Tinhu, Sogbindi Chiefdom, Bonthe District, has attracted attention of late. This is because one of its kith and kin is at the helm of affairs steering the state ship.
Since the elections were announced, many journalists and other Sierra Leoneans, from other sectors of the economy, are rushing to Tihun. A friend had jokingly told me that the place is fast becoming a tourist attraction site.
The purposes for such visits to the tiny village are varied. Some go there to solicit pertinent information about President Bio’s earlier life, while some business entities and government agencies visit to see possible areas where they can invest or help.
A case in point is the GSM companies (Africell& Orange) which have immediately rushed in and installed poles to help the resolve the acute communication problem that residents of Tihun have been facing.
On the 4th August,2018,it was the turn of the nightwatch Newspaper, as its Managing Editor and Proprietor, Mr. Emmanuel C. Thorli, and his Staff Writer, Ralph Sesay, set off for Tinhu Village. The village is approximately 52 miles from the southern City of Bo.
The visit coincided with the first Saturday national cleaning day. We had set off with all our necessary documents that will identify us as journalists. We boarded a commercial motorcycle driven by a popular okada rider at the Bo-Matru road nicknamed ‘Go Police’.
We left at exactly 6am. The morning was wet and the road was also very slippery. Our humorous rider,‘Go Police,’ had told us that the road has just been graded by the First Tricon Nigerian Company that was recently awarded the 72 Km road project. As our rider was taking on the slippery road we could sense massive earthworks and huge clearing of bush forest, which hasfurther expanded the road with numerous narrow bridges.
At exactly 7am, an hour into the journey, we started envisaging checkpoints mounted either by the Police, in areas that had Police Posts along the way, or areas where the villagers, through their Paramount chiefs, had set up Youth leaders and Counselors.
They mounted these checkpoints to stop people travelling along these routes until the cleaning exercise ended at 12midday.We and our rider became victims as we were regularly stopped and prevented from moving.
We had to identify ourselves and moved on, even though, in some areas, we had serious encounters. A case in point was at Matou village, bordering between Bo and Bonthe District, where the no-nonsense female Paramount Chief, Madam Melrose Forster Gberie and Counsellor Lamin Sheriff of Ward 320, Constituency 091, had insisted that we should work before proceeding. They later allowed us to proceed after we explained our role.
The story was the same also for Bawuyu Junction, which is few kilometers to Tihun, where we met a Police patrol vehicle clamping down on people who had come out to sell local foodstuffs very early in the morning.
At last, after a two hour thirty minutes ride, which was full of stops, we arrived at the residence of Paramount Chief Stephen Bayon of Tihun, Sogbindi Chiefdom, Bonthe District.
The fair and short old man heartily welcomed us to his big, spacious and clean compound at Tihun Village, Sogbindi Chiefdom invery good spoken English.
As inquisitive as we were as journalists, we immediately spotted a wall framed group picture of President Bio, Alie Kabbah and Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance, Paramount Chief and some other people that were identified to us as chiefs. The picture, we were told, was taken during the campaign trail when the President briefly visited the area.
We spoke lengthily with the Paramount Chief on several issues including his present feelings now that one of theirs is President, developments so far in Tihun since President Bio was elected into office as President, constrains and challenges and the chieftaincy lineage in the chiefdom.
He was very proud to note the numerous goodies Tihun is already enjoying and this, according to him, include a clear and crystal communication network from Africell and Orange GSM companies.
One of the networks, Africell, is offering free Africell to Africell calls in the area and most of the surrounding villages. We were able to enjoy the free calls as we made several calls to Freetown upon learning about this. The calls were very clear and much better than in Freetown.
As we moved around the village we saw massive erection of electric poles and cables right across the village in readiness for installation of solar lights to the entire village. He entreated us to call on government to bring more developments to the village.
P.C. Bayon further noted that he is the fifth in the line of Paramount Chiefs that have ruled Sogbindi chiefdom. He mentioned all the four (4) paramount chiefs before him were from the Bio lineage and that includes the father of the President, his uncle and brothers.
We took leave of the Paramount chief and visited other areas in the village, including the family house of the President where we met Madam Tity Hassan (nee Bio) who introduced herself as the elder sister of President Bio.
We also saw a new storey structure and another edifice, which, we were told, is the tomb of the late P.C. Charlie Bio of blessed memory, the father of the President.
We were also presented to Mr. Mark-Mos Bio, the eldest member of the family currently residing in Tihun. He looks very much sick. He recounted the earlier life of the President who, according to him, was destined to be a leader.
According to him, the President’s mother had struggled very hard with their father, competing with several other wives, whose numbers were even not known. He disclosed to us that the humility of the President’s mother could have paved the way for the success of his son, who, he noted, has occupied the throne twice in the country’s history.
Mr. Bio Sr. also took some time to dilate on the lineage system, in which he noted that he had contested once with the present chief, Paramount Chief Stephen Bayon, for the throne. According to him, it is their family, the Biolineage that has ruled the chiefdom from time immemorial.
Bio Sr. was insinuating that the colonial masters had only left a single ruling house in the Sogbindi chiefdom, which, to a large extent, is subject to further investigation.
The old man had revealed some electioneering mishaps that had marred the election of the present chief who he contested with some ten years ago. As it has always been the case, the APC was again accused of having interfered with the process through vote buying.
The team later visited the President’s former Primary School, R.C. School Tihun and the hospital, which is a Community Health Center.
The midwife at the center, Madam Jennifer Sargie, gave us a run-down of the drugs’ supply at the center. She noted that the supply is constant. She also indicated the drop in teenage pregnancy and under five death rates in the chiefdom.
She equally told us that deliveries at their CHC have increased due to the strong intervention of the local stakeholders.
By the time we left we were able to learn that improvements have been done at the Roman Catholic Primary School and plans are also afoot to build a police post in the town.
This was how we wrapped up our visit and later left at almost 11am back to Bo city. We enjoyed every bit of the trip as we had quite a humorous rider, ‘Go Police,’ who revealed a lot of issues to us, including Traffic Police corruption along the Matru-Jong route, especially in places like Tikonko Road Junction.
Police extortion, along the Bo-Matru Jong road, is rife. Ahuge number of unlicensed and overloaded motorcycles carrying pylons with no safety helmetsare the order of the day.
Go Police has also hinted us on what had transpired in Sogbindi Chiefdom in the 2018 election.
It was interesting to note that some natives of Tihun had even vowed that their houses be broken if President Bio wins the 2018 election. ‘Go Police’ had identified several chiefs along the Bo-Matru Jong road who were not supporting President Bio and were dodging him during his campaigns in the area.