Perhaps this is why I personally now would understand why people are fond of my radio program called ‘monologue’.
As they loathe doing to you do, they certainly suspiciously enjoy seeing you do what they would rather fear to do; despite the fact that they know you are endangered in doing what you do. Olu did what no one wanted to do. He threaded, though professionally cautious, on personalities and institutions where angels would rather avoid going. He wrote what no Sierra Leonean writer probably would dare write. If ever anyone would want to analyze and assess fairly what it means to be a success in one’s eternal aims and objectives, especially in the field of crusade journalism equal only to the likes of Wallace Johnson and others, from a true Sierra Leonean point of view today, Olu’s redemptive way of working for the greater majority rather than the selfish and feign pseudo-populist media approach and practice imbued in us all, is an example, and from the look of what he was and did, Olu was, and is a better positive controversial example to follow.
I fell in love with Olu’s mind but I hated his extreme selfless approach to saving the country in a unique manner I would not vouch to accept; even at the pace and expense of his material comfort; Olu lived in his own world of abandonment and soul mortification. And yet, who would say Olu was wrong, when indeed he went without any house, as he did not have, he left without any car, just because he did not say he must have one at all cost, but I can guess that Olu went to his maker with a conscience not bruised by the taint and effects of this world’s wealth, as he did not see it very important. With Olu out, the job of those concerned with sanity in the lives of public servants, with reference to life-by-example, is made difficult because for some of us, Olu was a great helper to a course.
Olu always peeped into others’ souls with an eye of enquiry, often leading to controversy and thereby securing enemies who were never in short supply. As a journalist, every time I picked on a very sensitive but powerful personality and institution in Sierra Leone, reference to ills of our society, Olu was quick in giving me his support while tacitly asking; “you go able?”
Among me, Olu and another serious senior journalist in town, Olu was secretly described as the high priest; for, knowing the society far too longer than the remaining two of us, he knew the untouchables and could sense trouble and discontentment with any publication against such high but dangerous members of society. Thus when I took on issues relating to the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, SLMA, Olu was quick to ask: “You go able?” But few days after showing him all the documents I had in my possession relating to the fight, and after comparing the same with all of what the Under Taker had discussed with him on the same issue, the High Priest said: “since you have the documentary weaponry, the battle is half won”.
The same was my experience with him when the issue of financial impropriety raised its head in the 50th Year Anniversary Committee. This is how this gone High Priest had professional influence over some of us. I am rather happy to have been influenced by a man few people may have loved for his adherence to societal sanity, than the affluence I would have had for being a bad media person just because the fear of wronging great guys in society makes one shy from true duty, thus becoming bad practitioner. When engineers die, they leave behind bridges and monuments. When medical doctors die, they have healed and past operated-upon patients as accolades, but when Journalists and Politicians die, they leave behind people who argue how well or bad they were in their duties to mankind.
Olu was a journalist among many. He was a journalist’s journalist and he is dead, but whatever we judge him to have been cannot influence God in His judgment. May the soul of the High Priest rest in perfect peace!