From the Editor’s Keyboard

The Accidental Hero

28 July 2012 at 23:41 | 1035 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown.

Hindolo Sumanguru Trye died peacefully after a period of illness in Freetown on 26th July 2012. Hindolo or rather Sumanguru as his close friends called him has been a peaceful and quiet man, very conservative in outlook but his close friends and associates would vouch that he was an extrovert, a good mixer and a voracious reader always hungry for knowledge. He lived his life after being thrown to the limelight in 1977 after the tumultuous students’ uprising that has changed the face of youth engagement in political and policy environments in Sierra Leone.

Hindolo Trye (photo) was Students’ Union leader at Fourah Bay College that great day during a convocation ceremony in 1977 when the then President was at first heckled and then wholly booed by the student body as he undertook his duties as Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, handing out degrees and diplomas.

To the many who witnessed this event, it was nothing short of unbelievable and also for those who captured it live on radio as part of SLBS outside Broadcast at the time, it was unfathomable in terms of the enormity of the wind of change that was a sweeping Sierra Leonean politics. President Siaka Stevens was well respected and in the usual African geo-political setting, extremely feared by the populace so you would be hard put to find any group that dared tell him to his face that he was held in any sort of rancor. The student body at the time had an axe to grind so they took advantage of the permeable air of immunity that they thought they had by virtue of their status as the budding intelligentsia of the nation to make a protest and openly denigrate the President in a public forum such as that of the annual convocation.

The very next day, President Stevens ordered that Fourah Bay College be shut down and to effect his wish, truckloads of armed ISUs were dispatched to the college. It was this act, more than any other that raised the backs of the entire student body. They were hurriedly asked to leave the college campus, which a majority of them refused indignantly. By Monday, a delegation of students from the Albert Academy came to the Prince of Wales School, Kingtom, to inform the pupils there that the Government has shut down Fourah Bay College and as such, the Secondary Schools should do something about this. The delegation was joined by Students from the Prince of Wales School to the Saint Edwards School, wherein they were asked to join the action.

In the event, the pupils moved onwards to the Sierra Leone Grammar School at Murray Town to enlist their support. That being one of the notoriously renegade schools at that time, wasted no time in joining and then as the crowd moved back into town, the ranks were swelled by pupils from other schools including some girls’ schools. It was when the now very large crowd arrived at Pademba Road, towards CID Headquarters that it was met by a gauntlet of members of the Internal Security Unit (ISUs), armed to the teeth with teargas and batons.

With shouts of No College, No School, I distinctly remember a colleague instructing us not to fear the police, we will be marching on through the barricades but then noted that as soon as the first teargas canister was shot, my colleague who was saying we are not to be intimidated was already on his heels and may have reached Bathurst Street before he slowed down. The crowd dispersed quicker than it took us to have built it up, it was now a nightmare to get home because word quickly spread that any school boy of girl caught with uniforms on the streets that evening were to be arrested on sight.

As I narrate the above, it brings back memories of a time when young people were fired up by revolutionary fervor. In all of this, President Siaka Stevens blamed Hindolo Trye for the pupil uprisings and when the fallout to that demonstration began to look as if the government was heavy handed against its own school pupils, Hindolo Trye was vilified as the recalcitrant who instigated violence and has directed that school children come to the streets to fight his battle. However, as events unfolded, Hindolo Trye became a household name and Secondary School pupils were in awe of the man. He became the accidental hero, simply because he took the blame for an awakening of youth activism when he never necessarily needed to raise his voice to that call. He subsequently became a marked man and was lucky to have been spirited out of Sierra Leone to the United States. The method of his escape became the focus of mythical stories and many a twist was put on that tale. In the event, Hindolo Trye became the first young man to come against a personality of the ilk of President Siaka Stevens and won!

He was to come back to Sierra Leone, partly due to a fond recall of his emotive appeal to young people of this country as a person who would contribute to the development of this nation. He joined the NPRC Government. His was not to be a political life of massive change because his first foray into political authority had to be under a Military Junta that had no legitimacy or rooted in democracy, albeit a popular diversion at its inception. That he was persuaded to join their ranks spoke more to his desire to contribute to the development and politics of Sierra Leone much more than a desire to remain in obscurity in the United States of America. He would have etched a reasonably comfortable life in the United States and may have benefited from a prolonged life span and better health facilities to manage his afflictions as his years advanced. He may not have been gone by now but then see how strong a conviction he had for his country that he was willing to lay down his life serving it.

Accidental hero or not, Hindolo Sumanguru Trye played his part whenever he or rather circumstances have foisted leadership on him. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, Hindolo Trye has at all times rose to the occasion when service to Sierra Leone beckoned. When he was invited to join Ernest Koroma’s Cabinet, very few realized his connection or link to the APC or even to the new President. Hindolo Trye is a man for whom Ernest Koroma had the highest of regard and respect. Like some of his peers, President Ernest Koroma saw in him, a man of valor, courageous and resilient in his loyalty, diligent and dependable as a compatriot. Hindolo Trye is a tower of his time. He moved a nation when all around him watched in awe. He interacts with the lowest in society even as he holds himself up to the most sophisticated in our midst. He had always been a people’s person. He makes real friends and lasting relationships and these are the aspects of his character that President Koroma admired in him. Well as room-mates, who knows who exiled the other the most, but then again, these are two men who formed a life -long bond, now broken or separated by the inevitable. He served Ernest Koroma as Minister of Tourism and then as Minister of Labour. He served without complaint even when his health started to deteriorate. Struggled on to the end, giving of himself for the betterment of his beloved Nation.

As we mourn the passing of Hindolo Sumanguru Trye, we recall the Hymnist’s cry, O death, where is thy sting, o grave thy victory?

May his soul and those of all our dear departed rest in perfect peace.