Saved by American influence : Part 1

By Abrahim Alimu Jalloh. MD, USA.
Sierra Leone at 45 is still toddling. His Excellency the President, Dr. Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabba’s 45th independence anniversary message to the Nation was based on the theme: SIERA LEONEANS AND THE IMAGE OF SIERRA LEONE.
We have been garbing ourselves with the mnemonic idea that Sierra Leone is the Athens of West Africa and the beacon of light of Africa.

But since 45 years of self determination, compared to other African countries, Sierra Leone has been plunged into massive corruption and ‘ I don’t care attitude’ in all spheres of life. For the past couple of years, we have been hibernating at the bottom rung of any World ranking. With each passing day, one hears disheartening  stories about Sierra Leone.
I stopped sending letters or important documents through the Sierra Leone Postal Services long ago for reasons which Augusta Torto from Sweden was very brief in her article entitled ” Sierra Leone Post Office is full of thieves and hungry people” posted to the Cocorioko website on April 24,2006. She concludes ” Sierra Leone Post Office is a disgrace to the country”.
On the 25th April,2006, at about 5:00am Eastern Time, which was about 9:00am in Sierra Leone, I was denied my morning sleep when the phone rang cacophonous. Such sounds are only international calls. I wasted no time to pick up the phone.”Hello…!” I opened the conversation.

My daughter and her mom were on the line. My daughter had been issued a visa to travel to the United States of America but she needed to have a transit visa into the United Kingdom from the British High Commission in Freetown.
“Papa”, she started, ” den say yu for sen yu bank statement bifor den gi-me thee visa”.
I tried to recover from the shock.” Were are you calling from, were am I to fax the bank statement?”
She told me that they were calling from an internet cafe. I talked with the owner of the cafe hoping that he would give me his fax number. He gave me Sierratel’s fax number, the Nation’s owned telecommunication system.
At about 9:00 am EST, which was1:00pm in Sierra Leone, I picked up my bank statement and dashed out to the nearest fax office.

Siera Leoneans and the image of Sierra Leone was put to the test. I hastily gave the Sierratel fax number 224-439 accompanied by the code 011-232-22 to the operator who was also busy serving other customers from Liberia and Guinea.
For over twenty minutes, I was just hearing some crackling sound. My papers did not go through. The operator, not to lose the other customers, told me to wait awhile. In about ten minutes, four customers from Liberia and Guinea had their papers faxed. He tried my papers again to Sierratel to no avail. Time was running out. Offices in Sierra Leone would not be opened on the 27th April because of our Independence anniversary. My daughter’s travel date was on the 28th April.
I jerked my cell-phone from my pocket and dialled her uncle, who is working for a reputable phone company, straight in Freetown with the utmost conviction that he must have access to a fax machine. He told me that there was no fax machine in his office, but I should give him fifteen minutes to get a fax number from a cabinet minister’s office. I was a bit relieved for the assurance.

When I called him after seventeen minutes, he told me that the fax machine in the minister’s office was out of working order. I was flabbergasted at such a  ministerial negligence. But he said he had got another fax number .I took my pen to write the number down. He started “224-43…” I interrupted him: ” Is that Sierratel?”.
He said “yes”.

The I started calling him by name with desperation ” Ansu, I’ve tri’d that Sierratel number. It’s n’t going thru. Please inquire some other places”
I called a Sierra Leonean friend working for a Travel Agency in the USA to give me their office fax number in Freetown. He was very delighted. I took my pen to write dwn the number. He started “224-439”
“Mr. Desmond!”, I called out ” if  that is the only fax number then I am doomed”. He gave me another fax number for Sierratel 228-430

I ran into the office again. In fact with this  number, the fax machine was given signals which warranted the operator to ask for my origin. Time was tickling fast.
I called Ansu from Freetown. He gave me an office telephone number of a senior civil servant to contact the secretary for their fax number. I dialled the number. From the scretary’s tonation, I wondered whether she had eaten any breakfast or lunch.But when I said I was calling from America,the United States of America, she answered with a soprano voice punctuated with ” Sir” and ” Yes sir”.

I told her that I am a friend of her boss and wanted to fax some papers in his office. She told me that her boss travelled to the provinces, and he locked his office with the fax machine inside. I was again wondering why should a public officer deprive his or her junior workers of office facilities. That is the attitude of a Sierra Leonean portraying the Sierra Leone image.It was almost 12:00 noon EST, and 4:00pm in Freetown.
“Ansu”, I called again, ” I dont think whether your niece will travel to the United States.

Ansu, too, was becoming worried. He advised me to calm dowm like a nursing mother.He gave me another  telephone number to a female friend called Mommy. I immediately dialled the number. A voice from America was enough to keep  Mommy straight and attentive. She immediately gave me their office fax number assuring me to fax the papers. With such assurance I called my daughter and her mom to go to Ansu’s office for the papers would be ready shortly.
I dashed into the fax office with a mournful look demanding sympathy from the operator. I gave him the new fax number. I was quietly praying. After ten minutes, the opertor’s patience ran out and asked me to go somewhere else.
Gnashing my teeth and almost driving through a red light, I reached home at about 12:45 pm EST. From my home phone, I called Ansu who told me that he was sorry. Mommy called him and said that the janitor forgot to put on the Kabba Tiger.
I asked what he meant by Kabba Tiger. He said it was the generator which has taken the place of the constant electricity blackout supplied by the National Power Authority in the city. I heaved a deep breadth. From Salpost to Sierratel, and now NPA !
I remember in the early years of post independece Sierra Leone, each of the twelve district head quarter towns had constant electricity supply, and the major roads and streets in these towns were macadamised ( well tarred ). Today, all the roads and streets are pothole ridden like trenches deep enough for one to hide from enemy fire.What is Road Authority doing? Hurricane lamps and faggots have replaced electricity in the towns except for Bo and Kenema.Another Sierra Leanean image portrayed.
Ansu told me that he had sent my daughter and her mom to the Millennium telecomminucation center at Rawdon street which is very reliable.
At about 1:00pm EST, which was 5:00pm in Sierra Leone, I called them on their cell-phone. With no time to waste, they handed the phone to a gentleman I must talk with to give me the fax number. I took my pen. He started “224-439”. I nearly collapsed. I told him to give back the phone to my daughter and her mom for me to talk to them. I was very angry and asked why they did not go to the Millennium center.They said all communications in the Millennium center were down. The manager, therefore, asked them to go to Sierratel.
The gentleman grabbed the phone from them telling me that their fax machines are in good working order. He said may be I dialled the wrong number.I read out the number to him, and even the second fax number 228-430. He said the machine with the 228-430 was a standby machine but it has been out of working order for a long time he can not remember. I told him if the standby machine is out of working order what can he tell me about the main machine. I tried for about ten minutes again using my fax machine at home to no avail. I asked my daughter and her mom to go home which was about 1:30pm EST, 5:30PM in Sierra Leone.
I had to be at my job at 2:00pm. Fifteen minutes late would lead nearly losing a job in the USA. For any single dollar earned in America is through hard work and dedication like the lumpenproletatariates in Sierra Leone John Leigh referred to as San San boys and ordinary noise makers. These group  of people are doing an honest job sacrificing ten to fourteen hours everyday to earn their living to build a better Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora are also working hard. But for any single dollar we send back to our native home, the American and European governments get it back
in ten folds from our thieving ministers and top civil servants who are siphoning our Nation’s wealth in thousands and millions to foreign banks.

At about 1:50pm EST, I tried  Sierratel again for the last time. The machine was buzzing like an eighteen century cannon.
I thought of all the friends and their places of work in Freetown. A friend working for the American Embassy came to my mind. He had given me his cell phone number over a year ago which I had never called. We frequently communicate through the internet. My fear was ” Do I still have his number installed in my cell-phone?”
I checked out my cell-phone. The name Abdul appeared. I dialled the number. I heard a familiar voice saying ” Hello”
I jumped on my feet bellowing like a commanding officer. ” Abdul, this is Jalloh”
“Hi, ha-ha-ha, long time.How is the States?” He responded.
I told him that it was no time for banalities.Thank God he knew about my daughter’s coming to the USA. I asked for his fax number. He told me that he was not in his office. My stomach rumbled and l exchanged carbondioxide for oxygen to keep me from swooning.

He noticed my silent-desperation. He said ” Stay on line let me contact the secretary in the office for the number”. In less than three minutes he read out the fax number to me.
It was 1:57pm EST. I faxed the papers. While I was waiting for the confirmation, I called my daughter and her mom to tell them the good news and contact person for the papers. I was told that my daughter was already sick. She had lost hope in the entire system. When I got the confirmation about 1:58pm, I called Abdul to thank him and the American  influence in Mother Salone. It was indeed a timely save.
At 2:00pm I signed in for work.

 

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