One of the most difficult moments in one’s life is to lose a pal and colleague with whom you had the best memories that you can ever think of. On the 10th of February 2021, SLBC lost one of its most brilliant and prolific broadcasters that the institution has ever produced. Alpha Amadu Bah also known as ‘’DJ BEST’’ epitomized what I will refer to as a gem in Sierra Leone’s media landscape.
It was on Wednesday the 10th of February in our normal production meeting around 9 am, when a colleague of mine, pulled me aside and said ‘’ I want to tell you something but please don’t tell anyone for now.” I thought he was going to tell me about big breaking news in the country. He saw the anxiety in my eyes, there he went, ‘’BEST DONE DIE.’’ I almost fell on the floor but thank God I just reversed, took my seat and bowed my head on my desk speechless for almost three minutes. I had a feeling that I hadn’t had for a very long time, I think I only had a shock that was similar to this one when I lost my father in 2008, by then I was writing my final exam in my third year at FBC. I spoke with my father the night before he passed on; he was hale and hearty. I only came out to use the gent’s when my phone rang, and the caller on the other side of the telephone said ‘’ THE PA DON DIE.’’ The Quran says It is He) Who created death and life that He may try you- which of you is best in deeds; and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving, (67:2)
Alpha Amadu Bah’s ailment started in Kono, it was sometime in August 2020 when he and I went to Kono in Soa Chiefdom to look at the road condition of one of the agriculturally endowed chiefdoms not only in Kono but the country as a whole. We left Freetown on Friday around 7 pm, and arrived in Koidu at 2 am and spent the night at VIP Guest House. When we woke up, he showed me his foot which had swollen; he said Asmieu ‘’ a no well me foot don swell e dae mona me ol net.’’ Our arrangement was to leave Koidu just after dawn, but he sought permission to go to Koidu Hospital and got medical attention.
On his return from the hospital he showed me a plastic bag full of pain killer drugs and antibiotics. When we arrived in Freetown, he went to the Jui Chinese Hospital to do some tests, but the situation got worse as the swollenness increased, and he started limping, the condition deteriorated to the extent that the office had to give him a few weeks sick leave. At home, we kept communicating with him, during those weeks, he made several visits to Connaught, 34 and other private hospitals to do medical diagnostics, but to his dismay none of the hospitals was able to tell him the cause of his swollen foot and that was worrying to him. He had reported widely on the country’s health system, his experience those few weeks left him in shock as he told me. He told me how poor our health system has sunk, even at the 34 Military Hospital, he saw many odd things that he promised to report on once he was out of the sick bed. In one of my visits, he told me the hospital had less than five wheelchairs.
It was on a Thursday afternoon when he left us in the office after he had edited the World toilet day news to the best of his ability as if he was biding goodbye to the job. And went to town to run some errands; while in town, he had an attack and was rushed to the 34 Military Hospital. Neither he nor we knew that was his last time to visit his office. I only came to know about the incident on Friday morning when I came to the office, I called his phone and was answered by his wife who told me in a very disappointing and somber voice that her husband was at the outpatient ward waiting to do some tests.
After my production meeting, Sheku Sumaila and I drove to the 34 Military Hospital we met him lying in one of the beds, because it was early, the officer in charge didn’t want to allow us, but when he realized it was me, he said ‘’Mr Bah please come in.’’ I looked at him, he was in agony. He told me he had felt pain in his stomach that he had never felt before; he said he didn’t know if it was a disorder but he didn’t eat street food so he was in complete astonishment as to the cause of that severe pain. He was pokerfaced. I gave him words of consolation before I departed. On the following day, the surgery was done, and I visited him two days later. Though he was in pain, he looked strong like a soldier, those of us who knew Best knew him to be very regimental and brave, and he never liked to act weak or to be seen as weak or vulnerable. As regimental man his sense of humor was just exceptional, he always wears a smile.
Best man was indeed a best man in all facets of life, if it were for professionalism, you will hardly find his breed at SLBC and other local media houses, because he was always meticulous, and he had the best hand writing I have ever seen.
If you see him write on paper you will mistake it for photocopied work. Even on a blank A4 Paper his lines would be straight like a muster parade or rank / file of soldiers waiting for an inspection of a guard of honor being mounted for a visiting head of state.
He took over from DJ Base the popular radio programme called Night Life when the latter left SLBC radio for Ayv. DJ Base joined the SLBC after the merger between SLBS and UN Radio. When he came to SLBC he continued Night Line which was very popular during the UN radio days. When DJ Base left, Alpha Amadu took over the show and added a lot of flare, professionalism and human interest touch. He changed the face of the show and made it more human interest centered.
He visited all the districts of this country, went to communities that have never seen even their member of parliament. He went to communities in Falaba that will be cut off from the rest of the country during the rains; he visited communities that people would walk thirty to forty miles to access a community health centre.
He showed us places where during this time and age pregnant women have to be carried by young men or commercial bikes, he exposed to us places in Sierra Leone where the Guinean Franc is the legal tender for them.
He visited villages that have never seen vehicles; the only means of transportation for them is commercial bikes. He braved all odds just to bring out the sufferings of the ordinary man. I remember talking to him after one of his visits to Falaba, he said the people do not even know the name of the government that is ruling them. He was that kind of journalist who had the nose to smell where news is and how to unearth that news.
I recall in our daily production meetings, Best was known to do the hard news that no one will dare venture to do, as presenter of Morning Coffee, he will ask the hard questions and tell the story of the ordinary man even if it hurts the powers that be, he was always ready to face the music if it arises.
SLBC has indeed lost a gem, I will end with these verses from the Quran which says “Every soul shall taste death, and only on the Day of Judgment will you be paid your full recompense.” As a Muslim I am convinced my brother and colleague is in paradise, because I can confirm that he was a pious man who like the Prophet said ‘’sorry for your fellow man and Allah will show you mercy.’’
The Messenger of Allah (S) has stated:
“Death is the first stage in the stages of the hereafter and the last stage from the stages of the world.”. Till we join you one day Best, Loud Master, Chief Pikin na Chief, we shall see one day and we shall uphold what you stood for.