September 8, 2015 By: Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson
The captioned was a response by Eng. Andrew Kamor Keili to one of many questions posed to him during a mock real-time electronic media interview conducted by Mrs. Williette James and Mr. Thomas Dixon of the Mass Communication Department at Fourah Bay College and the Salone Times Newspaper respectively. The interview preceded the conspicuous launching of Eng. Keili’s first book titled, “Ponder My Thoughts”, at the new Kona Lodge last Friday 28th August. The book itself, published under the Sierra Leone Writers Series Project, consists of an anthology of regular column contributions by Eng. Keili to various prominent newspapers spanning a period exceeding ten years.
As I sat inconspicuously among the over 250 guests, many of whose political party orientations, and empathy could not be disguised under any love for literary excellence, that Eng. Keili’s captioned response sent my mind searching for justifications, and they did not take long to crystallize. For starters, for someone so prominent, the turnout was conservative for a number of reasons such as-:
– Ours’ is not a reading population – or at least with a majority of citizens that appreciate literary exploits. The music and theatre arts industries are also suffering that neglect too, no thanks to a socio-political preponderance that does not recognize and or reward exhibition of proprietary talents.
– Our earning parameters are too low to allow for surpluses to be allocated to luxury purchases of reading materials.
– Unlike in the 60s, schools and public libraries previously well-equipped and manned by qualified Librarians, through which institutions, young minds were nurtured now no longer exist in all our major towns and cities. Most public libraries have since been either converted into entertainment complexes and cinema houses promoting lurid shows or where the structures are still intact as at the Rokel Street Sierra Leone Library Board, they remain acutely ill equipped, leaving the staffers with no alternative but to be falling into the occasional nap.
– Incidentally and in hindsight, the much vaunted state of the art proposed Waterloo Library which in 2006 was hinted as going to be the largest and most resourced Public Library in the entire sub-region upon completion, has yet to progress beyond its artist impression stage.
All above aside, the current impasse within the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) also contributed to the paucity of attendees at the event. Apart from a few indelible “APCists” like myself (which loyalty incidentally continues to be surreptitiously challenged because these days loyalty to political parties no longer depends on one’s own convictions, but in the vain imaginations of others), the majority in attendance were patently “Anti-Pa-O-Pa” SLPP stalwarts, or credible supporters of our host whose political ambitions – violence and thuggery excluded – remain as lustered with daily rejuvenated hopes as ever.
I say “violence excluded” because I’m not sure whether from Malama here in Freetown unto Mobai in the Mandu Chiefdom in Kailahun district, this erudite, well-bred Engineer son of a late Anglican Bishop (R.I.P), trained to always reverently “turn the other cheek”, could within the next two years be able to muster as many “bone-to-bone” fanatical supporters as would assist him capture first, Unity House, and thence Fort Thornton.
And when you contrast Eng. Keili’s supporters’ own well-mannered demeanour with his “Pa-O-Pa” adversaries’ notoriously boisterous mantra of “….Dem wan yaaaarrrrr!!!…..Dem wanyaa dem go sabi we teedaaaaayyyyyy!!!!” which refrain reaches a crescendo each time any of their perceived rival contestants approaches Unity House, you will understand why Eng. Keili will need to invoke all the mysterious ways that God moves through to perform His wonders if he is to succeed in his quest.
Perhaps those were the same thoughts that informed Dr. Julius Spencer’s closing review comments about the book when he inferred that he has come to so value Eng Keili’sthoughtsevery week so much, that he almost wished he would lose interest in the flag-bearership of the SLPP so that he can always look forward to reading “Ponder My Thoughts” in the Premier News for a long time to come.
I am given to understand invitations were extended to all the flag-bearer hopefuls in the SLPP, but it has to be said that by their very conspicuous absences from that auspicious event, the ethos of intra-party political tolerance suffered yet another fatal blow. I will hesitate to “ponder a thought” on whether they would have reacted better had such invitations been extended to them by any APC flag-bearer hopeful, who no matter their following, are trained to either be reticent until the whistle is blown, or risk being ostracized from the party.
By the end of the event, Eng. Keili’s exploits emerged as yet another triumph for democracy and free speech over many who prefer self-censorship or suppression of their innate proprietary convictions. The book covers a wide range of socio-political issues from the perspectives of the author. And by those same exploits, Eng. Keili craftily earned for himself the enviable title of an “achiever” through the Grace of God. That is to say, he hasn’t only lived a life worth writing about, but he has also written about his life’s experiences worth reading about, and by so doing has added value to the edification of minds both at home and abroad.
Unlike self-censorships, writing to many is therapeutic as it involves an outpouring of emotions, of pains, anguish, excitement and even joy, all of which if not effused and literarily disseminated could possibly lead to serious internal physical and mental complications through a “bottling up”. To those who would rather not write for fear of being branded “anti-establishment”, I shall respectfully remind them of an apt Krio parable that “if you nor get for betteh, nor fraid halaki”, which loosely translated means that those destined for damnation should not be fearful of the consequences.
For good measure yours truly was in the spotlight at that book launch, having been charged with the responsibility to introduce “FOCEM”, the acronym for “Foundation for Children of Ebola Affected Medical Workers”. FOCEM (yet another brainchild of Eng. Keili) is registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) and is recognized as a partner by the Ministry of Health. In fact it was the Deputy Minister of MSWGCA, Mr. Mustapha Bai Attilla, that officially launched the Foundation at the Santano House on 23rd October 2014.
FOCEM, being apolitical with memberships drawn from all regions of the country and the Diaspora, was registered out of a genuine and passionate desire of a few well-meaning Sierra Leoneans to align themselves with the afflictions of their compatriots through complementing government’s efforts to assist with the educational needs of the surviving children of medical workers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, through selfless and dedicated services to country and humanity.
The Foundation is committed to spending a minimum of Le100 million (one hundred million Leones), which amount could conceivably rise to over Le300 million (three hundred million Leones) from amongst its memberships donations so as to enable it sustain its minimum of Le300,000 (three hundred thousand Leones) scholarship purse per deserving beneficiaries at primary through tertiary institutions that are drawn from across the affected areas countrywide. As at 31st July, scholarships have been disbursed to eight (8) out of (94) potential recipients.
FOCEM operates two separate Bank Accounts (No.001-009-4806666-001 – Local Currency and No. 001-109-480666-001 – Foreign Currency) in the books of ECOBANK and anyone desirous of making contributions to either Account should please do so and forward copies of the relevant deposit slips direct to Mr. Andrew Sheku A. Coomber (Telephone contacts +232 76 566 051/ 815 086) at C/O CEMMATSS at No.7A Cantonment Road, Off Kingharman Road, Freetown.
If you have read thus far I think we can all now agree with Eng. Andrew Keili that indeed in this life, there will always be something to write about.