On this day (July 12th) five years ago in Year 2005, the first edition of this newspaper hit the streets of Freetown. The Staff Association of Awareness Times, led by their Chairman, Bampia James Bundu jnr., is organising a Five Years Celebration bonanza. They tell me they have football matches, T-shirts, Parties and prayers in Mosques and Churches organised. I am just an ordinary invitee to the events. The celebrations are theirs. Awareness Times is an institution much bigger than Sylvia Blyden! For me, today, I reflect on the past five years and how, why and on whose behalf, I was inspired to open a newspaper.
Five years ago, using my business skills and the experience of the Editor-In-Chief, Sayoh Kamara, we produced a product that soon became a hot favourite trusted by many newspaper readers in the country. Within a short time, especially with the manner in which we took on the feared Anti Corruption Commission on behalf of the late Gloria Newman-Smart in July 2005, we shot right up that very year to take prominent place amongst the top five newspapers in Sierra Leone and at this present time, it is an indisputable fact that this newspaper is the highest selling newspaper in Sierra Leone with the widest possible readership in and out of the country. We give our Advertisers value for their money. The Sierra Leone Roads Authority recently confirmed that during their road project land-ownersí adverts placement in various newspapers, ALL the responses from provincial land-owners ranging from Kambia up North to Kailahun down East, said they read about the Notices from the Awareness Times newspaper! Value for our advertisersí money indeed!
Looking back five years later, what was supposed to be a part-time hobby has transformed me and I am now a full-time Publisher who has neglected the other money-making ventures I used to engage upon. I have turned down huge Internet & Website financial contracts because I have been too engrossed with publishing newspapers! That is how much I love what I do as a newspaper Publisher. The appreciation I get from all over the country by the many fans of this newspaper is hard to describe and leaves me emotional sometimes. The V.I.P. Treatment I am given at offices and other locations all around Sierra Leone is simply because I am a newspaper Publisher who has positively impacted so many lives with what I publish.
My team has produced well over 1,100 editions of this newspaper and frankly, we are yet to be found credibly wanting in any Media Commission finding or Court Case. The so-called Media Commission findings against us re: the Zimbabwe Emails are still waiting the attention of a response from the IMC to our Legal Brief challenging it; that was filed some two years ago! The fact that the Cause Book at the Law Courts shows a totally blank input from the IMCís Lawyers, speaks volumes about the veracity of their so-called findings against us that we rejected! This is a credible newspaper. At five years of age, we are proud of ourselves.
Many people ask me all the time why I am so fearless in my writings. My response is quite simple. If you stand on the Truth when writing, there is nothing to fear. As a Christian, I know that the God I serve, will always, always protect me so long as I am standing up for the Truth and saying the Truth. The God I serve has brought me a long way on my Journey of Truth and surely he is not going to abandon me when the journey is only half completed. That confidence in the Supreme God I serve, is the secret behind my fearless writings. That confidence is the reason why I say things as I see them without fear or favour. As long as I am serving my God and my Conscience in this service to my country, I have nothing to fear so I will write and write without fear of what any mortal can do to me. As a Christian, I am also guided not by my own understanding in a lot of what I undertake. I pray and lean on my God for a lot of guidance and this confidence that I am guided in all I undertake is also another of the strong pillars that make up this unwavering newspaper Publisher.
Now, this my belief in saying things as I see them, without fear or favour, now leads me to my next point today. This is the issue of Dr. Christiana Thorpe, the National Electoral Commissioner.
Whilst it is only in the last five years that I have been overtly involved in journalism, it is a fact that I had been a shadow-editor since my University days. As far back as 1990, as a medical student, I had helped to shadow-edit some of the leading newspapers. Wait for my first published memoirsÖ [SMILE].
So, whilst it is probably inevitable that I would have eventually opened a newspaper, the timing of my launching of this newspaper came about when un-informed Internet users out of Sierra Leone, lambasted the current Elections Chair, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, as being unfit for the job to the extent of even misinforming the world that she had been rejected by the then-opposition APC when the reality was that in April 2005, she had been unanimously approved by all sides of the aisle in Parliament.
I had realised the import of the credibility of the 2007 Elections and the need for it to be perceived as being run on a level Playing Field. There was thus a need to put out credible news information such as the fact that Christiana Thorpe was approved and accepted to be a fair referee by all participants of then-upcoming 2007 Elections. So, in light of my current stance against Dr. Christiana Thorpe, the truth is that a defence of Christiana Thorpeís Year 2005 approval by all MPs inspired the creation of Awareness Times newspaper.
I have few regrets in setting up Awareness Times. Of course, there is the reduction in my Income caused by neglecting other more lucrative ventures. However, I will be remiss on this my paperís 5th anniversary if I do not say one of my regrets, five years thence, is that Dr. Christiana Thorpe has shown she does not have the moral backbone that Parliamentarians had believed she had when they unanimously approved her to conduct the 2007 Elections some five years ago! If she had the correct moral make-up, there is no way she would force her current imposition upon the objections of the SLPP, the countryís main opposition political party!
In my view, it is an outright shame that Dr. Christiana Thorpe could not have developed the moral fortitude to turn down the renewal of her contract when the countryís main opposition SLPP party is so vehemently against her conducting the 2012 Elections. Why is she forcing to referee a match where one team has shown cogent and valid reasons as to why they simply cannot afford to trust her to referee the said match?! Where is this womanís Integrity and Self-respect?
The scenario is like the recent World Cup scenario of England vs. Germany match where a referee never allowed Englandís Frank Lampardís Goal against Germany but Information Technology and Television Replays proved it was a goal. Now, imagine, if you will, that same referee going on to be forcefully nominated by FIFAís President Sepp Blatter to ref the next England-Germany match despite protestations of England. Utterly ridiculous scenario which will never happen in a civilised society anyway! Civilised societies and civilised people understand the import of a level playing field. This is why former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, despite his majority in the Parliament, did not impose Mr. Ahmed Akar against the wishes of the Ernest Koroma led APC minority and this is why the dogmatic insistence of Christiana Thorpe to¬† be the one to conduct 2012 Elections is a disgrace!
Some of us cannot forget why she hurriedly wiped off the 2007 mathematically-impossible Elections Results from that NEC Website and even brought the website down in inglorious infamy when the cat was let out of the bag..! Five years later, looking back, how I wish I had never stood up to defend her integrity back then in 2005! Truly, she has shown that she has little integrity to defend and she has let down all those MPs and all those citizens like me who had believed she had strong integrity.
Whilst I have blamed international actors like Carlos Valenzuela and UNís Victor Angelo for the 2007 inglorious mathematically-impossible Elections results, I have always excused Christiana Thorpeís ignoble 2007 behaviour as being a result of her very poor Mathematical skills that caused her to surrender the elections results calculations to Valenzuela and his team of Ďcomputer expertsí who doctored and doctored and doctored the results to get what they wanted the computer to give out as the Final Results.
I excused Dr. Thorpe from the doctoring in the now-vain hope that she would not attempt to pass herself off for a second renewal of her contract. However, her brazen display of shameless imposition upon the objections of the SLPP, only shows her acts of 2007 might afterall not just be a result of an aberration in her brainís mathematical prowess; but a wilful and deceitful act in concert with international actors. And this is why the 2012 Elections are already tainted even before they have begun! There is no way the Ernest Koroma led APC can say they have provided a level Playing Field for the 2012 ElectionsÖ Not with Dr. Christiana Ayoka M. Thorpe as the National Electoral Commissioner! No way!
Madam Commissioner, if no-one has yet publicly told you so, please Dr. Christiana Thorpe, allow me to tell you, OF JUST WHAT A DISGRACE YOU ARE for forcing yourself to conduct the 2012 Elections in Sierra Leone! I do not care how many International accolades you win or how many international gatherings you address, nothing can erase the fact that your NEC doctored the 2007 Elections Results and then, with bare-faced cheek, you wiped off the evidence of your doctoring from the face of the earth by bringing down your own website and all data. You are enjoying an ill-deserved glory but time has a way of ensuring truth, crushed to the ground, rises again. For now, rest assured that, to some of us, your former admirers, you are a shameful disgrace and certainly not a heroine! I only hope your shameful insistence to be the one to conduct the 2012 General Elections against the strong objections of AT LEAST 1 MILLION SIERRA LEONEANS, does not plunge this country backwards! I listened to your gobbledegook spoken at State House about the Ďenviable collaborative partisan effortsí that saw your renewal of contract in Parliament. You seem to be living in your own world probably thinking that if you and your cohorts repeat lies often enough, the lies will become truth! Who told you there was enviable parliamentary collaboration in your recent Ďapprovalí? For Godís sake, in case you did not notice, the largest opposition party walked out on you in disgust! IN DISGUST! Madam, on the 5th Anniversary of the Newspaper that was set up to defend your honour five years ago, let me end my piece by reiterating to you that you are a very big disgrace Dr. Christiana Thorpe!
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.