From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

The Hindowa Momoh I Know
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (Publisher)
Dec 5, 2007, 18:56

It is easy for Sierra Leoneans to join in pulling other Sierra Leoneans down at any opportunity they get. The origins of this unfortunate Syndrome has been ascribed to there being too many more Sierra Leoneans living below acceptable social levels over the past few decades as well as a lack of ambition amongst many others which makes them jealous of the success of those who actually become successful through nothing but hard work.

Dr. Hindowa Momoh

This brings me now to one of the people I respect in this society: Dr. Hindowa Batilo Momoh, former radical youth activist and former President of the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS).

The Hindowa Momoh I know is a hardworking Sierra Leonean who is from humble but proud background in Kailahun District and through dint of hard work, he pushed himself through different stages of educational levels until he achived his Ph.D and held no less a position than that of Adjunct Professor at the world class Howard University in Washington DC, United States of America.

Hindowa is stoic. In the middle of important examinations, he lost his dear mother to the rebels during an RUF attack on his home in Kailahun, he was devastated but he provided the fortitude he needed to finish writing his exams and he excelled with flying colours despite his tragic loss right in the middle of his exams. That is the Hindowa Momoh I know.

I first met Hindowa in the early nineties during the NPRC days when as a youth activist, he worked with my Dad even before he contested for and won the Presidency of the prestigious NUSS.

Anyone who has met Hindowa will tell that just as Dr. Christiana Thorpe described in her 13th June 2007 assessment of him, he is a positive person, an enthusiastic person, an excellent person with very acceptable conduct whom, in her own words, "has tremendous leadership potential".

I totally agree with Christiana Thorpe there. Hindowa has always been an outstanding person but it was during my own days as the first (and so far the only) female to have contested for and won a Studentsí Union Presidency at the University of Sierra Leone (I was later the Vice President of NUSS) that my personal experience of Hindowaís unique character came to the fore.

By the time I became SU President in 1994, Hindowa had now completed his term as NUSS President but as soon as he read of the news in the local press, he rushed over to my campus to not only congratulate me but to offer me all possible assistance and advise if I ever needed such. I will always remember his written words to me in his congratulations card which I have kept till today:

"Sister, we donít have enough role models for our young girls and if any Sierra Leone woman attains a significant milestone like you have just attained, she can count on my support," Hindowa Momoh had written to me.

Hindowa was telling me back then that if any woman became the first to achieve a national record, she could count on his support.

And indeed, I counted on Hindowa a lot during those days. It is not easy being a Woman Leader in any society and especially not in an African setting. Therefore, it came to a point when I started having problems during my presidency since some male students would regularly make the offhand remark that their fathers were laughing at them at home for allowing "a woman to rule them".

Within a jiffy, the sentiment had spread to other campuses especially the newly-imported-into-Freetown Njala students who apparently mercilessly teased their male colleagues at my own campus for having "a woman to rule them" on campus.

It became so bad that at one particular time during a Students Union Meeting held at the Connaught Hospital SLMDC Hall, Njala students "invaded" the meeting and just tried to make the meeting uncontrollable since I was chairing it. I held my own and stood them down (Neville and Gordon are not the only bullies I have been braving) but I left the meeting emotionally devastated. However, as the formidable Daisy Bona had once advised me, I did not cry in front of my male tormentors.

I walked to my car, drove off and headed for the beach. It was along the way that I met Hindowa Momoh. He stopped me just to say hello to me and he saw I was upset. I tried explaining to him and it was then that I burst into tears.

Hindowa was furious when I explained all what I had gone through at the Studentsí Union meeting. All he kept on repeating was that those male students should have been hailing a woman elected into office rather than complaining. Hindowa promised me he would "do something" about the "nonsense" using pertinent Students Circles.

Indeed, he kept to his promiose. Not only did Hindowa "do something" but Njala detractors suddenly turned around and even started to provide assistance to make my work smoother.

I donít recall seeing much of Hindowa after I handed over office to my successor and I did not even know he had traveled out of Sierra Leone to the United States just as I had done in November 1996. Therefore, I still recall my pleasant surprise when I bumped into Hindowa in Maryland, USA in 1998. I had gone to an Oil Change Jiffy Lube shop to change my carís oil and I was waiting for the technician when this tall African drove in with a latest model 4 Wheel flashy Jeep. Out he stepped into the Jiffy Lube premises and to my utter delight, it was none other than Hindowa Momoh.

We caught up on the time since we last saw each other and I expressed how happy I was that he seemed to be so successful to afford such an expensive Jeep.

I recall asking him if with such success in America, he would ever go back to Sierra Leone especially humble Kailahun.

His response to me was done with a very serious tone of voice. Hindowa stated he was merely improving his educational status but he had a lot to give back to Sierra Leone and he would go back.

We eventually parted company that day but kept in occasional touch through emails. Hindowa would always send an email around saying he had bagged his Masters and then his PhD and he had all these exciting jobs and travels he would be embarking upon. Indeed, Hindowa can get a job anywhere in any country. He is versatile.

Hindowa Momoh is not only versatile, he respects women and he respects the fact that a woman can attain a leadership position. He also, as he did for me in 1994/95, provides support for such women in leadership positions.

This is why when I heard that he was the one who was chosen after the rigorous UNDP vetting exercise to become the Chief Executive Officer working with the first female Chair of Sierra Leoneís National Electoral Commission, I had cast my mind back to the support I received from Hindowa Momoh when I became the first woman to become a Students Union President in Sierra Leoneís University.

I had recalled how much Hindowa supported me and I knew Christiana Thorpe would be in safe hands and would get a lot of support from Hindowa to ensure that she succeeded especially as Hindowa would want young Sierra Leone girls to see and have a role model in Christiana Thorpe. This is the Hindowa Momoh that I know. This is the Hindowa Momoh that I have known for some good fifteen odd years.

Throughout all the time he was CEO at NEC, I never had a chance to socialise with him. Life can be so busy. I knew he was the CEO and he knew I was a successful entreprenuer but we never had time to meet.

My assumption was always that Christiana Thorpe was in good hands. Therefore, when for the first time in years, I met with him in my office this week, I was shocked to read of his demotion and humiliation he suffered at the hands of Dr. Thorpe.

Why, I kept on pondering to myself would Dr. Thorpe behave in such a contradictory manner?

To those now engaged in trying to pull down this dynamic patriot, this African man of substance who left his lucrative well paid job in America where his wife was also extremely well paid, to come home and serve the country of his birth, all I will say to them is that they simply do not know the Hindowa Momoh that I know.

As for Dr. Christiana Thorpe who decided to "sack" Hindowa under the circumstances as outlined on the following pages 6 and 7, I will say that regardless of how hard she and others like her try to pull him down, they simply cannot pull down the Hindowa Momoh that I know.

God Bless you Big Brother Hindowa!

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.