Alpha Amadu Bah the newsman with a passion for human interest news is no more

Alpha Bah

“Bah exited the scene on the highnoon- when the sun is at its highest” Alpha Kamara NYU

When I make friends, I keep them. That’s my philosophy. Hence, I make friends with people we share common interests with because I am genuine with my friends irrespective of the situation.

I met Alpha Amadu Bah over a decade and half ago when I was recruited as a regional reporter for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service SLBS now SLBC radio and TV. I was based in Makeni while Alpha Amadu Bah (The Best Man) was based in Freetown as a producer. At that time, SLBS had several producers interested in various things and programs. Bah was producing News File which was aired at midday Monday to Friday. 

We bonded with Alpha Amadu Bah quickly because of several other things, but most importantly one. The love for human interest stories or stories affecting the ordinary people in the streets. At that time, most SLBC producers were either interested on government stories to make them look good or interested in NGO paid up stories that bring quick rewards and recognition.

“I pitched several human rights and human-interest stories to some SLBC TV producers. They turned them down most of the times because their interests were somewhere else”. But Alpha Bah was different.  

“Alpha what’s happening at the hospital? How about the police? The courts? Any concerns from the public about fuel shortage, transportation, basic foodstuffs? I want to know about those things”, Bah, will always say to me. (SLBS news on Bah’s death)

As a result, we bonded because I became a journalist because of the genuine love of reporting stories of the vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. We became friends and I reported several controversial and human-interest stories for the SLBC. Our relationship continued even after I left the SLBC for the BBC Media Action, Alpha Amadu Bah always found time to include my reports in the News File program on SLBC. With him I reported from Mattru Jong, Bombali, Kambia, Koinadugu, Lungi, Lokomasama and Kenema.  

When there was a chieftaincy crisis in Lokomasama chiefdom, I visited there during my short vacation. Alpha Bah asked me to do a story on it. When I worked in Kambia, there were stories of border custom officials asking for bribes from drivers plying the route to Guinea. Bah asked me to do it. When I was in Mattru Jong, there were issues of rape against children. Bah asked me to do it. When I worked in Kabala, there was tension between cattle owners and farmers. Bah asked me to do that story. These are just few examples of the stories I did with Alpha Amadu Bah for the SLBC.

When a new born baby was stolen at the 34-military hospital in Freetown (that matter is still inconclusive), Alpha Bah was among the first journalists that brought that issue to light. He pressed on the issue until some interested parties in the story talked to some senior SLBC staff to kill the story. 

Because of the trust and passion for human-interest stories we both had, we became friends  

In 2013, I left the BBC and took up a job with Oxfam international as a Media and Communications officer. That was a time the Ebola outbreak was ravaging communities in the community. I was tasked by Oxfam to coordinate the media and communications aspect plus producing media content for the organization. I looked for my friends in the media. One was Alpha Amadu Bah.

When Ebola ravaged Kumala village in the Neini Chiefdom few miles to Guinea in the Koinadugu district, I wanted to showcase the challenges facing some of the communities where we were working in Sierra Leone. I spoke to Alpha Amadu Bah to go with me and he was happy to join the trip to Kumala. We left Freetown with an Oxfam car and slept in Makeni. We left Makeni to Kabala and later left Kabala for Kumala. The road was rough and rugged. But we made it through after 3 days on the road. 

Alpha Bah though tired was patient enough to get the story right from the affected people. He even looked for other stories that the people wanted to share for the attention of the government and their elected officials whom they say never visited them. We slept in tents in the Oxfam camp (an experience some Freetown based journalists will never go through), but he never complained. His humility was extraordinary. He loved going to the field and asking questions to the people up in the provinces.

“If you look at this picture of Bah doing the interview in Kumala, I was the person standing with the Oxfam T-Shirt. This was in 2014 at a time Kumala was termed as an Ebola hot zone”

Alpha Amadu Bah in Koinadugu doing a story on Ebola in 2014.

His report was shared by the Oxfam networks abroad and were used to highlight the Ebola plight in Kumala, Neini chiefdom Koinadugu district”. 

When I got a job outside Sierra Leone, Alpha will chat with me once on a while every time he has my new number. He doesn’t like social media and so he kept his professional life quiet on Facebook or even WhatsApp. Whenever I visitedSierra Leone, I will always find time to see Alpha Bah at SLBC or we will drive to Makeni to spend the weekend. 

The last time we were in Makeni together was during the SLAJ campaign. We organized a meeting to show solidarity to our brother and colleague Mohamed Asmieu Bah (current SLAJ Secretary) at the Where Else Guest House. Bah was as usual-full of humor, interesting and educative. We even ate dinner together prepared by a friend. We left Makeni the next day and went straight to his house at Scan Drive off Wilberforce in Freetown. I interacted briefly with his wife and kid before I left for Eastern Freetown. 

In August 2019, Bah was at my birthday party in Makeni. He was happy when I told him I was leaving for the US to pursue my Masters degree. He even gave me words of courage and advice to keep my head up. That was the last time I saw him. I left the country few days later.  From time to time I will chat with Alpha Bah on several issues. 

In December, I received news from another colleague that Bah was sick and he had a stomach surgery. I immediately contacted him on WhatsApp and Messenger. He told me he was recovering fine. We last had a chat in January. He asked me about the course, I told him I finished my Masters course in December last year. He even advised me to start looking for UN jobs. That was our last chat.

On February 10 around 7 am New York Time, I received a message from a female friend in Freetown. “She said Alpha Amadu Bah is dead. I was shocked still in bed. It sounded like fake news early in the morning.  I jumped down and went straight to social media. The posts were allover Facebook. Friends, colleagues all posted their passionate memories of Alpha Bah. Then I accepted that it was true. The Best Man is gone. SLBC has lost a gem. A person of character who is not interested in going live on TV like the others. All he was interested in was radio-using his voice to tell the stories of the vulnerable in return for nothing. 

This to me means, at “Exactly noon, when the sun is at its highest, your life was brightest, you left us just as he same streets that are inviting at noon are quiet and empty at night”

Since the loss of you, I’ve learned to live for each day, and take it as a blessing. Knowing it may not always be this way. I’ve learned that when everything goes wrong. To never give up on what is right. Because it can only make you strong. You said always do the right thing even if no one is watching. Alpha Amadu Bah you were strong and resilient. You and your good sense of humor will always be missed.

Alpha Amadu Bah the newsman with a passion for human interest news is no more
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