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Synopsis of Sama Banya's public life...Part 1 of 3 part series

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"A sharp spear needs no polish : A true story no matter how strange it may be needs not be dressed in fine words." (Sir H Ryder Haggard). So much has been written about me, much of it quite untrue that even I have sometimes wondered if those stories are really about me. I propose to give a three part serial synopsis of what I have been and since I entered public life. It would be left to my readers to decide for themselves what they perceive to be truth rather than the rubbish that is constantly repeated from hearsay and repeated from one detractor to the other.

After failing my Second Year Medical degree examination I moved down from Bristol to London in 1958. That same year I was elected Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone students’ Union in the United Kingdom with Salia Jusu-Sheriff as President. We strengthened the union and made it very popular. The membership was wider and more vibrant. In 1959, Jusu-Sheriff, L A Brewa, Kai Samba and I presented a position paper to the Wilson Commission on the future of higher education in Sierra Leone with the focus on Fourah Bay College. Our regular meetings were often addressed by prominent Sierra Leoneans of all political opinions. In 1960, although I was no longer holding an executive position in the union, I did continue to have much influence over our activities. At the conclusion of the Lancaster House constitutional conference on Sierra Leone, the late Mr. Siaka Stevens appeared to be very much on his own because he had refused to sign the agreement between the British government and the rest of the members of the United Front. I invited him to my flat to meet with a cross section of our membership in order to hear his side. Sembu Fornah, Ahmed Taylor-Kamara, Francis Minah, Fillie-Faboh, Edward Lamin and Francis Conteh were some of the students who turned up.

In 1961, the government sent the Solicitor-General Johnny Smythe to invite me to give evidence in a case of seditious libel against Siaka Stevens which I declined to do. Sir Milton was not particularly pleased but i told them that as a student nationalist I didn’t want to get involved in party politics at home. I came out in August 1963 and was posted to Bo hospital as a medical officer. Six months later to my surprise I was posted to the Kenema government hospital as Medical officer in charge.  Later that year, Dr. Matturi persuaded me to join the staff of the newly established Njala University College and develop a health care service for the institution. I accepted on the condition that the government would provide drugs and equipment to enable me to extend my services to the four chiefdom communities which surround Njala, an action which endeared me to the inhabitants of those communities.

At Njala I developed friendships with other staff members but principally Cyril Foray, Ibi May-Parker, Willie Taylor, Nat Kuyembeh and a U S Aid staff member Bill Hodges. Those friendships have lasted a life time. Gossipers took false information that I was discriminating against patients who were his supporters in favor of those for L A Brewa. Towards the end of 1965 I rejoined the ministry of health and was posted to Makeni as medical officer in charge where I relieved Ishmael Peters. In Makeni, I won the hearts of the people. I served as an ex officio member of the SLPP controlled Town Council under the chairmanship of Sylvanus Koroma the father of our current head of state. Ibrahim Taqi never failed to stop by at my residence on his way to and from Matotoka. We had developed a lifelong friendship when we both taught at the Bo School and which continued when he was a student at Heidelberg University and I in London.

Because of my popularity in Makeni coupled with Taqi’s frequent visits, Sir Albert was informed that I was a member of the APC opposition. I went on vacation leave at the end of 1966 and once more resumed duty in Kenema where I remained until I went into private medical practice in the township in 1968. In my first tour in Kenema I worked with Moira Browne whose husband Alex was the Area Engineer for Kenema. Our staff often gossiped behind our back, suggesting motives for why Moira and I got on so well. And so it was on my second tour. But this time it was with Tom Kargbo. The whispers were there that if either of us was of the opposite sex, they were sure we would have been lovers. It was all because I always got on with my colleagues and staff. In the 1967 general elections I openly campaigned on behalf of the independent candidate later Sheku Kutubu, later to be chief Justice and Speaker of Parliament. I opposed the official SLPP candidate on a matter of principle. 

When I was put on "quarter-deck" before the Prime Minister it was not that I had campaigned as a civil servant contrary to General Orders but that I had not campaigned for the SLPP candidate. In the Parliamentary bye elections which followed the successful petitions against SLPP candidates, I abhorred the violence which the APC had introduced into the body politics and I went out to campaign against them. When Siaka Stevens declared the first state of public emergency I was among several thousands of people mostly from the southeast who were locked up in Mafanta prison outside Magburaka. On release from Mafanta I never spoke to nor went near Siaka Stevens for many years until 1975. 

My first wife Juliette sister of Madam Ella Koblo Gulama died in August 1975. The Nongowa chiefdom authority allowed that she be buried within my hospital compound. This was in appreciation of my service to the community. I had lost my aged mother a couple of months earlier and her 40th day ceremony attracted people from far and wide. It also coincided with a visit to Kailahun by the United States Ambassador Michael Samuels and our casual meeting led to a lifelong friendship to this day. When I was Minister under Siaka Stevens and Foreign minister under Tejkan-Kabbah, Mike Samuel would always invite me to dinner, once it was at his home where we were joined by his charming wife Susan. In 1975 Siaka Stevens invited me to join his party. I answered that I already belonged to the “Disease” party. He said he was serious because he wanted intellectuals to join him. He named a Dr. Abdulai Conteh, A K Koroma, Idris Fofana and a few others none of whom I knew except Francis Minah and Abu Kamara. Of course I had been at school with S I Koroma and Sembu Forna.  (to be continued)

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