April 14, 2015 By Ishmael Bayoh
Did I ever think of writing this eulogy to the late H.E. Alhaji Mohamed Pamamie Bayoh who happened to be my uncle? I no doubt believed he would die one day but not at a time like this when the family needed him most.
This is not one of my pleasurable articles on human rights, politics or entertainment but one about an esteemed uncle whom I used to refer to as ‘my uncle, my principal and the Ambassador’. As a kid growing up in Bo in the 90s, we would always ask when the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat will be having their Jalsa Salana or annual conference. That was one of the most exciting moments to be around our dear departed uncle as he would enter the township of Bo with pomp and pageantry with his Freetown delegation. He would never abandon his late elder brother’s (my dad) house for any other residence, no matter the comfort that residence may offer. He and his wife, Ameera Bayoh, would sleep in my dad’s bedroom. Those moments we used to savour, more so for the exuding charm they offered to us the children and if I may add, the ‘korti’ guests would dish out when departing.
M.P., as he was fondly known by people, was always making my mother laugh. My mum later told me that was how he was even when he was with my dad at the same house attending the St. Andrews Secondary School Bo/UCC and later Njala University College.
One fond memory of my late uncle was the way he would draw attention to his ‘statesmanship walk’ and the tantalizing addresses he would often deliver. When you talk of proverbs, no need to consult the Nigerians, he had them in abundance and he would deliver them to calm down tempers. He would always clad in his well fitted suit with a breast pod tucked in the front pocket of his jacket.
My first holiday at the Ahmadiyya School compound at Kissy Dockyard in Freetown left me wondering how my miniature uncle could control a school of over two thousand pupils. My cousins would tell me with just one scream the entire school would be at ease. How he was able to achieve that was as a result of his amiable character and the sheer tact and finesse with which he used to deal with his pupils. He was a philanthropist per excellence and his love for sports and entertainment, coupled with his commitment to achieving educational excellence, had earned him much respect and cooperation from teachers and pupils alike.
On family grounds, the Ahmadiyya compound became a spot for children of the Bayoh family to meet and know each other. He loved being surrounded by family members as he would always tell us “family is strength”. Apart from his direct family relations, there were so many other people, ranging from Creoles to Fullahs, that were living with us at the Ahmadiyya compound; and M.P. would treat all of us equally. The cost of educating all those under his canopy was at his own expense. He would always encourage his qualified relatives to take up teaching at his school, and he at some point even tempted me into the classroom, but I told him Journalism was my own career path.
My uncle would be the first to call me in the morning after reading my stories in the newspapers. Awoko, Independent Observer, Exclusive and For di People became his priority newspapers as I used to report for them. His love for newspapers and for reading inspired me in some way into journalism. He was an ardent newspaper reader and he would buy at least eight newspapers daily. After reading them, he would ensure the newspapers were safely delivered to his elder brother (my dad) in Bo. And this happened on a weekly basis. From my dad, I would pick up some of the newspapers and start practicing how to write classroom stories and articles about a subject taught or an incident or about a friend. Before I could finish school, I had already known about the 5Ws and H in the art of writing stories. No wonder my first story for Awoko newspaper left my editor then, Dorothy Awoonor-Gordon, to ask whether I had worked for any media house before.
M.P. was a friend of Journalists; he knew almost all the senior local journalists then, some he had even taught. I could vividly recall when the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah appointed him as High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he received scores of journalists at his residence for interviews. And some of them would even tell me that he had informed them of how he would wish for a press attaché unit to be set up at his mission. I recall when he had called me from Nigeria to inform me that he had secured – through the South/South Cooperation – eight brand new Prado jeeps for the Judiciary of Sierra Leone.
He was a corrupt free personality who was always content with the little he was earning. Everybody around him mattered, a man of many colours, not a tribalist or a regionalist but a friend to all.
I could also recall when his security officer would be busy polishing his boots and how smart he would look accompanying M.P. to Police Council meetings as he was a member of the Council. He was also a member of the Freetown City Council Committee of Management, and on several occasions acted as Mayor of the Municipality. Come see my uncle in the F1 cruise. He was also Secretary General of the Hajj Committee and Secretary of the Jalsa Salana Conference. He had on several occasions won the ‘Principal of the Year’ award. He was Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 2004/2008.
That was my late uncle for you who served this country in diverse areas; the man that touched so many lives and transformed them. Your fond memories will always live with the Bayoh family. We have already started missing you but know it that Allah loves you more.
‘TAR E SINOH MBARI’, which in Madingo means ‘go and sleep uncle’.