BY LEEROY WILFRED KABS-KANU :
In Liberia, we have a saying : “GIVE ME MY FLOWERS WHILE I AM STILL ALIVE .” This saying probably emerged because often, only when you die do people come forth to start pouring lavish praise and adolation on you. Thus, people in Liberia want to be praised for their good work when they are alive, not when they are dead and in all probability not hearing the tributes paid to them while they are keeping that grim date with the worms down there six feet below.
One day , a long time ago , news came out that somebody was dead. In no time, obituaries started pouring out in one of the first online forums we once had whenthe internet just arrived and Sierra Leoneans first started coming online. That was way back in the late 1990s. Later on, we learnt that the person had not died after all. It was a hoax, and the person came online and joked : “I DID NOT KNOW I WAS SUCH A GOOD MAN. I WISH TO THANK THOSE WHO STARTED THE FALSE DEATH RUMOURS BECAUSE THROUGH THEM I NOW KNOW THAT I AM A GOOD MAN AND HAVE BEEN AFFECTING MY COMMUNITY. I WOULD NOT HAVE KNOW THIS BECAUSE ALL I HEAR ABOUT ME FROM SIERRA LEONEANS WAS NEGATIVE. BUT SINCE MY DEATH RUMOUR, I HAVE RECEIVED SO MANY PRAISES FOR MY GOOD WORK.
Blessed man. If his death news was true, he would never had known he was such an asset to his society.
One of the honorees last night, Mr. Pavi Jalloh, said something very poignant . He told all of us being honoured that we must count ourselves blessed to be honoured in public .He said it was a unique experience because you do not receive praise and appreciation often , especially among Sierra Leoneans. Therefore , when it happens, it is something worth cherishing.
Well, I am running away with that great statement from Pavi Jalloh . I count myself blessed because yesterday, I RECEIVED YET ANOTHER AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING JOURNALISM AND COMMUNITY SERVICE –THE GEMS OF AFRICA Award —from as great an organization as SPRINGS OF JOY . The quality of people at the Hall yesterday attested to the quality of SPRINGS OF JOY. Only yesterday did I know with great pride that we have a Sierra Leonean medical doctor –Dr. Mohamed Sannoh —working right here in Somerset, New Jersey. The talk had often been : Oh, we Sierra Leoneans ! ! ! we never excel. Look at all these Nigerian and Ghanaian doctors . No Sierra Leonean doctor. All Salone man sabby nar for eat fufu en bitter lif en talk about Aunty Modu en Uncle Alagbaja ” (Though as the REBRANDER OF SIERRA LONE, I KNEW IT WAS NOT TRUE . SIERRA LEONEANS ACTUALLY DO EXCEL. IT IS JUST THAT WE ARE A MUCH, MUCH MORE SMALLER COUNTRY THAN NIGERIA AND GHANA AND YOU DO NOT EXPECT THE NUMBERS TO BE EVEN WITH THESE OTHER MUCH LARGER COUNTRIES. SIERRA LEONEANS ARE AS SMART AS ANY NIGERIAN OR GHANAIAN. IN FACT, WE TOOK WESTERN EDUCATION TO THESE COUNTRIES. LET THIS FACT NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. WE WERE ONCE THE ATHENS OF WEST AFRICA ).
Anyway, let me go back to the topic. I received my 7th AWARD YESTERDAY FOR JOURNALISM AND COMMUNITY SERVICE.And I am very glad because the society continues to demonstrate to me that it appreciates whatever I seem to be doing well. 7 awards show that I am doing something right after all. In 1975, the Fourah Bay College Students Union gave me an award for excellent journalism and service to the students community; In 2008, I have received an award from the great NOSLINA ( National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America -where all the “BOOK PEOPLE” are domiciled ) . I was recommended for the award by the illustrious Mass Communications Professor Cecil Blake , who had to first famously chisel my rough edges openly at LEONENET -UMBC before thinking that I deserved an award . Before that , even while criticizing them left and right in 2005 , the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) NEW YORK CHAPTER decided that I deserved an award during their honoring program for personalities impacting the New York and New Jersey communities; In 2011, I was one of the Sierra Leoneans honored with an award during the 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations of my beloved country. That same year, I also got an award from the umbrella UNION OF SIERRA LEONEAN ORGANIZATIONS IN NEW YORK ; Last year, the great SAVE SIERRA LEONE FOUNDATION honored me as recipient of their HALL OF FAME Award.
These awards are also very important to me because I am really sacrificing rest, leisure and even my health to remain on top of this news business and I am glad that God is showing me that my sleepless nights are not in vain. While others are often enjoying their sweet repose and snoring , I am up until the wee-wee hours of the night ensuring that my readers receive the news when they log into Cocorioko OR other media the next morning. It is not an easy job and my wife, who is the closet person in my life , and my children , know how much efforts I expend on making sure that Cocorioko continues to pump the news. Those sleepless nights are a concern to my family, but at the end of the day when they see all these awards I am receiving, they are satisfied that it is well worth the efforts. I know there are many other journalists going through the same rigors and I encourage organizations and institutions to include more journalists in their awards because ours is a very hard and difficult job.
It is very necessary for me to feel this way because we live in a society of negativity, witch-hunting, unforgiveness , vindictiveness and envy. You cannot help appreciating your awards within the context of these problems in our society because at times it seems that you do nothing good as all you get is bad-mouthing. These awards come in however to show that you are doing well after all.
In this regard, I want to thank God forletting men not to wait until I die to start coming out with all the praises and appreciation( through these awards I keep receiving ) . Given the dog-eat-dog world we live in, It is good to get your flowers in this world while you are still alive for you to know how you are appreciated . I do get the stick from those who do not agree with my views or anti-government agents; I do get the stick from people who are inadequate and feel that I am outshining them, though I do not go out to achieve this outcome. I just serve my community and country and try to do my job very well . To some people, it is Pappy Show. To us, it is devotion to our society. All we want to do is serve our society. Nothing more, nothing less. I am thankful that God has provided consolation in the form and shape of these awards, which I cherish so much. At least, I am appreciated by my country and society at large and it is comforting and motivating to know that.
I also want to thank all those providing moral support to help me accomplish my goals , especially working with me on the editorial board. The award is for all of us, even as I endure the sleepless nights.
Some of these awards are not for journalism alone but for community service. I serve the community also as a MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL and in this respect, I also want to thank those who are working with me in the church, since my christian service is included in the package . The award is for us all .
I want to thank the President of SPRINGS OF JOY, Mr. Abraham Siaffa , and members of the organization for becoming the 7th organization to recognize my service .I have never known or met Mr. Siaffa or any of the members of the organization all my life . But this is a lesson that whatever you are doing, you must do it well, because as my late Dad of blessed memory used to tell me , you never know who is watching and observing you.
I also want to thank my family at large for their support in making me what I am today.
Thank God . I am receiving my flowers while I am alive.
And for that, I am thankful to God.