September 29, 2015 By Momoja N. Lappia
At any given moment death consumes the lives of meaningful persons; an acceptable occurrence because it has been decreed by God Almighty, the creator, to serve as a fulfilment of existence.
It is hard to understand the penalties of this ruling of God until it snares a close associate of yours – my personal account, when the news about the demise of the Managing Editor of the controversial ‘The New Storm’ newspaper reached me in the early morning of past Monday September 21st this year. Candidly, I doubted the authenticity of the sad news because the victim, late Ahmed Bob Kanneh (ABK) alias Ratty/Jehjeh, had in a telephone call the previous day, revealed the plans he had in mind for his newspaper establishment; how to weather the challenging financial predicaments he had envisaged would be features of the impending yet-to-be scheduled presidential elections.
However, while whirling in my distrust about ABK’s demise, incessant sobbing calls from staff members and friends of ‘The New Storm’ caused me to come to terms with the reality – God has taken what he created…..Ratty has meekly heeded to his home calling!!
Perhaps, out of coincidence or destiny, I came to know ABK decades before meeting him physically during the 2007 General Elections. As an avid newspaper reader in my secondary school days, the Concord Times was my favourite local tabloid. I took pleasure in reading reports and articles by late ABK, alongside those by Kingston Lington, Sheka Tarawalie and others were my pick. And when he established his ‘The New Storm’ in the months preceding the maiden democratic elections that witnessed the now main opposition SLPP victory, my longing to cross course with ABK intensified.
But as God would make it possible, this materialized through his close confidant, Allieu Vandy Kaisamba, when I joined ‘The New Vision’ newspaper as a reporter and cartoonist in 2005. At that material time, hell got loose on ABK’s media establishment – unavoidable criminal charges and other ills cost ‘The New Storm’ its invaluable staff and offices on Kissy Road in Freetown.
To compensate for this mammoth loss, Kaisamba, who ABK assigned to rally ‘mercenaries’ who could maintain ‘The New Storm’ on the newsstand pleaded with me to lend a helping hand. I seized this opportunity without a thorough appraisal because besides searching for an avenue to augment my meagre salary at ‘The New Vision’, my lust to be in the midst of ABK was a different kettle of fish.
Interestingly, it was at the height of the then incumbent SLPP Solomon Berewa and opposition APC Ernest Bai Koroma presidential campaigns that Kaisamba brought me face-to-face with a flamboyant, friendly, extravagant, hardworking though complacent, liberal and SLPP loyalist who I later discovered to be the real ME Ahmed Bob Kanneh.
During this fist meeting, ABK registered recognition of the role editorial cartoons play in earning a newspaper a wider readership and lured me to terminate my contract with ‘The New Vision’ and join his scanty team which was then operating at the residence of the late Lansana Fofana aka ‘Wanny’ on May Street, Kingtom, Freetown.
Till his demise, there are indelible reminiscences my brief stay with ABK gave me the chance to meet a man whose ideas could be reasonably traded for millions of Leones to anyone that may be nursing to pen the memoir. Among other things, he was fond of doing the things most media proprietors don’t dare to; gambling time and the insufficiency of printing presses amid proliferation of newspaper to opportune The New Storm’s readership to exclusive and breaking news. As such, whenever ABK was steering the editorial ship, working till late hours and inescapable ‘drowning’ were thorn in the flesh of his subordinates.
Notwithstanding these inconveniencies, say what you may, ME Ahmed Bob Kanneh always compensated by renting enviable office spaces that he furnished to taste, timely payment of salaries, provision of tasty lunch/dinner, joking working environment, and familiarized his employees to those that matter in politics and business circles.
I guess if anyone has opened my friendship to the wider-world from which financial and moral assistances keep dripping, none has done it more expansive and intentional than late ABK. Though he used to be a SLPP stalwart and above all a disciple of Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, the best friends of ABK and unwavering business partners of ‘The New Storm’ were mainly from the other side of the divide.
Above and beyond his love for travelling, donning fashionable attires and munch costly delicacies, ABK had penchant for Cuban cigar, imported beer, and reggae music.
And scaling the love he had for his country, family, ‘The New Storm’, the Bo Government Secondary School alumni association (OBBA), and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to be at peak could be an understatement.
This is as a result of the conspicuous willingness he housed to lay his life on the line in ensuring that the best of things happen for these institutions. Against this backdrop, though ABK’s death is blamed on heart attack, the source of hypertension that caused his untimely demise cannot be unconnected to an over exhaustion he subjected himself under in seeing that Sierra Leone, SLPP, the Kanneh Family, ‘The New Storm’, OBBA and SLAJ triumph at all cost.
One of the greatest things ABK did for me was to help me overcome my addiction to alcohol, which literally was my curse.
“MOJ, you’ll die soon if you don’t stop the excessive consumption of this locally brewed rum,” the late ABK would caution me whenever I come to work dead drunk. In a bid to justify his claim, he used to draw my attention to numerous useful colleagues whose lives people believe were ruined by alcohol – more especially the late Gbondima Gbondo, who at one time drew daggers with him and everybody working with ‘The New Storm’.
If there was anything ABK wished for me, it was my abstinence from alcohol; thank God it happened few months before he passed away.
Though our relationship while I was a ‘drunkard’ was cordial, it became more convivial when Allah freed me from this indulgence. In this regard, ABK, in his latter days, kept entrusting me with responsible assignments to the level of encouraging me to become Editor of ‘The New Storm’ – a position I repeatedly declined because the salary at the time was in no way reflective of the workload of a newspaper that has become a scratchy critic of the ruling APC and corrupt individuals.
Today, ABK is no more! In the pool of tears and dissonance of cries for my boss and dear brother, one prime question keeps weighing in my mind: Is ‘The New Storm’ going to naturally die with the passing away of its initiator, ME Ahmed Bob Kanneh, like it has happened to other one-man business enterprises?
All I’ll assure late ABK is that ‘The New Storm’ isn’t over?
“No! ‘The New Storm’ will keep breezing the newsstand”. I can hear a voice far away assuring ABK.
So, adieu ABK!!