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Making A Total Mockery of Excellence!
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
May 4, 2011, 17:00
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I would probably not have said a single word about the outcome of the so-called Women of Excellence Awards in Sierra Leone in which Americas First Lady Michelle Obama was given a most well-deserved award alongside some other pretty remarkable women and a very deserving former MP, Alusine Fofana, because even with all its embarrassing organizational flaws, celebrating Excellence is a good concept.

However, I am forced to condemn the Event as a Total Mockery of Excellence when it comes to the judges deciding to award one Bernadette Cole for her so-called role in regulating the media in Sierra Leone through the Independent Media Commission (IMC) which she heads. Within minutes of that particular award being announced, I fired a strong SMS text message to the mobile phones of Chief Organiser Isha Johansen (Tejan-Cole) and her so-called Chief Judge Oluni Robbin-Coker to express my disgust, which I now understand is being reflected all over numerous circles in Sierra Leone. How could Isha allow her wonderful concept of excellence to become so badly de-railed by such an ill-deserved award to this Bernadette Cole woman?

Let me start by informing for the record that I personally nominated Haja Kadi Johnson (nee Macauley), current Head of Womens Programmes at the SLBC for the Media Award that was ill-given to Bernadette Cole. Haja Kadi Macauley has rendered 25 years of dedicated service to this country in the Media and I thought she was well deserved of such an award far more than any other woman in the media including myself. However, had any other woman been given the award, it would not have riled me up like coles.

Mrs. Bernadette Coles tenure at IMC has been fraught with an inability to regulate the media because of bad decisions, personal vendettas, public LIES, weak leadership & partisan outlooks protective of persons thought to be seeking interests of certain politics.

Her tenure has been a disgrace notwithstanding all the huge sums of monies she has personally signed to collect from the coffers of the United Nations Peace Building Fund (UNPBF)! On one occasion alone, documentary evidence shows how in March 2010, she was involved in the collection by persons of a current equivalent of approximately Three Hundred and Fifty Million Leones (Le350,000,000.00) from the UNPBF. This year alone, a huge tranche of funds from the United Nations and Donor Countries was allocated to Media Monitoring by the IMC.

Now, the question is: Where is the effect of all the Donor Funds which Bernadette Cole has been signing for in the name of the IMC? Can it be seen in the Media Landscape? Let us take a look.

Ask any honest opposition SLPP member and they will respond, without hesitation, that the Cole IMC has been mostly unfair to SLPP members who took complaints there. The partisan tinge of handling SLPP complaints has not been limited to only SLPP members but has been extended to persons perceived as being sympathetic to plights of SLPP whilst persons deemed to be in favour of the governing APC have been protected. The examples abound!

A very senior citizen and avid pro-SLPP writer who was a former Foreign Minister, a former Finance Minister, a former Development Minister, amongst numerous other Cabinet titles he held with distinction and aplomb is Dr. Sama Banya. Currently retired from active politics, Banya uses his pen to objectively highlight his criticisms of the ruling APC Government whilst constantly reminding the public of the good things that used to accompany the Tejan Kabbah led SLPP Government. I recently had a brush with him but I will be the first to admit that he is a very convincing writer.

However, in an open attempt to intimidate Dr. Sama Banya into silence, a notorious journalist in the person of Philip Neville coined up probably the sickest possible allegation. Neville alleged on his newspaper and over the Internet, with no proof, that the late sister of Dr. Sama Banya, had a child for Banya which pregnancy saw her wailing in her compound. In understandable displeasure, Banya took his case to Bernadette Coles IMC for redress especially to preserve the memory of his late sister, a woman like Bernadette Cole. Disgracefully, the Bernadette Cole led findings was that since the late sister and her husband were now dead and no DNA test could be conducted on their bodies to determine the fatherhood of the impugned child, Philip Neville was not to be sanctioned. Incredible Media Regulation! This kind of regulating is what Isha Johansen has caused to be awarded as an example of excellence. What a disgrace! And to imagine Americas First Lady Michelle Obama was awarded alongside such? What an embarrassment...!

The examples of such findings abound but what is most despicable is the inability of Bernadette Coles IMC to sanction those most deserving of such like Neville who takes delight in unfounded character assassination. Take the recent case of Madam Binta  who was mercilessly scandalised by Neville in his IMC-regulated newspaper. You can never take away from Madam Binta  that she is an extremely hard-working woman and a successful entrepreneur who has seen her own share of grief in this countrys national politics. Very few people know or recall that she was imprisoned alongside current President Ernest Koroma on March 18th 1993 on the unfounded allegations of one Stephen Cathys Bio, the elder brother of the then very-powerful Julius Maada Bio of the defunct NPRC Military regime. As a result, Madam Binta  was to lose a tremendous amount of her investments back then but she carefully rebuilt her entrepreneurial business only to further suffer more detentions and distress during the unstable times of the immediate post-war period. Today, she is a shining example of what an independent female entrepreneur can achieve. She is a quiet person who goes about her business without rancour but she is a Woman of Substance! This is the same Madam Binta  who, with no provocation whatever, was bitterly scandalised less than a fortnight ago on the front pages of the same Philip Nevilles Standard Times newspaper. Despicable character assassination took center-stage for a matter, I am now told, Madam Binta  had little idea about. The Bernadette Cole led IMC was content to let such despicable journalism against a Woman of Substance like Madam Binta , go un-sanctioned. This is the kind of Media Regulation that Isha Johansen has allowed Bernadette Cole to be awarded for alongside Michelle Obama and other worthy women. What a disgrace!

Mrs. Bernadette Cole went to college with my parents. I am the second child of my married parents born in 1971 some three years after they were married. However, Philip Neville, with no form of provocation from me, has insulted my dear mother on his newspaper pages, that another man impregnated her in her marital home to give birth to me. Rather than sanctioning such despicable journalism, this Bernadette Cole who led IMC keeps on disgracing us all in the media with her disgraceful leadership of the IMC, had the temerity to have the IMC write and blame me for Philip Neville insulting my mother because of what Neville says is unprofessional journalism he was rectifying.

Maybe Neville can teach Bernadette Cole and her fellow Commissioners about professional journalism but a man like Neville with loads of libel cases in court, has nothing to teach me or my staff at Awareness Times. First, with no provocation from me, Neville went over the air-waves to rant and rave against me to the extent of even saying over the radio that he knows my grandfather and my parents and myself and what my family was capable of doing. As if that was not enough, he manufactured sexually-based allegations against me all in a bid to intimidate me, as a woman, from my newspapers highlighting of why his pro-APC newspapers preferred choice of Maada Bio was unfit for purpose. It was insults about my sex-life designed to intimidate me from expressing my views on national issues. Any woman heading an IMC worth its salt would never allow such sexual insults against another woman to go un-sanctioned. But we are talking about the Bernadette Cole IMC!!! Gender-based, sexual insults against a woman is game for Bernadette Cole & her IMC. Persistently labeling an innocent woman as a whore and a bitch in a certain IMC-endorsed newspaper is quite game for Bernadette Cole which is why the late Olu Gordon with his vile form of journalism was described as illustrious by the IMC.

Actually, I am not surprised that Mrs. Bernadette Cole seemingly acquiesces to insulting of my poor mother. Bernadette Cole is on a personal vendetta to get at Awareness Times because my newspaper team in 2008, exposed how her husband, the Solicitor-General Tunde Cole, had filed a Defence to ECOWAS Court on behalf of the SLPP-led Government against Mohamed Wanzas multi-million dollars claims which information some persons had been trying to suppress from public scrutiny. We also exposed how in the week of their childs wedding, her husband, in shady & unpublicized circumstances, disbursed to himself and cronies at the Law Officers Department, the staggering sum of One Hundred Thousand Dollars from an Oil Companys forfeited deposit at a local Commercial Bank. Mrs. Bernadette Cole has never forgiven Awareness Times for our FACTUAL REPORTS against her husbands activities and she has spitefully reflected this in the unprecedented and malicious manner in which she has been dealing with Awareness Times. When you add her spite to that of UNs Schulenburg and UNDPs Mia Seppo, you have a discomforting combination against a formidable team of journalists.

Before I end, we will all recall how Bernadette Coles IMC did not implement a single sanction when the late Olu Gordon, published a totally unfounded, vile piece of nonsense that H.E. the President did not share the same bedroom with his wife, the First Lady of the Republic. Insulting a married woman that her husband does not sleep with her, deserved strong sanctioning from any Media Commission worth its salt but since Bernadette Coles leadership is not worth its salt, nothing was publicly done! Im reliably informed that supporters of Office of the First Lady Sia Koroma are not extremely pleased that her name was associated with the Award to Bernadette Cole given how the IMC never lifted a finger to sanction or chastise the late Olu Gordon. Admirers of the First Lady are not alone. Their sentiments are shared by scores of dismayed Sierra Leone Women ranging from within Anti Corruption Commission to those who bore the brunt of unprintable invectives from the vile writings of Olu Gordon whom Bernadette Coles IMC considers as an illustrious journalist. Illustrious?? Is there a new definition for illustrious?

Let it be known that whilst a few might applaud it, many Sierra Leone women have expressed distaste for the manner of the decision-making of the judges who misled themselves into awarding one of the most ill-deserved awards ever in the History of Sierra Leone. What a Mockery of Excellence! Poor Michelle Obama to be associated with such a disgrace!

They say Bernadette Coles time to quit the IMC comes up next month. All I will say then is good riddance to rubbish leadership and may she take her Mockery of Excellence award along with her when she goes. What a disgrace! What a total mockery of Excellence! More anon if need be!!! Much more!!!!

Editors Note: This article is reproduced by popular demand

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

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