Since the creation of the first human being, our Father Adam, leaders (including God/Allah’s Prophets and Messengers) have come and gone, and many more will come and go. This is the natural cycle we have been preordained to go though as a process of either rekindling our faith in the omnipotence of our Creator, or as a process of refreshing our minds and reassuring us that no living thing can be speared that moment of truth; a moment that each and every one of us, irrespective of our statuses, will have to encounter someday, sooner or later.
In the case of leaders ,their passing away will, in one way or the other, be palpable in the sense that they will definitely be remembered for the various legacies they leave behind for their nations to either enjoy or suffer from. But, of course, leaders worth remembering are those whose legacies do palpably and effectively contribute to the general welfare of their people; it is such leaders whose profiles will move and motivate generations even after they are long gone because they will, at some crucial moments in the course of their countries, be referred to as exemplary and idealistic for future leaders to emulate.
Since Sir Milton Magai and his men tenaciously secured Sierra Leone’s independence from Britain in April, 1961, President Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is the last president of Sierra Leone to depart to the unseen eternal world. There is absolutely no denying that each of our post- independence leaders beginning from Sir Milton Magai, Sir Albert Magai, Siaka P. Steven, Joseph Saidu Momoh, Captin Valentine E. M. Srassar, Julius Mada Bio and Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah has left us a legacy. However, their legacies vary from the positive to the negative, but each can be remembered for some historical facts on the ground.
As for President Kabbah, contemporary Sierra Leoneans would live to remember him as the son of the soil who was predestined to lead Sierra Leone during its most trying times when the fate of the country was loosely hanging in the balance. Pa Kabbah ( as he was fondly called for his seniority) took the mantle of power at a time not many would envy him for his presidency due to the intricacies, burdens and huge responsibilities that leading Sierra Leone entailed and required at the time.
President Kabbah’s first and foremost leadership requirement from the onset was to bring the then senseless rebel war to an end; it was indeed an uphill and daunting task which was not easy to fulfill. With RUF at the peak of its fiercest and untold atrocities being unleashed on innocent Sierra Leoneans, it was quite obvious that bringing that war to an end would require Sierra Leoneans to go through a great deal of ordeals and hurdles. This was all due to the complexities of the situation on the ground. And indeed that was exactly what happened. Thousands were brutally killed; thousands had their limbs chopped off; thousands had to relocate and thousands were forced into exile. Ours was a war that has been characterized so far as the most gruesome and the most atrocious, not only in its number, but also in its nature where every living thing on the soil of Sierra Leone was a target without discrimination. All these factors made President Kabbah’s job unenviable.
Being president under such gloomy, explosive and chaotic circumstances would absolutely never be the wish of any leader. But it was in such trying circumstances and challenges that President Kabbah found himself engulfed. However, in the face of all the odds he stood firmly undaunted. He did so with the firm belief and knowledge that he was chosen by God to save his nation at the most nightmarish juncture in its history; he was the Messiah that was sent to Sierra Leone from its shadows of darkness to light; and indeed he superbly and effectively performed his tasks and duties not only to the admiration of his people, but also to the overwhelming admiration of the international community. He proved himself a man of humanity, conscience and democratic principles. There’s no denying that he is the father and founder of the democracy that we are enjoying today in Sierra Leone.
To end the war, President Kabbah had to play the stick and carrot game. He had to negotiate with the irresponsible leadership of the RUF and sign a number of peace accords. He was overthrown and reinstated; he was supported with the regional forces of ECOMOG and largest number of troops in the history of the United Nations (UN) and eventually triumphed. The war lords were defeated and had to succumb to the new realities on the ground. He formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to ensure that justice was meted out to those who deserved it. All this was done with accountability and in transparency.
The above is by no means meant to be detailed recounting or narration of the war in its entirety, for that is not the purpose of this article. Rather, the purpose here is to highlight the leadership qualities of this great son of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. President Kabbah manifested great and unrivaled maturity and wisdom in dealing with the war. There was a time when many got disappointed and upset with him owing to the soft and cool manners with which he handled the negotiations with RUF. But the ensuing events that unfolded vindicated him, justified his decision and proved him to have done the right thing.
Now that Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is no more, what is our national obligation towards this towering figure that went through all that is thick and thin to ensure that Sierra Leoneans were salvaged from the tyranny and carnage of the RUF and its cohorts and accomplices? I think our obligation towards this Gentleman is to embody the principles of unity, accountability, credibility and transparency that he bequeathed to us. We should make him feel proud in his grave that he was not only father of the nation, but he was also its teacher and mentor. Also, we should see it incumbent upon us to invariably appreciate all that he did for us and to always give him the respect that he truly deserves as a wise, patriotic and visionary statesman whose spectacular and remarkable leadership would forever linger vividly in our memories