By Mohamed S Bamba
It was in the late 80s, the exact date I cannot now remember when a memorable debate took place at the Mary Kingsley Hall at FBC between Professor Magbailey Fyle and Professor Palmer (Doc P). The topic of that debate was: In Search of the Beast. Those were the days when literary giants raised awareness on issues of the day through debates.
I was a young student by then in the faculty of Economics and Social Sciences. I was mesmerized by the arguments proffered by the learned men on the topic. The details are now fuzzy. But the thrust of the argument is; “what was responsible for the state of economic affairs during that era”? Were the forces against our development as a nation internal or external? Could we still continue to blame colonialism for our social ills or was it the mindset of the Sierra Leoneans that was responsible for the country’s stagnation at the time? Could the beast that was responsible for our backwardness as a nation be internal or external?
Time has passed and as I said, I cannot remember the specifics. What I can remember was that those giants were able to impress on our young minds the need for critical thinking as we prepared for the world of work.
Decades have passed; memory has faded, but the quest for solutions to our myriad problems lingered. Why is it that a country was in vanguard of regional intelligentsia and blessed with so many other resources unable to take its place as middle or even high-income country?
Pa Kabbah recognized the beast while he was the first gentleman of the state and named it in two words: “Baaad Hart”. In the difficult years of his administration, when political machination, chicanery and pull him down syndrome were at its peak, he was in a quandary. He found it difficult to understand how people around him, in their desperation to achieve their selfish ends, would go to such lengths to destroy their brothers.
Even in the last days of his presidency, he continued to lose faith in Sierra Leoneans being their brother’s keeper. He spoke to the nation less and less.
Pa Kabbah addressed peace by silencing the guns, just to realize that more work needs to be done on peace by addressing the “baaad hart” of Sierra Leoneans.
Some people even said he handed down political power with alacrity to the current president believing in his deeply religious mind that the current president has a “goood hart” and would continue his legacy of containing the beast and thereby releasing the forces that would propel us forward as a nation.
Pa Kabbah like our current president, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma was visionary in addressing the challenges of his time.
He approached governance through policy formulation that would stand the test of time. He addressed issues rather focusing on individuals believing that with the right policy formulation, execution, monitoring and taking corrective actions, individuals would work consistent with the desires of the state.
He created notable institutions like NASSIT that gives hope to working Sierra Leoneans in time of retirement. He even had a vision of expanding the institution as a Social Safety Net for the poor, the unemployed and other vulnerable groups. He also created the NRA to stem the over-dependence on foreign budgetary support and enhancing the resilience of the country in case of external shocks. He further created many democratic institutions that formed the foundation of our democracy. His tolerance for criticisms was unprecedented.” Let them sing as long as they don’t go back to the bush” was his response to calls for silencing critical musicians of his time.
Pa Kabbah remained simple and humble until his last breath, thanking and blessing everyone even children that came into contact with him.
As Pa Kabbah marches on to meet our creator in the hereafter and historians begin writing the first paragraph of the chapter devoted to him in the Sierra Leone contemporary history, it is left with us the living to learn from his legacy in our desire to create a prosperous and enduring nation were physical, Ideological, cultural, religious and intellectual differences are tolerated. Whether, or not we shall be able do it as a nation is another question that the beast will go in search of an answer.
Adieu Pa Kabbah. Until we meet again, Adieu.