Twenty Five years ago, my father, Edward W. Babatunde Blyden, was not yet 50 years old but he was by then, easily the most authoritative voice on civic education, development and youths empowerment issues in Sierra Leone. Back then he was a giant that strode the national polity on such specific civic matters and his counsel was sought by high and low. He could easily fit within the conversation whether it was amongst with the lowest in the socio-economic classes or in company of the Head of State or international diplomat. He was/is still a great man who continued his natural greatness after he relocated to England in 1997.
In London, as a Community volunteer in his area, his intellect drew the direct attention of the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a visit to his community. Tony Blair drew him aside to chat. To cut a long story short, the Prime Minister subsequently saw need to support and finance experienced civic volunteers over the age of 50 years. My Dad was given a lucrative job by Tony Blair’s Government during which he applied his civic and community skills. He subsequently retired and is now a pensioner who has taken British citizenship.
It is a testament to his service both inside Sierra Leone and out there in his adopted Britain homeland that so many thousands were galvanised into an outpouring of support in prayers, phone calls and even organised physical search teams in London when he went missing last Friday August 7th 2015.
After several days of anguish, he was finally located in afternoon of 11th August. He had been in a coma for days in a hospital after he apparently suffered a heart attack on a bus and was rushed there by an ambulance. It appears he sat in the bus as it drove to its last destination without the driver and other passengers realising he was in throes of a heart attack.
When he woke up from the coma yesterday and gave his identity out, the hospital at the very far end of London where the bus destination ended, called my family in London who could hardly believe. It was so awesome. Eventually, I spoke to him on the phone line yesterday and I just had to burst out laughing when though his voice was weak, he tried to lustily sing a few traditional ‘OJEH’ secret society songs for me to know it was really him speaking. Typical Babatunde Blyden! He ensured he joined as many cultural and secret societies as possible. This is the gentleman whom I grew up watching as he served his country so well and so selflessly. I watched him motivate our youths and students at all levels and I watched him sit in his home study as he personally authored the words that we all read out today known as the NATIONAL PLEDGE. He was then a Commissioner at the National Commission for Democracy with Dr. Kadi Sesay.
I felt I have served him well when the local press headlines described him not as the great civic education, development and youths rights activist that he has been but as “Sylvia Blyden’s Father”. 25 years ago, who would have ever believed that Babatunde Blyden would be identified not on his own awesome merit but through his daughter? I give God the glory.
Let me end by saying Thank-You to all those who helped my family in the past few days. It was really tough and so we appreciate it all so much. Special thanks to Jonathan Leigh of Independent Observer and also to the editors of Torchlight and Owl newspapers for the excellent local coverage. God bless you all now that all is well that ended well.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.