Major Abu Noah: Soldier, Businessman and Writer.

2 December 2005 at 04:17 | 623 views

Abu Shaw, a sports writer and former Circulation Manager of the Expo Times was one of the people arrested and detained when the Kabbah government returned from forced exile in 1998. Expo Times, which was one of the leading newspapers in Freetown (it’s still available online), was considered pro-AFRC by Kabbah and his supporters, despite strenuous denials by that paper’s staff. It is however true to say there were numerous clashes between EXPO and the SLPP before the AFRC coup.

A Tribute by Abu B. Shaw, Vanguard London Bureau Chief

Sierra Leone is currently mourning the passing away of a true patriot, Major Abu Noah. A humanitarian, writer, gallant soldier and business entrepreneur,
one can hardly come across a better Sierra Leonean with the courage and determination the late man exhibited. His death triggered real shock across the spectrum of Sierra Leonean society and beyond.

The country came to a standstill when the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service 99.9 FM radio and Radio Democracy 98.1 FM broke the sad news Saturday morning November 12, 2005 on the death of Major Abu Noah (Rtd). A visibly
shocked President Tejan Kabbah was said to have visited Major Noah’s residence to console his widow Michaela on behalf of the Sierra Leone government.

I am particularly saddened and inconsolable when I heard of the sudden death of
my brother in the struggle Major Abu Noah. As recently as June this year, during my visit to Sierra Leone, I paid a courtesy call on Major Abu Noah in Freetown. At his newly relocated Mount Everest Security office on Liverpool
Street, he did not hide his delight when I was ushered in his office.

Shaking my hand, he said: “Welcome Super Tech.” Super Tech is a popular jargon associated with staff of the Expo Times newspaper, my former employer.

“You look good,” Major Noah exclaimed as I took a seat. I thanked him for his commendation and noted how happy I was to see him again after six years.

He advised that Sierra Leoneans abroad should come home as things are gradually taking shape in the country. He proudly confirmed that his company currently employs about 1,700. “In 1998, we were behind bars at Pademba
Road, today we are free men, time flies,” Major Noah reminisced on our prison ordeal.

The then war-weary SLPP government ordered the arrests of many people who were accused of ’collaborating’ with the AFRC junta led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma. Many fled. Major Noah and I, among others, were picked up by security forces and taken to Pademba Road prison in the aftermath of the 1998 intervention of ECOMOG, the West Africa peace keeping forces.

The AFRC regime, which was born through the amalgamation of rebels loyal to Foday Sankoh’s RUF and soldiers of the Sierra Leone army, was flushed out of power
and the Guinea based exiled SLPP government was re-instated in Freetown.

My visit to the Mount Everest Security office in June this year became more historic than initially thought because of the opportunity I had to thank Major Noah for his invaluable advice to me in prison that helped me to survive my prison ordeal. I could still vividly remember one Sunday morning at Pademba Road prison when I visited Clarkson House where Major Noah was detained.

There is a certian notoriety about Clarkson House which is reserved only for prisoners of political clout and heavy weights in society.

Wearing a white T-shirt and grey shorts, Major Noah was sitting on a mat and was quite relaxed when I entered his cell. “Come and sit down my brother in the struggle. Don’t worry we will go through this Insha Allah,” Major Noah tried to reassure me but I could sincerely not see any light at the end of the tunnel at that dark moment. This daily reassurance played a major role in my survival until my release ten gruesome months later. That was characteristic of Major Noah. He was a courageous man and always ready to help others.

The late Major told me he was no stranger to Pademba Road prison. “I have been a victim of many miscalculations in Sierra Leone’s political and military history. I have been very critical of the military going in to politics. My frequent criticisms did not save me from facing treason charges. I was charged three times in the sixties. In 1971, I was in this same prison, same Clarkson House, where I served up to nearly 11 years.”

Wiping his tears with the back of his hand, Major Noah disclosed how he miraculously cheated death in front of firing squads in Sierra Leone. “Each time,” he
recounted, “I would survive execution following orders from the authorities in the eleventh hour. In the first execution attempt, I was already blind folded facing the firing squads when political intervention saved my life. Only Almighty Allah knows the end of one’s life,” the smiling genius said.

By the time I emerged from his cell in Clarkson House to go back to my detention centre at Blyden House, I became a relieved man full of energy and optimism. Prior to getting Major Noah’s lecture, I was always despondent like a church rat. Even the darkened walls of my cell 4 in Bambakayaka (as Pademba Road prison is fondly called by inmates) did not diminish the enthusiasm I got from Major’s tonic. I will forever remain indebted to Major
Noah for offering me that timely support in prison.

Major Abu Noah has a rich military and academic background. He studied at Amaria Primary and Government Model Secondary Schools and later at the Methodist Boys High School in Freetown. Militarily, Major Noah trained at
the Wiltshire Military academy in England after he completed a course at the Teshi Military Academy in Ghana.

Major Noah’s military prowess is unrivalled in Sierra Leone. The unassuming military genius was acknoledged as being the best marksman in the country.

During our incarceration, I asked him if it’s true that he used to spin a coin in the air and bore a hole through it with a single shot. Major Noah gave a broad smile indicating the truism of the story.

“Those were my military heydays,” the brilliant soldier said affirmatively.

Irrespective of Major Noah’s excellent services in the Sierra Leone army, he remained a Major. When I asked him whether he turned down any promotion prospect, he negated the idea saying: “I was once promised by late
president Siaka Stevens to be promoted to the rank of Colonel. But that promise was sabotaged at the eleventh hour by some APC political giants. Frankly, it bothered me then, not anymore.”

As a writer and publisher, Major Noah was also an avid reader. He had published many articles and books. ‘The Inside Story’ is the well known masterpiece. His relationship with the Sierra Leone media was exceptional. The media, particularly the print media, do not survive from sales. Their financial sanity relies mostly on advertisements. Major Noah was the biggest
provider of adverts to press houses, especially from indigenous entrepreneurs. Every Journalist in the country can attest to this fact.

As for his humanitarian activities, Major Noah was clearly unchallengeable. From doling out financial assistance to the sick like polio victims, whom he single-handedly sponsored over the years, to the countless students who acquired his scholarships from primary and secondary schools up to university level, the late man has a proven track record of being selfless and generous to an admirable proportion in Sierra Leone.

Major Noah, who was laid to rest on Sunday November 13, was a devout muslim.

Thousands of well-wishers, including government representatives, the staff of Mount Everest Security & affiliate companies and members of his Foulah
Town Community graced the occasion. May the soul of this great man rest in perfect peace.

Photo: The late Major Noah(left).