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FEATURES  

= SPECIAL FEATURE = From a Sierra Leonean to Obasanjo
By
Nov 6, 2012, 17:10
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15th March 1999

The News Magazine (Lagos)

Lagos Can you please permit me space in your widely read news magazine to extend the heartiest of congratulations to the entire Nigerian people, their president- elect, Mr. Obasanjo and the Peoples Democratic Party on behalf of my self, my family and my country, Sierra Leone. It should not surprise Nigerians to read that many Sierra Leoneans have spent the last few months preceding these monumental elections with the same state of excitement that many Nigerians have found themselves in. Ever since General Abachas military forage into Sierra Leone in 1997, Sierra Leoneans have found our present destiny irretrievably inter-twinned with that of our African siblings in Nigeria. As a result of this, many of us had our eyes glued to the Nigerian Democratic Transition.

 

I made it my duty as pro-Chairman of The VOICES here in Washington DC, USA to attend every single meeting called by a visiting Nigerian presidential candidate. I also attended all the symposiums and public meetings organised by American institutes such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

 

I found time to constantly bother the ever-patient James Medugu of the Nigerian Embassy here for the times and dates of any event called up that would feature a presidential candidate. After reviewing the historical and political backgrounds of each candidate and attending their seminars and meetings, by November last year, my mind was fully made up that the Nigerian Presidential Candidate best suited to handle my countrys crisis was Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, the retired General.

 

The other presidential candidates had sparse knowledge about the Sierra Leone crisis but when I sat down to talk to General Obasanjo and his wife last year, I was amazed at the clarity with which they discussed Sierra Leones problems. I was so impressed with their knowledge of Sierra Leone that I later remarked to Sierra Leones Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier-General Maxwell Khobe, that General Obasanjo was almost a Sierra Leonean. Long before the international community finally decided that only dialogue and more dialogue could resolve the crisis back home in Sierra Leone, General Obasanjo, himself a retired military officer had opined that only talks and not a military adventure between the different factions in Sierra Leone can resolve the crisis. Looking back on General Obasanjos glowing record in resolving other conflicts on our continent from South Africa, Namibia, Angola to Sudan to Mozambique to Burundi, I have no doubt that with a President Obasanjo at the helm in Nigeria, my beloved land will soon enjoy an end to its senseless and brutal conflict. The ties between Sierra Leone and Nigeria date back hundreds of years.

 

Many Sierra Leoneans like myself carry distinctly Nigerian names such as Chidi, Olayinka, Olusegun and more. This characteristic of ours is our heritage from the slave trade which saw many Nigerians taken to America as slaves and then brought back to be resettled in Sierra Leone after slavery was abolished.

 

The Nigerians brought back to Sierra Leone still remembered their culture and gave their children Nigerian names. Sierra Leoneans consider Nigeria to be an essential part of Sierra Leone just as we know that Sierra Leone is a part of Nigeria.

 

Many Nigerian top brass got their University Education in Sierra Leone. Also, in Nigeria, many Sierra Leonean professors were academic pioneers at Nigerias notable Universities.

 

Indeed, my own grandfather, Dr. Edward Blyden, a Sierra Leonean professor, helped found the famous Nsukka University. Nigerians are related to us and we are related to Nigerians.

 

This was well illustrated last year August when I first spoke to General Obasanjo and he asked me to refer to him as Uncle Olu. Both Uncle Olu and Aunty Stella have been a constant source of comfort to distressed Sierra Leoneans. Indeed, early on the morning of the election day, I called them up just to wish them good luck briefly.

 

Despite, his obviously busy morning, your countrys president elect found time on the very morning of his elections to not only accept good luck wishes from me but to also try and get an update of the situation back home. Nigerians should be proud of their president-elect.

 

Sierra Leoneans are very proud of him. So, please allow me to publicly congratulate Uncle Olu and Aunty Stella as well as to tell Uncle Olu that Sierra Leoneans are fully confident in his ability to help us find our way out of this darkness we presently find ourselves in.


We know that Nigeria would not abandon Sierra Leone at this our time of need. We know that Nigeria would help us as we initiate Dialogue between our fighting factions.

 

Only Dialogue is the answer. Long Live the Federal Republic Of Nigeria.

 

Long Live the Republic of Sierra Leone.

Long Live Peace In Africa.

Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.

 

(Protem Chairman of The VOICES, a worldwide Sierra Leonean coalition operating from Washington DC)

 

Publication Date in Nigeria: March 22nd, 1999

 

This article is still available online at Nigeria website address of

http://allafrica.com/stories/199903150183.html


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

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