By Ambassador Alhaji Amadu D. Tejan-Sie Esq.
It was on Monday morning around 10am when I received a phone call from a relative of mine reporting the sudden death of Alhaji Usman Nuru Saeed Jah, former Chairman of the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party, Grand Chief Patron, former Member of the Party’s Special Committee to screen Flag-bearers for the 2012 Presidential Election. He was eighty four years old.
I have known Alhaji Jah for decades both as a religious scholar and administrator in different walks of life. He was a bosom friend and a brother in Islam. Born in the Southern Part of the Republic of Sierra Leone, this noble son of the soil attended the St. Edwards Secondary School in Freetown where he excelled himself in all his endeavours. Keen and determined to further his education, he attended several academic institutions in the United Kingdom, Asia and Africa. After achieving his higher education abroad, Alhaji Jah returned home and took up appointment at the Railways which was then a branch of the Civil Service. In fact the Railways was an attractive source of employment for many young people in those days. From being a successful civil servant, Alhaji Jah moved on into the Banking world by entering the Bank of Sierra Leone, serving in several distinguished capacities and rising to the coveted position of President of the Staff Association. He held that position from 1964 until 1971.
Given his brilliant performances in the Central Bank, he was offered the position of Personnel/Public Relations Officer at the then famous Bata Shoe Company in 1972. Indeed it was no surprise that given one of the unique qualities of the late Alhaji Jah which was his eloquence, and his willingness to stand up for the weak and oppressed, he soon became the darling of the entire Bata members of staff for fighting for their rights .The Staff Association of Bata was shocked when Alhaji Jah decided to move on by joining the then Shebro Mining Company as Industrial Manager, now Sierra Rutile Company.
In religious affairs, he was the longest serving Executive Secretary of the Supreme Islamic Council in Sierra Leone. I recall vividly the reception the organisation hosted for me when I was appointed Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries including the Arab Republic of Egypt. He was a founding member of the Inter Faith Religious Council teaming with great Sierra Leoneans like Shiek A.B. Conteh, Haja Mariatu Mahdi, Rev. Kanu and Bishop Humpa, to name a few. Patriotic Sierra Leoneans of all shades of opinion do recognize and appreciate the role the Inter Faith Religious Council played in facilitating the peace negotiation which certainly culminated in the signing of the Lome Peace Convention in 1999.
In politics he was a heavy weight. He was one of the trusted councilors of the late Alfred Akibo Betts during the latter’s tenure as Chairman of the City Council Committee of Management. Continuing his political career he became the SLPP National Imam for a number of years before challenging Dr. Sama Banya for the leadership and chairman of the party, which he won handsomely in Makeni.
Under the late President Kabbah’s administration, he served as Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs. While serving as Deputy Minister he strengthened the Hajj Committee which the NPRC had created to ease the hardship which our Pilgrims were encountering while performing the Hajj. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Minister, he served in the Hajj Committee and I was privileged to have performed my first Hajj with him in 1994 under his leadership.
In international Affairs, the late Alhaji Jah represented Sierra Leone for decades on the Board of Islamic Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (ISSCO) in Rabat, Morocco.
The late Alhaji Usman Nuru Saeed Jah was a modest and humble man. He was friendly, warm, tolerant and willing to help people regardless of tribe or religion. In his quest to promote religious unity in diversity, we all witnessed his role in the Inter Faith Council. His tolerance and willingness to accommodate and interact with other Islamic sects were certainly the hallmark of the late Alhaji Jah. His death is a great and irreparable loss to the nation in general and to the SLPP in general. He was known throughout Sierra Leone as a result of his religious activities. In national affairs, Alhaji had no boundaries or limitations. He was loved by many and hated by few, if any. His speeches were always punctuated with jokes and pregnated with satire. This was unique in Alhaji Jah and I have always admired him for that.
As a good friend for decades, I will certainly miss UNS as he was fondly called. I will miss his long visit to my residence to brainstorm on issues facing our great party and how to solve these problems. His unfulfilled wish and burning desire was for our great party to once again come together and positively respond to the national challenges facing our nation. He would say “Alhaji, unity is strength and if we unite the sky will be our limit”.
To his family I offer my profound condolences and ask them to accept the decision of Allah. It is sad that the current Public Health Emergency Regulations will not allow the multitude of his admirers, friends and relatives to give this patriotic son of the soil the fitting funeral he deserves. But being a peaceful and responsible citizen as he had always been, Alhaji Usman Nuru Saeed Jah will frown at any attempt to breach the current Regulations.
INNALILAHI WA INAILAHI REJIOUN.