Our discovered personality for this week is Mr. Henry Nathaniel Fergusson J.P., O.R., C.O., former Chairman of the Committee of Management of the Freetown City Council from 2001 to 2004.
Mr. Fergusson was born in Freetown and was educated at the Sierra Leone Grammar School and the Cambridge Higher School from where he gained access to the Fourah Bay College and attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1964.
Instilled by the need to further his academic wishes, he ventured into more exploits. In 1969 he obtained a Diploma in Public and Social Administration from the South Devon Technical College. In 1981 he again obtained a Diploma from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and was certified a Municipal Clerk in 1985 and was admitted as a member at the Academy for Advanced Education at the Pasadena A.A.E. in the United States of America. In 1992 he also obtained a Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties from the Dyslexia Institute in London.
Mr. Fergusson is a Technocrat with vast experience in Public Finance and Management. He was Deputy Town Clerk at the Freetown City Council from 1968 to 1971 and Town Clerk from 1971 to 1988. He was also at a certain moment Teacher at the Prince of Wales School and then a Lecturer at the Freetown Teachers College in 1999.
As part of his earlier work experience, Mr. Fergusson worked on attachment in Britain’s Reading CountyBorough at the Stevenage Development Corporation. He also gained experience at the Organisation and Methods Club for Reading Oxford and Birkshire and also worked at the Local Authorities Management and Computer Services Committee in London.
During his tenure of office as Town Clerk at the City of Freetown, several development programmes came to fruition, thanks to his high sense of management and negotiating skills. The impact of these development programmes still lives on with the citizens of the municipality.
These development programmes range from the enlargement of the city of Freetown from 4 ½ square miles to 26 ¼ square miles in 1973, the acquisition of sites and the construction of the Wallace-John Municipal school, the Congo Town and the Ephraim Robinson Municipal school.
Also, the D.T. Akibo-Betts Municipal school, the second storey to the Bombay street market, the Mabella market, the Meat Market and the Smythe Street markets were reconstructed and or refurbished. These markets were fitted with toilet facilities. He also supervised the walling of the Circular and Kissy Road Cemetries and the construction of a Crematorium.
Under his co-supervision, the Fire Brigade Headquarters at Tower Hill was constructed and many second-class roads in the east and west ends of the city were resurfaced and maintained. He also co-supervised the erection of public stand pipes and street lights.
Mr. Fergusson’s co-stewardship also witnessed the start and completion of the construction of the City Hall and ensured that both City Council staff and citizens benefited from the Freetown Municipal Building Scheme Loan. These successes were climaxed by the Bi-centenary celebrations of the city of Freetown in 1987, which was his brain child.
Mr. Fergusson did not only offer his sincere and dedicated service to the people of the Freetown municipality alone, he did so as well for the national good. He represented Sierra Leone at local government seminars and conferences in Europe, America, Asia and within Africa. On several occasions, he even Chaired some and on other occasions, served as Rapporteur.
These several conferences and seminars attended by Mr. Fergusson provided him the opportunity to interract and forge tangible relationships with very important personalities around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom.
He is a very shrewd and tactful negotiator. He was even at one time sent as a Special Emissary of the President and Government of Sierra Leone during the period when the country needed most the presence of British troops, to present the case of Sierra Leone on the need for Prime Minister Tony Blair to maintain his troops in the country.
Hall marks of his negotiating skill are indicated in his membership of council’s delegations which successfully negotiated twinning links between Freetown and Kansas city in the United States of America, Freetown and Kingston-upon-Hull in Britain and Freetown and Hefei in Auhui province in China.
Mr. Henry Nathaniel Fergusson has been recognized on many occassions on the virtue of his meritorious service and dedication to the state of Sierra Leone and other reputable organizations within the country.
He is an awardee of the national Order of the Rokel (OR), the National Civil Service Division, in recognition of his faithful and dedicated service as Town Clerk of the Municipality of Freetown, he is Honorary Member of the Myohaung Officers Mess, and he is Headquarters Commissioner of the Boys’ Scout Association of Sierra Leone and many more.
Sources close to the administration of council state that his greatest legacy to the Freetown City Council and indeed the citizens of the Freetown Municipality, was when with the approval of the Committee of Management, he retained the services of the late L.G.A. Beckley, retired Accountant General and Deputy Financial Secretary, to locate and retrieve council’s Superannuation Fund, an investment with Crown Agents Overseas which had been dormant for over twenty years.
Between 2000 and 2005 when he served as Mayor and Chairman Committee of Management, Freetown City Council, Mr. Fergusson recorded several impressive achievements, thanks to his experience and maturity in handling issues which could have easily ignited political backlash. He succeeded in removing Street Traders off the then three principal streets of the city with minimum conflict and no backlash.
As part of his commendable performance, he rehabilitated four burnt municipal schools and provided these with new sets of school furniture and educational materials, distributed a record of Le14 million worth of Grant- in-aid to needy students in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and colleges, rehabilitated and constructed over ten market toilets, strengthened relationship with some of its twin sister cities including Kingston-upon-Hull, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kansas and Connecticut cities in the USA. He also reinforced the twinning of the second capital Bo with Lemington Spa in Britain and succeeded in improving the remuneration and welfare of the city council staff including an 100% increase on salaries.
Friends and associates of Mr. Fergusson know him as man with a high sense of humour, a man of honesty, commitment and sincerity in the discharge of his responsibilities. "That is why he is so endearing to us," one of his elderly friends remarked.
Several job options were opened to Mr. Fergusson, but because of his love for Sierra Leone and his determination to so serve his Motherland, he cleverly turned down most of these lucrative offers.
For example, in October, 1977 he was approached by the United Nations for a job in the Joint Inspection Unit in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The letter to this effect reads in part … "It has been decided to seek the advice of organisations and individuals who are particularly competent in the field of Public Administration and Finance. Therefore, we believe that you could personally help the UN in improving the quality and usefulness of its programme of public administration and finance if you accept to give some attention to the documents attached to this letter and to complete the attached questionnaire…" Also in August 1987, the United Nations again came in pursuit of the service of Mr. Fergusson, but again turned it down.
"He is a very open man. He treats everybody as equals and listens very well and attentively to everybody irrespective of status. That is one quality about him why he was so successful at council," a staff at the City Council commented to Awareness Times.
A very senior citizen also had this comment to make about Fergusson: "He is the kind of man that can be used for key assignments abroad on behalf of this country because of his openness in his dealings. If it had been some other crook who had accessed the Superannuated Fund, he would have either kept it to himself or encourage others to collaborate with him to fleece the state."
"But I am not like that," Mr. Fergusson had responded adding, "I think there are certain people who are not quite comfortable with my successes and as such they have been masterminding and inspiring those campaigns of slander against my person," he said. "But given that I am satisfied with what I did in the interest of the city, I am a happy man," Chairman Fergusson stated.
This attitude of sheer ingratitude of Sierra Leoneans, was unequivocally denounced by Dr. Dennis Bright on the occasion of the handing over of the Street Sweeper. He had this to say, "….. Sierra Leoneans are quick to criticise and condemn people because they do not appreciate good work. This negative attitude must change because we might tend to discourage people in dire need by this country and who are ready and willing to work genuinely."
Mr. Fergusson however says, "I have been slandered and my precious name sent in the mud. But I will never be discouraged in my determination to render my unflinching service to the people of this country in what ever capacity for which it is deemed that I am capable."
With this kind of zest and show of determination, one is left to wonder if at all it was this same Henry Fergusson with numerous achievements, was the same Henry Fergusson who was put on the alter of sacrifice, by giving the public misguided information on his action because somebody merely failed to have his way? Well, this is a food for thought for the government, the citizens of Freetown and indeed Sierra Leone.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.