A Happy Birthday in Absence, Cole aka Alhaji Buhari Bello

By Abdul Suhood Komeh, London, UK. September 5, 2023.

Sincerity in telling others they are better all round humans is priceless. It’s also basic decency.

Think about it. One doesn’t have to patronise or kowtow for personal benefit, or any reason. But from time to time, making a genuine, unsolicited appraisal of a closed one, letting them know they aren’t defined by incidental shortcomings but their best qualities, is a wonderful thing to do. It removes their self-doubts. It helps them make the best aspects of themselves better, nudging them to the responsibility of shedding or modifying their shortfalls.
The height of luck and privilege, meeting the most decent and proud man, Buhari Bello. And at just eight years old (we both were). A childhood-friend who became a blood brother, and introduced me to a host of other people who ended up being influential contemporaries, and now trusted sisters and brothers too.
Loyal and generous above recompense. Bello loved me so much, he insisted I made part of a dance crew he co-formed. Damn!, we conquered the Freetown of our imagination, mesmerised the Sierra Leone of our scope, nearly all of it.
The chemistry never deteriorated. Always together, even when geographically apart in our later years. So bounded by destiny, we left Freetown on the same day, same flight, same destination, same ambition: to escape the difficulties and anxieties of young adulthood in 1990s Sierra Leone.
The elegant strip of The Gambia, hosted us, absorbed us like we were born there. Accordingly, once we formed and broadened ties, adapting to minor cultural differences was the smallest matter. We were lucky. We blossomed. We were grateful.
Before The Gambia, we had only two things at our disposal: 1) youthful exuberance, which we invested in the will to leave, and 2) confidence that we were just about talented, and at least within the margins of being able to survive outside Sierra Leone’s borders.
Considering the miserly opportunities or almost none at home, and how things panned out, it wasn’t too bad a leap. Crucially, we took the jump of our lives because we wanted to survive. Not apart, but together. Maybe we realised, including others in our fraternity, we had to confound those who wrote us off, even though we were just teenagers trying to cleave a path.
What a brotherhood we had.
Relationships can only be sustained when built on genuine trust in each other; where faith in one another is so firmly rooted, human shortcomings aren’t hastily misinterpreted to a malicious ulterior. Friendship matures to brotherhood especially when that most stupid of human emotions, jealousy, and it’s sibling, selfishness, in whatever guise they rear, are laughed-off for the limiting shackles they always are, and will always be.
Bello and I lived and grew up at the same compound in Kissy, Freetown. From very early in our lives, we accomplished a mutual respect that allowed a relationship without ever a single row or a kids’ fight! Never! And there are tons of witnesses to support that statement. If we disagreed, we did so cordially. Reconciling any differences before decay sets in. Maturity beyond our ages.
Suddenly, some four weeks ago, Buhari Bello died in China while I slept like a baby in Britain. Waking up to dozens of missed calls. Every caller, is surprisingly familiar. Not yet fully awake, I muttered the thought: have I missed out on an elaborate prank? Within minutes of my waking, the answer became clear and far from a joke, but utterly devastating news. The callers were kind people reaching out to extend condolences at the loss of OUR friend, a truly wonderful man.

From that eventful Thursday morning, it still feels impossible that Bello could die. And that monstrous question-without-answer at the loss of a loved one, ushered itself to the front of the mind: Why Bello and not another person? It plagued me for periods. Thankfully, suppressed humanity resurfaced to replace it with an even more thoroughgoing question: this other person, chosen to defer immediate bereavement, like Bello, haven’t they relatives and friends who loved them, might miss them, depended on them for laughter, affection, etc? Sometimes at loss, we are at our most selfish, even if fleetingly or silently.
It matters not, how imprinted in our conscious or subconscious it is, that death is inevitable. Most of us still harbour an unfounded entitlement or perhaps a wish, that we and our closest friends and relatives must be slightly luckier on good health and longevity of life. But of course, such thinking is just that, wishful, not grounded in reality but ‘Hope’.
Hope’ fascinates me. A belief of mine, as I’m sure for a lot of people, is that in all aspects of our selves, our beings, the instance we rely on, or revert to ‘Hope’, we reveal fundamental limitations in confronting our situations, good or bad.
When we ‘hope’, we have no solutions, intellectually or otherwise.
But then again the human is nothing without ‘hope’. And even when we are pragmatic enough to acknowledge the incoherence, and instability of ‘Hope’, life is impossible without saving a tiny spot for ‘Hope’.
Hope’ makes life liveable when we fall short of knowing what to do. For that alone, ‘Hope’ isn’t or can’t be a bad thing. To ‘hope’ is living.
That the human has the capacity to ‘hope’, is one of its best strategies, mechanisms for survival; ‘hope’ birthed inquiry; inquiring gave birth to science, philosophy, poetry, art, etc. Hope gives us the peace of understanding that the absence of solution does not mean discovery is impossible. In ‘hope’, the worst pain, harshest suffering, is made bearable. Because ‘hope’ is optimism that things would improve. It holds no reason or ration. Yet sometimes ‘hope’ is all we need.
A dear brother died. Convincing myself he retains a hovering presence here, or anywhere, seems illogical. At least to me. But frankly I really don’t care about rigour of thought, or imagination today. Right now, and on this day in particular, I desperately need ‘hope’. If only for my brother to see this post. Today, I desperately ‘hope’ every single word of the clergy is right. That there is an afterworld/ life. If for nothing else but the personal chance to say happy birthday in wherever you are today, my brother, Bell Biv Buhari.
He made a mark, if on no one else but my modest existence. I now realised I loved him more than I said. Yet I’m comforted, I sensed the bereavement is a touch less-painful in knowledge that when the opportunity presented itself, I told Buhari what a great human he was.

Suhood Komeh (left) with Alhaji Buhari Bello