By KABS KANU
Today , Thursday October 15 is the birthday of your famous Cocorioko Newspaper. It is 42 years today since we first came to existence at Fourah Bay College in 1973.
COCORIOKO was the product of the revolutionary fervor that swept Fourah Bay College, the University of Sierra Leone, in the 1973-74 academic year when the patience of the students ran out for the archaic and non-performing college administration led by the late Professor the Rev. Canon Harry Sawyer and the President Siaka Stevens Government downtown, which the students perceived as not doing enough to address their complaints on the campus.
With the emergence of the Marxist/Leninist doctrinaire , Boubacar Njai-Bah , who on defeating the “fixity” candidate Francis Wilson and becoming the next Students Union President , announced a revolution against the college administration, Mount Olympus was sitting on tenterhooks , with the Auradicals Club and other radical students like the late Saidu Sowa, Hindolo Sumanguru Trye , Claude Wright, Sangster Sesay, Nicholas Momoh, Alpha Lavalie, Abu Mansaray, Larry Domingo, Winston Webber , Valerie Bankole -Jones, your humble servant ( Who used Chuks Press to keep the government downtown and college administration’s feet under fire ) etc.etc. etc gunning not only for the college administration but the government downtown.
For once, protests after protests swept FBC and a once peaceful and stoic campus became the hotbed of revolutionary rhetoric and threats of demonstrations. Njai-Bah sowed the seeds of the revolutionary spirit that gave birth to the legendary fighter Hindolo Trye and led to the famous 1977 students demonstrations throughout the nation that came close to unseating the Stevens Government.
During the fight for students’ rights , it was decided by the revolutionary government led by Mr. Njai-Bah to have a radical student newspaper that would promote and project the spirit of the struggle . The burden to lead the crusade fell on your humble servant –Kabs K–who had become the first-ever Minister of Propaganda of the Students Government . I controlled and managed the student government’s media apparatus so I was given the responsibility to set up the radical newspaper that would send a message to the administration that the students were no longer ready to kowtow to anybody.
I got together some radical students like the Nigerian, Ben Ikeakor ( Now a Pastor in his country ) , Mike James ( Now a journalist in Liberia ) , Basil Lamin ( An educator in Sierra Leone ) , Millicent Macauley ( Now a born-again christian in Maryland, USA ) , Florence Iscandari ( who became a top brass of the Sierra Leone Police Force ), Zimbabwean Joan Mundoma ( then married to another radical Student Ben Mundoma ) etc. and we set up a newspaper, which I named COCORIOKO (sound of the crowing of the rooster in the morning to announce daybreak and as it is felt by traditional folklore also arouse people from sleep ).
COCORIOKO became the mouthpiece of the students battle for their rights on campus. It was a novelty in that its fame was not built around jokes and the lampooning of students and the administration as was done by the equally famed AUREOL TIMES. Cocorioko was a straight puncher, writing biting and scathing articles against the college administration and the government downtown.
The paper started with a big bang and was soon the talk of the campus. But dissatisfaction with Njai-Bah’s stunning impotence undermined the students’ cause due to his failure to match his revolutionary rhetoric with bravery and decisive action ( He had to be literally dragged along to lead the first major students action–A successful demonstration to the office of the then Vice-President, Mr. S.I. Koroma over power cuts on campus, during which bolder students like Alhassan Toujours Kamara, Charles Caulker –now a Paramount Chief –Taqi , Sangster Sesay, Foday Kallon and others seized the initiative and turned out to be the heroes while the much-celebrated revolutionary leader became a figure of fun on campus for even trembling in front of the VP. During the handing over ceremony to the fixity -returnee President , Foday Kallon , at the Mary Kingsley Hall the following year, Njai-Bah, who was booed, blamed students disunity and perfidy for the problems of his government and he accused comrades of “fighting for and eating the fat bone of the failure of the revolution “. But in all reality , Njai-Bah did not really fail, as his marxist teachings and the revolutionary spirit he stirred in students lingered and contributed to the rise of Hindolo Trye and the 1977 student action that rocked the whole country.
COCORIOKO folded up after your humble servant graduated from college in 1975 but was revived at LEONENET-UMBC in the late 1990s by this journalist to take the fight to the Kabbah government.
Cocorioko is fully registered in Sierra Leone as a newspaper and though we have only produced print editions in spurts , we are one of the biggest and most ( locally and internationally) widely read Sierra Leone news outlets with a robust social media presence, with forums having over 150, 000 readily-available daily receivers of our news reports. Our readers cut across the general citizenry in Sierra Leone and the diaspora and we create more waves than many print newspapers in Sierra Leone. We are considered one of the online media with one of the heaviest traffic.
COCORIOKO has won nearly a dozen awards for outstanding journalism and with the demise of the Sierra Leone Daily Mail, we are the oldest Sierra Leone-based news outlet. By the time we will establish a print newspaper in Sierra Leone, we will not be known as newcomers as Cocorioko is already a household word in the country. Our reports appear regularly in print newspapers in Sierra Leone.
COCORIOKO HAS A VERY RICH HISTORY THAT DOES NOT NEED TO BE AFFIRMED BY ANYBODY. The facts as told by us are very compelling and people who have followed us through life know our story themselves . Therefore any attempt to change the narrative will not hold water. Very soon, we will write a book to tell the true story of Cocorioko which alumni of FBC also know by heart.
Congratulations to the faithful ones who have remained with us through our storms and triumphs.