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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Dr. Kadi Sesay & Philip Nevilleís Huge Limitations
By EDITORIAL BOARD
May 6, 2011, 17:08
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It was Dr. Kadi Sesay during her tenure as Minister of Trade & Industry, who first put it across most poignantly to journalists. Seasoned & respected Sierra Leone journalist, Reginald Strasser-King of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) clearly remembers the day in question. He willingly recounted it all to this medium. Strasser-King explained how it was after the good Dr. Kadi Sesay had been visibly frustrated with Philip Neville making up nasty lies about her romantic life in order to justify some earlier manufactured nasty lies he had been publishing in favour of current APC Deputy Finance Minister Momodu Kargbo whom had  by then, been sacked from the National Co-operative Development Bank.

 

Kargbo was removed as the Bankís Managing Director, on orders of Dr. Kadi Sesay, because of alleged embezzlement of Donor Funds but according to Philip Nevilleís Standard Times newspaper back then, Kargbo was only removed to ensure Dr. Kadi replaced him with her alleged Ďboyfriendí with which Ďboyfriendí Dr. Kadi then allegedly proceeded to chop Donor Funds for SLPP. Strasser-King says the Neville allegations against Dr. Kadi were all ďtotal, unfounded nonsenseĒ.


According to Strasser-King and other journalists present at Dr. Kadi Sesayís Press Conference to explain about the embezzled Donor Funds, the good lady openly told journalists that she was amongst the Lecturers who took pity on Philip Neville to ensure he ĎAllowed To Passí from University given his poor academic understanding of issues.¬†

 

This academic limitation of Neville, as exposed by his erudite former lecturer, was visible in his 5th May 2011 edition when he tried to interpret what Dr. Sylvia Blyden wrote in her piece about the NINJAS. The Blyden article itself is reproduced in this edition with larger font size for better reading.   See below for it.


 

Dr. Sylvia Blyden, NINJAS, Oluni Robbin-Coker & a Search for Peace

 

By Sylvia O. Blyden

It can be recalled that aside from a single press interview to Concord Times in 2003 when I returned home from America and late Olu Gordon viciously attacked me for being the one asked by former President Kabbahís Office to design and host the official State House Website, I have always refused to dignify the taunts and nonsense about Foday Sankoh and RUF. My one interview back then is on record in which I clearly stated that I did not ever set up a NINJA website for the RUF. However, since the name Oluni Robbin-Coker as Chief Judge of Excellent Women together with NINJA website and RUF are being linked up by Philip Neville with my alleged Ďunfitnessí to be honoured in this country, I will make an exception this time and speak of NINJA website, Oluni Robbin-Coker, RUF and Sylvia Blydenís Role in ensuring the people of Sierra Leone enjoyed the peace that had eluded us for long. I today break a long silence.


I have always said I have no reason not to hold my head up high in this country. I know what I have done for Sierra Leone and what I am continuing to do for Sierra Leone. It was the Powerful Will of God for me to be the youngest ever person in the History of Sierra Leone to be given an award of Officer of the Order of the Rokel on 27th April 2007 (Independence Day) when I was just 35 years old. God knows how much I deserve that award. God knows how much pride I bear within myself for my actions undertaken to assist this country. God knows why he chose to first touch President Kabbahís heart to desire to nominate me for the Award which was followed by the National Chancellery giving the Go-Ahead and All-Clear for me to receive the Award. The Powerful God I serve knows more than anyone else why he proved to my LYING detractors that despite they had done all their endeavours to seemingly try to ruin my reputation with nasty lies, my selfless mission to serve my country during the War Years was deserving of Honour and so my God ensured I was Honoured. Let me assure my detractors that I have even more Honour to be given to me in the future. This is just the beginning!

 

I owe posterity to one day write a book but for now let me take my readers on a brief sojourn along my memory lane. What I am going to reveal for the first time this week is going to stun many Sierra Leoneans who will wonder as to why I never spoke out all these years to defend myself. The answer to my silence will follow at the end of this piece but it can be summarised as simply being because I know that there is a God who guides me in all I do and who makes the timing for things concerning me to fall into place.

 

The Bible says there is a time for every purpose under Heaven and in the wake of the nonsense Philip Neville has written about me yesterday, I submit that it is now time to speak of Oluni Robbin-Coker, RUF, NINJAS, Sylvia Blyden and the Search for Peace in Sierra Leone.

 

First of all, NINJAS was an acronym for National Independent Neutral Journalists Association of Sierra Leone. They announced their existence through an Email Press Release to the world media shortly after the then Minister of Information had announced that all news reports were to henceforth go through military censoring. The December 15th 1998 Announcement was made from right inside Freetown in which NINJAS stated that they had respect for the democratic Government of Sierra Leone but would use the Internet to clandestinely file uncensored reports on the growing civil war. Nowhere in the Release did they tie themselves to the RUF or AFRC rebels. However, their accurate reports on military casualties and incidents around SLPP Officials were so discomforting that it became an unspoken but very real Government policy to demonise the NINJAS as an RUF outfit when it was anything but that. Like many Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora back then, I regularly emailed the NINJAS but they closely guarded their identities. It was clear that many of their sources were highly trusted officials in the corridors of power given the sensitive information they disseminated out. The stated mission of the NINJAS was to tell the world the undiluted truth about the war in order to raise awareness as to how to stop the carnage. I think they were very effective. What is also clear is that there is no way one lady living in America could have coordinated such a successful journalistic venture! There are journalists in Sierra Leone who contributed to the NINJAS. They know themselves and only they can decide to unveil themselves. Bottomline, NINJAS was not an RUF outfit.

 

Let me now move on from NINJAS to my personal revelations. It is going to be a brief insight but it should make people understand even better what kind of person the 39 years old Sylvia Blyden actually is. I am very proud that even without me having ever revealed what I am going to say today, my people already love and adore me. I had held my peace all this while for reasons I will reveal further down below.

 

Let me now break my silence! It all started in late January 1999. My mother had been released the month before from an unwarranted 11 months detention at Pademba Road Prisons as a so-called AFRC Civil Servant Collaborator. She had been investigated by the Tejan-Cole Committee who had seen no reason for her detention and ordered she be set free. The then Attorney-General Solomon Berewa summoned my mother to inform her that President Kabbah had instructed that she must return to her official duties since they had discovered that her 11-months detention was the handiwork of some of her civil servant colleagues that had scores to settle with her because of her aggressive stance in Revenue generation. My passion for defending Afsatu Kabba, another aggressive female revenue generator, has some of its origins in what my mother went through as a dedicated Civil servant whilst she was Heading the Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance (that defunct Department is now known as the National Revenue Authority(NRA).


In a nicely worded Apology to my mother, Solomon Berewa requested for her to go back to work. My mother remains easily one of Sierra Leoneís most brilliant and most productive ever civil servants. Her unblemished record as a civil servant is outstanding. All the nonsense that Philip Neville is spewing out about her is garbage. Anyway, most understandably, in fear for her life and on the advise of her family, my mum said to Solomon Berewa: ĎThanks but no thanks!í. The Berewa Instruction and Apology itself came in the wake of January 6th 1999 and I do confess that at that time, I was not in the mood to pay much attention to a country that could incarcerate innocent civil servants for months and months whilst so-called religious groups, human rights and civil society groups, etc. etc. all watched in acquiescence.

 

Let me here interject that the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) thoroughly investigated my motherís undue detention following which the TRC has recommended that whilst Sierra Leonean Women in general were to be apologised to, this country strongly owes Public Apologies to two particular women: The first is my mother, Mrs. Sylvia Blyden and the other is the wife of the late Colonel Yaya Kanu, Major (rtd) Lucy Kanu whom the TRC specifically found were both seriously abused of their human rights. The Findings and Recommendation concerning my mother and Mrs. Lucy Kanu are in the TRC Report and I will publish them shortly in Awareness Times.


Anyway, back to my story of Oluni, RUF and the NINJA Website. I still recall that specific day in January 1999. I had just spoken to my mum in Freetown and she had sounded a bit down following her meeting with Berewa instructing her to go back to work. So to further cheer her up, I decided to call up Mrs. Stella Obasanjo in Nigeria to request that she makes a phone call to my mum. Mrs. Obasanjo had been like a rock to me during the period my mum had been in detention from the moment I first came in touch with her in 1998. Her husband, who was to later become President of Nigeria, had just been released from years of detention in Nigeria when I first met them both in July 1998. The Obasanjos put me in touch with Amnesty International and other international bodies to lobby for my mumís release from ĎAFRC Collaboratorí detention but most of all, the late Stella Obasanjo would regularly phone me up in Washington D.C. to just pray with me over the phone. We (myself & the Obasanjos) became so close that I was actually one of the persons whom General Obasanjo sought advise from when he was approached by the PDP party to be their flagbearer in late 1998. I will always recall how he first introduced me to the phrase Ďtimber and calibreí when he told me that ďNigerians of timber and calibreĒ had just left his Ota Farm residence after requesting he runs for the Presidency. He asked me what I thought of this and I laughingly responded I did not know what Ďtimber and calibreí meant. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I gave him first my support and then the least I could then do for both my Uncle Olu and Aunty Stella was to open up a Nigerian Presidential Campaign website in late 1998 with the domain name of www.obasanjo.com which was his first ever official website and solely managed by me from Washington DC though registered to his Nigeria Ota Farm residence in the name of Stella Obasanjo.


On that fateful January day when I phoned Mrs. Obasanjo, she readily agreed to call my mum and then requested urgently of me to ensure I uploaded certain information on the website that was to be found within a book known as LETTERS TO OBASANJO. She wanted the information to be uploaded before the next morning when her husband was meeting some foreign visitors whom had all published letters to be found inside the book and she wanted to surprise them by showing them their letters on the website. I did not have a copy of LETTERS TO OBASANJO at hand but she directed me to a Nigerian lady who was living in America. I cannot recall the ladyís name but she was connected to the African Leadership Foundation and married to a German. Unfortunately she lived in New York and considering the time it would have taken to get the book to me in Washington DC from New York by postal courier, there was no way I could have uploaded the information on the website on time. I reported back to Mrs. Obasanjo who later called to inform me she had the solution as her step-son, Benga Obasanjo, the medical doctor, had confirmed he had a copy in his flat in Baltimore, Maryland. Benga was my friend and I knew his house in Baltimore. So it was that to please Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, I agreed to drive to Baltimore to pick up the book. It was a decision that changed my entire life and I will now recount how.

 

Upon picking up the book from Bengaís residence, whilst driving back down to my house, I recalled one of my friends, Elaine Garber had been complaining that since she moved into her new flat in Virginia, I had not visited. I was in two minds. Do I use the chance to drop by and say hello to Elaine or do I simply drive past? I had almost passed the Exit point on the 495 Beltway Highway when on some instinctive decision, I decided to swing the car off the Highway and turn in to visit Elaine. It was the swing off the Highway that possibly changed my life. I called Elaine and she gave me directions to her new house. On arrival, she introduced me to a nice gentleman she was now dating. He was introduced as Oluni Robbin-Coker. Of course, the name was not strange to me after the debacle Robbin-Coker had with Ambrose Ganda and Omrie Golley following how a clandestine meeting they held with RUF rebels in Ivory Coast had fallen into the hands of the NPRC and media but it was my first time of meeting the person called Oluni Robbin-Coker but we had a nice chat and I explained to both him and Elaine how come I was in the area picking up a book as well as what I was doing for the Obasanjos. Right in front of Oluni, using my mobile phone, I phoned up Aunty Stella Obasanjo to say I had the LETTERS TO OBASANJO book in my possession and would be working on updating the website before daybreak.

 

When I finished the conversation, I could sense Oluni was quite interested in whether that was really ĎTHEí Mrs. Stella Obasanjo I had spoken to. By that time, it was very clear that Obasanjo was the favourite candidate to win the next monthís Presidential Elections in Nigeria. I casually responded that I regularly spoke to her and husband all the time. I then redialled the number and spoke directly to General Obasanjo in the presence of Oluni and Elaine. We chatted, myself and the General, and as usually it was quite lively with me calling him ĎUncle Oluí throughout the conversation.


I left Elaineís premises, went back home and worked to ensure the www.obasanjo.com website was updated with the information by daybreak. Little did I know my innocent phone call to the Obasanjos in front of Oluni Robbin-Coker had been a catalyst for something that would change my orientation towards Sierra Leoneís Peace Process.


Some days later, I got an unexpected phone call from Oluni Robbin-Coker. He said he wanted to discuss with me an issue concerning Sierra Leone that was of vital importance. I agreed to meet with him and there it was that he informed me that RUFís Legal Representative & Spokesman, Mr. Omrie Golley and the RUF had tried all possible avenues to speak to Obasanjo but they could not get through to him because of protocol. Oluni explained to me that the Nigerian presence in Sierra Leone was the determinant to the war ending and since it was obvious Obasanjo was all set to win the elections in Nigeria in a few days time, the RUF, through Omrie Golley wanted to reach out to him but had been unable. He asked me to then speak to Golley on the phone and Omrie Golley, whom I was then speaking with for the first time in my life, repeated the same plea to me. He cited how they had tried to go through the Nigerian Embassy and through certain senior Sierra Leonean politicians then in exile but they had been unsuccessful. Golley said they in the RUF badly wanted peace but they needed Nigeria to assist.


My honest initial response to both Oluni and Omrie was that I was disinterested in Sierra Leoneís situation at that time and all my focus was on Nigerian politics. I recounted what my family had suffered especially my motherís unwarranted eleven months detention and said I just did not think Sierra Leoneans understood issues enough for me to get involved again in promoting peace in the land.


Let me reveal today that it was the gentle persuasion of no less a person than Oluni Robbin-Coker that got me to be re-interested in Sierra Leone in early February 1999. Until that point in time, my interest in Sierra Leone had been limited to going to the various news sites including the NINJAS and read the updates there. YES, IT WILL SURPRISE MY DETRACTORS TO KNOW THAT THE NINJAS WEBSITE WAS FORMED IN EARLY DECEMBER 1998 AND I FIRST SPOKE TO OLUNI ROBBIN-COKER AND OMRIE GOLLEY IN LATE JANUARY & EARLY FEBRUARY 1999!!! So, any dunce can do the calculation as to whether it was possible for me to have been the one to set up the NINJA website for the RUF in December 1998! Q.E.D.


The reason why my detractors like to maliciously spread this nonsense of me being funded by RUF to set up NINJAS website is simply because in 1997, I had courageously travelled from America to come home to open up a website for SLBS then headed by Gipu Felix-George. My intention, as I stated over a BBC Live Interview I gave to Winston Ojukutu-Macauley, had been to use the then new internet-website technology to link up the world to what was daily happening inside Sierra Leone in order for persons around the globe to make better decisions as to the possibility for Dialogue over Military Intervention. I received no money for this from anyone. It was pure selfless service behind the website known as www.slbs.net for which I believe the Almighty alone can ever reward me.


Anyway, having handled the NINJAS website nonsense, let me now move on... Based on the persuasion of Robbin-Coker that I should rethink my wish to avoid getting involved in helping Sierra Leoneans to find peace, I agreed to speak to Obasanjo and ask him if he wanted to speak to RUFís Omrie Golley.

 

Let me at this point say that I am sure Omrie Golley will confirm that it was more the Fatherly Negotiating Skills of Olusegun Obasanjo that saved this country in 1999. Many people give a lot of credit to the British and Americans but I know from first hand account that it was Obasanjo and the Nigerians who played the most pivotal role in getting the Lome Peace Accord signed and the rebels agreeing to drop their arms and seek peace. How do I know this? Let me now reveal some more... 

 

By the time I first put the request to him to speak with Golley, my ĎUncle Oluí had won the Elections and was now the powerful President-Elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When I first put the request to him that the RUF Rebels wanted peace but only if he was the Primary Negotiator, and would like to speak with him but were having protocol problems, he agreed to speak with them but he ORDERED me not to give them his direct phone contacts.


So it was that I made the first phone contact between Nigeriaís President Obasanjo and RUFís Omrie Golley through a three-way call line. I was in Washington DC and Golley called me from Macedonia, Croatia and then I added President Obasanjo into the line from Nigeria and allowed the two men to talk. This three-way call method was to repeat itself for weeks and weeks. Whenever President Obasanjo had need to cross-check something with Golley, he would contact me in Washington and I would contact Golley and put them both on the line. To the best of my knowledge, President Obasanjo never gave his direct contacts to Omrie Golley. In private discussions with me, Obasanjo would always express his disdain and disgust for the methods of the RUF including cutting off limbs of innocent Sierra Leoneans but he never let his personal disgust show whilst speaking to Omrie Golley. His desire was always for the rebels to lay down their arms and give peace a chance.


President Obasanjo is a skilled persuader. Without going into much more details, let me say that the recent Jubilee Award to President Obasanjo by President Ernest Koroma and the earlier National Honour given to President Obasanjo by President Kabbah, was SO VERY, WELL DESERVED!!! Knowing the role he played, President Obasanjo deserves to have a major Street or Monument named after him in Sierra Leone!!! If I ever become President of Sierra Leone, I will ensure this is done.


Throughout all of this, I always informed authorities in Sierra Leone of what I was doing. The then Nigerian-born Chief of Defence Staff of the Sierra Leone Army, Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe was my contact and he would be regularly briefed by me of what I was doing and he would in turn directly report of my role to the Chief Executive in the land but for obvious reasons, this information was never publicised and kept in limited circles. Let me inform that late Maxwell Khobe, until the day he died, had tremendous admiration for my courage and selfless service. He once told my mum, during a visit he made to London before he passed away, that if Sierra Leone had ďjust ten Sylvia BlydensĒ the country would flow with milk and honey. I never received a single penny from any Sierra Leonean (Rebel or Government) for all the 3-way phone calls connections I undertook nor for my air tickets to and from Lome Peace Talks.

 

After Foday Sankoh was flown to Lome from Freetown for the Peace Talks, he reportedly swore he would never speak to any Nigerian mediator given what he had gone through in detention during the days of Sani Abacha in Nigeria. Poor Omrie Golley had a disaster on his hands as Obasanjo had been the main pivot for the diplomatic push for the Peace Talks in Lome. Golley tried to convince Sankoh that President Obasanjo was nothing like General Sani Abacha but Sankoh was dogmatic and adamant. Knowing how far Omrie had gone with Obasanjo to even work the diplomatic circles for the Peace Process, Omrie asked me to directly brief President Obasanjo on the situation of Sankohís recalcitrance. We all eventually agreed to make a 3-Way call without telling Sankoh who was on the other line whilst Obasanjo was to be prepared for a tirade of insults from Foday Sankoh but for him not to be put off by any insult that Foday Sankoh might throw at him. Obasanjo was willing to do anything for peace. Sankoh had just arrived in Lome, Togo and it was then my duty to make a three-way call but this time connecting Foday Sankoh in Togo to Obasanjo in Nigeria. Omrie Golley was then in Lome from where he called me in America, introduced me to Foday Sankoh over the phone for the first time and then I did the three-way call.

 

As soon as Obasanjo came on the line, Foday Sankoh started to rant and rave about his money that the Nigerians stole from him when he was arrested in Nigeria in 1997. He was quite aggressive on the phone line to the extent of shrilly telling the Nigerian President that Obasanjo was a CIA Spy. To his utter credit, President Obasanjo patiently listened on the other side of the phone call without saying a single harsh word. All he would regularly interject were sounds to make sure Sankoh knew he was listening. At the end of the tirade, Obasanjo said just one thing very slowly and calmly: that all of what Foday Sankoh had lost in Nigeria would be given back to him by the Nigerian Government as long as Sankoh was willing to give the people of Sierra Leone peace. That, my dear readers, was the commencement of the activities that eventually culminated in Lome Peace Accord of July 7th 1999.

 

If I try to write down all what I did to ensure Peace came to Sierra Leone, it means I would need pages and pages of newspaper pages. I am proud of what I did in service to my country for which I never received a single penny. Demonising persons like me who publicly called for Dialogue over Military Intervention was the tactics of those who benefitted from the senseless civil war. I have always held my head up high because I know the Truth about myself. Contrary to the malicious detractors, my Role was never to sexually assuage any rebel or rebellious figure contrary to what the Independent Media Commission of Bernadette Cole has severally allowed the likes of Philip Neville to write about me. My Role was to ensure this country had a powerful negotiator on the side of peace, in the person of President Olusegun Obasanjo who was able to convince the RUF to lay down their arms. Throughout all of this time, from the day the rebel war started in March 1991 until it was finally declared as ended in January 2002, I never entered any rebel hideout in the bush. I was never an RUF member. I was just one of the vehicles used by God Almighty to ensure peace came to Sierra Leone sooner than later.

 

Sometimes I reflect back on that precise moment when I instinctively swung my car off the 495 Virginia Beltway Highway to visit Elaine Garber. Had I decided to do otherwise and not go there that day with the LETTERS TO OBASANJO book in my hands, what would my life have turned out to be? Would I have ever turned my attention again towards my country Sierra Leone? If I had not met Oluni on that fateful day and made that phone call to Stella Obasanjo in his presence, where would I have been? I see the hand of God in my decision to visit Elaine with that book in my hand in the same way I am always seeing the hand of God in a lot of inexplicable developments in my life. I know I am in this world for a purpose and that purpose has not yet been completely fulfilled.

 

Naturally, out of respect for the Nigerian Presidency, during the entire time of the two-term Obasanjo Presidency which ended in 2007, I could not break my silence on this matter. Also, I wanted people to carefully study my actions upon my return and try to compare and see if it was even possible for someone like me, the real Sylvia Blyden they got to observe publicly everyday to be what the likes of Philip Neville had tried to paint me out to be. I knew the two images were just not reconcilable because I know who I am!! So, when I returned home, I just carried on being me and allowed the public to make their judgment calls about the type of person I was even in the face of the sustained Calumny of Lies from the likes of Philip Neville. The fact that the lies about me have not been able to erode into the respect I possess from the people who matter Ė [ordinary Sierra Leoneans] makes my decision to stay quiet all this while even more satisfactory to me! Infact, after 2007, I just decided that God will direct me as to the right time to speak out. I was quite comfortable that right in the face of my lying detractors, God Almighty had moved in his mysterious ways to ensure I was honoured as the youngest ever Sierra Leonean to be given a National Honour of the Order of the Rokel and I knew my God had me under his protection and guidance.

 

Philip Neville recently called me a pathological liar but he did not highlight a single lie of mine. I just shook my head at his insult as I do not tell lies. Everything I have revealed today is the TRUTH. Most of the persons I have named in this piece are still alive and can confirm or debunk what I have written today. Oluni Robbin-Coker, the ĎChief Judgeí of the Women of Excellence Awards is still alive and working for President Koroma as Private Sector Adviser. Omrie Golley is still alive and living somewhere in Europe from where he regularly reads Awareness Times on the Internet. Personally, Omrie Golley has tremendous amount of respect for me. Several times he has assured me that the day I decide to go public with my revelations is the day he will readily tell anyone who asks of him, about just what a selfless patriot he believes me to be especially during this countryís search for peace. Finally, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is also still alive.

May God Bless Sierra Leone.


NB: Some of the information above is going to be included in an upcoming book by Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden that will be known as FULL CIRCLE (1997-2007): How the ĎInternational Communityí Failed & Failed Sierra Leone.


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

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