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Dr. Sylvia Blyden & the Presidentís Generosity Ė A Rejoinder to Cocorioko Online Article
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Mar 21, 2011, 12:48
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A Rejoinder to Dr. Sylvia Blyden & the Presidentís Generosity
to Chernor Ojuku-Sesay's (Diplomatic Press Attache in Brussels) Article published in COCORIOKO
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden

Chernor Ojuku-Sesay, indeed I am a practitioner of the Temne proverb, which says, "Give a thousand chances to your enemy to become your friend, but donít give a single chance to your friend to become your enemy". This is the reason why despite all your pro-APC rantings and personal attacks against me to the extent of publishing foul invectives against me on the front pages of your POOL Newspaper in March 2008, I have never allowed that to affect my friendship with you. I took a vow a long time ago not to ever allow politics to come between me and my friends.


Now, for the benefit of our readers and for posterity, allow me to correct you. You have not known me for "a little over 13 years now" as you claim. Chernor, you first spoke to me on the phone in August 1999 which is precisely 11 years and 7 months ago. Before August 1999, I had never in my life spoken to you let alone met you. The dated period is specific to me and I will recount why.


On July 12th 1999, Concord Times Newspaper published an interview by one Umar Fofana with you from your then hide-out in Makabie village, Northern Sierra Leone.


On July 13th 1999, I returned to Washington DC, USA from Lome, Togo where Sierra Leone had just signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on July 7th 1999. Without going into much detail, I will just say I was easily one of the proudest persons on this earth at that time.


When I got home from the airport, I opened my computer to browse for Sierra Leone news covering the Lome Peace Accord and one of the first news item I read was the July 12th 1999 online Concord Times report which spoke of your plight hiding away in Makabie for over one year to avoid falling into the hands of pro-SLPP Kamajors and ECOMOG Nigerian soldiers. It was a good article by Umar Fofana that probably aimed at consolidating our countryís newfound peace. Your plight struck me and it crossed my mind to send some money for you but your plight did not make a huge personal impact.


However, about two weeks later, I got my regular bundle of newspapers sent from Sierra Leone to me in Washington D.C. and I read a vitriolic and nasty coverage inside a pro-SLPP newspaper about Chernor Ojuku-Sesay and Sheka Tarawalie, former Editor of TORCHLIGHT, in which the journalist [name withheld] described both your gaunted physical conditions and tattered clothes in a highly provocative manner. Your only crime according to the author was that you had both supported Dialogue with AFRC rebels. I was shocked at the taunts and I became so moved by your plight that even though I had never personally met you or Shekito in my life, I decided that seeing you were suffering for the exact same reasons why some of us had self-exiled ourselves for our safety, I should do what I could to assist you financially.


At the time, many of my Nigerian friends who had been in self-exile from Sani Abacha and whom I had given selfless service to in the form of computer, websites and internet work as well as assisting with typing secret radio broadcasts into Nigeria from America on Radio NADECO, were now in positions of *VERY, VERY* powerful authority in Nigeria. They recalled all my assistance during our days in exile and they ensured I was well taken care of. I thus looked at my status in America where I was very comfortably living in a posh house in Potomac, Maryland and compared it to yours hiding out in a village in Northern Sierra Leone and I recalled the words of my late great-grandmother who helped to raise me up until I was 15 years old.


My late Grandma Ella Editha Nicol was one of the most generous women and she loved to say "There but for the grace of God, goes I". That is what she would always say when she would see someone in need and would dig into her pocket to assist them whilst explaining to us her great-grandkids that the recipientís calamity could have befallen any of us and so we should always render assistance to those less fortunate than us. I imbibed those teachings of late Ella Nicol like my dear mother and her own mother, late Rosamund Marsh did.


So it was that in July 1999, I read of your plights and seeing we had held similar viewpoints, I could have been the one in your plight. This, for me, was a classic case of "There but for the grace of God, goes I" and I vowed to make sure I not only assisted you with just one lump sum of money but that I will do all I could to ensure you both not only re-opened your POOL and TORCHLIGHT newspapers but you also became financially self-sufficient once again in this world thus putting your detractors to wonder.


Chernor, I did not have the foggiest idea as to how to reach out to you in Makabie village or to reach out to Sheka Tarawalie but I set about to do just that. I first contacted Concord Times who told me that it had been through a stroke of luck that they had managed to communicate with you during a trip out of Freetown with ECOMOG and they had no idea how to get on to you again. I did not let up. I was determined to find you.


I then enlisted the help of a former Juba Hills neighbour of mine, the current Njala University Lecturer Jia Kangbai who was by then a freelance journalist. I engaged Jia Kangbai to do all he could to locate you two guys and put you in touch with me. I sent the sum of US$100 (One Hundred Dollars) to Jia Kangbai with instructions that I will send him even more money if he needed it but that he was to find both you and Sheka Tarawalie.


Jia Kangbai is a living witness that he was the one who finally located you for me in August 1999 and it was Jia Kangbai who first connected the two of us by telephone but try as hard as Jia Kangbai could, he was unable to locate Sheka Tarawalie (I finally located Shekito on my own but that is another story for another day!)


That was how Jia Kangbai not only located you from your hiding place and ensured he brought you into telephone contact with me in August 1999 but him and yourself teamed up to submit a financial proposal to me for Desktop Publishing services which you said would help you get a more steady source of income until POOL newspaper picked up. You named the business as OJIA'S (Ojuku & Jia) and I personally financed the setting up of every single thing in OJIA's Business Center alongside the re-setting up of THE POOL newspaper.


Contrary to rumours by my detractors, every single penny I poured into those enterprises was legitimate. Not a single penny was from any rebel or nefarious source. Between the income my Nigerian political friends would make available to me through computer and website development contracts, I was very comfortable in America and with the imbibed doctrine of "There but for the grace of God, goes I" I never failed to assist you even at the time I had not even met you in person.


Brother Chernor, you will agree with me that for over two years (1999 until 2002), I not only built up THE POOL newspaper but I was responsible for the staff salaries every single month. I never failed to send down by Western Union, the required Le500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Leones) at that time to cover monthly salaries for POOL staff. I also opened a website for THE POOL newspaper. As a result, THE POOL newspaper would regularly rush to my defence when other newspapers would try to unfairly defame me. Even without me soliciting this, I was safe in the knowledge that if I was unfairly attacked in the local media, my brother Chernor Ojuku Sesay would ensure he responded to defend me.


I have taken my time to explain all the above because the unwitting reader might read into your words and make assumptions especially with your Ďover 13 yearsí timeline given.


Now, let me come to the crux of your points.


Chernor, indeed, during the war-years, we were both on the same side of urging for a peaceful solution involving DIALOGUE as against MILITARY INTERVENTION. History was to later prove us to be right and our Sani Abacha-backed detractors within the SLPP were proved to be wrong. It does not mean that I am to hate the SLPP forever and ever more because they refused to listen to my reasoning back then. Even presently, I have urged the SLPP not to fall into the current trap of holding intra-party elections but they did not listen to me and they went ahead to hold their elections and the fall-out has been simply spectacular and growing each day! Does that mean because they do not listen to me, I will stop providing what I believe to be the correct guidance for the SLPP? No way!


As an independent and free thinker, I will continue to advise the SLPP as well as the APC. It is up to them to listen to me or disregard me. My duties, under Section 13 of our National Constitution, instruct me to ensure I make positive contributions towards the advancement of all democratic processes; be they SLPP or APC.


I have always said and I will continue to say that every single thing I have done that concerns my country Sierra Leone, is something I am extremely proud of. There is nothing I have done concerning Sierra Leone which I am ashamed of. My conscience sits very, very well with me in everything I say or do or write both now and in the past. That, for me, is the most important thing and not what APC or SLPP Griots write against me.


My next point is to note your current inability to understand my written English. I urge you to re-read my articles again and you will find out that at no point in time have I written to accuse President Koroma of stealing from Government Funds. All I have done is to question where could the President be getting these huge sums of monies from? The only person who has accused (DIRECTLY ACCUSED) the President of taking State Funds to dish out to people on the streets of Freetown has been your fellow APC Griot, Mr. Mohamed 'One Drop' Sankoh who most categorically informed the world that the answer to the question of where the President was getting these monies, was from State Imprests and Per Diem travelling allowances.


Honestly, reading your attack on me reinforces my strong belief that APC Griots are an extremely intolerant bunch of people. Few days ago, my newspaper was the ONLY SIERRA LEONE NEWSPAPER that published photos of massive crowds of Freetown Traders and Women singing and dancing in their bright red colours, songs of praises for Ernest Bai Koroma. This is not the first time we have been the exclusive reporter of pro-APC developments with photos. There have been numerous occasions when even the APC mouthpiece We Yone Newspaper will appeal to Awareness Times for us to give them our exclusive published photos. You rarely acknowledge such pro-APC coverage but the minute I publish criticisms grounded in the public interest, you start jumping all over like salted earthworms and attack me of being vitriolic. Total Intolerance!


You APC Griots are so intolerant! Everything should be perpetually rosy painted and pro-APC in slant or else...!!! Here is a section of what was recently published less than ten days ago, in an Awareness Times article with title of "In Sierra Leone, Ernest Enjoys Traders Red Support":

ď...Some of the banners displayed by the traders read thus: ďErnest you done woke 2012 we go put you back,Ē ďWell done APCĒ, ďErnest Koroma is Sierra Leoneís best presidentĒ. All of the songs by the traders were centered on what they described as the good work the president was doing... The presidentís address to the traders was severally and frequently disrupted by thunderous applause from the traders; an occurrence that indicates that President Koroma still enjoys support from the traders, especially the Abacha Street traders...Ē


Chernor, I did not have to publish the above words with accompanying photos but I did so because my conscience tells me that if I am running an independent newspaper that is to be trusted, the world needs to get an all-round image of what happens despite the attempts to slant it by shameless partisans from red and/or green houses.


I do not hate the President nor will I use the term 'vitriolic' to describe my newspaper's approach to covering his activities. It is not that some of us hate President Koroma when we highlight his shortcomings. It is just that some of us serve our conscience first in a country where integrity is a dwindling commodity.


I enjoyed your personalisation of the issue which heightened my generous traits to the world. Thanks. I appreciated that Big brother (GRIN). Like President Koroma, my horoscope star is the generous Libran and not only that but I have noticed that I have quite a similar character to the President's. I once told him that I am learning from his vices (some of which I unfortunately share) how not to do certain things if I eventually become President of this country by the grace of God. I also thank God that like me, the President is far more tolerant than many of his APC praise-singers! If some of you were President, you would have executed me or chased me out of this country by now or even hung some kind of Government case on me! No joke!


Before ending, I here confirm the information you have dished out that I gave a few thousand leones to the workers on your building site at Masiaka few weeks ago. But you will recall how I did it. I first asked for the Head of your workmen and then I asked him how many workers were there and when he responded, I counted the sum of money to ensure each worker received a certain sum and handed it to the Head of the workmen. I did not arrive at the scene and spontaneously dish out one million leones to the youths and then drive off as that would have simply set the stage for a commotion over how the huge chunk of one million leones money was to be shared. Hope you get my drift?


Finally, Chernor Ojuku Sesay, only you will decide to stop seeing me as a sister because I can assure you that you will always be my brother Ė political differences notwithstanding. May God continue to bless you, may God bless Sierra Leone and may God guide us all. ¬†Amen.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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