From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

5 Years of Awareness Times - A Columnist looks back
By Ngozi Obi Sesay (Corporate Banker)
Jul 14, 2010, 17:22

Five years ago, a daily publication hit the news stands and was soon to become a force to reckon with in the newspaper industry. It was named Awareness Times and became known more fondly by its initials of ‘AT’. What was one woman’s (Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden’s) means to fight for the voiceless and ash trodden turned out to be a most up to date source of news, information, in depth analysis of issues and means of bringing to light the ills and vices of corrupt public officials alike.

The ride to the top cannot be described as easy with Sayoh Kamara being at the helm of affairs at that point in time. There was also the likes of David Jabati who now edits Exclusive Newspaper, Vidal Boltman, Abubakarr Munu, Kadie Sesay, George English and a host of others who in one way or the other contributed to what Awareness Times is today.

Back then, I had an ‘Agony Aunt’ like column titled ‘Love Garage’ which sought to answer the problems associated with love and loving. It enjoyed a wide readership from even outside of Sierra Leone. I remember getting calls from people in government, students, workers, Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora etc. The column came to an end as I had to put in more effort in my final years at the university but I recall those days with a sense of accomplishment, of being able to touch people’s lives with just basic guidelines that made a positive difference in their relationships.

Awareness Times has over the years served to be a window for those in the Diaspora. There were many Sierra Leoneans out there who before this time starved for accurate and up to date daily news about their home country but the advent of Awareness Times changed this. A friend of mine, Steven Jabati, who resided in Guinea for a number of years once told me that while he was in that country, his day was never complete without checking on the AT’s daily uploaded website for news of his beloved country. He said he was most grateful to be able to get constant news of even things one would consider to be insignificant.

For those within the country, AT has been relied on to give them the news from an angle that may not have been reported before. A few months ago, I heard an influential citizen remarking that one can always trust AT to give you the juiciest news from the grapevine. He remarked that AT was always bound to give you something you’ll never hear anywhere else, and that was what made the paper stand out from others and that a wide readership have come to rely on AT to inform them of the facts, no matter who may be involved.

Another attribute of AT and its publisher is fighting for women’s rights and promoting their development in every sphere of life. From the fight of Gloria Newman-Smart to that of FBC SU candidate Frances Marke, it would seem to me that no matter your background, as long as your case is worth fighting for then you have yourself a mouth piece. In her quest to do so, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden may not have always succeeded in achieving all the objectives of mounting up a particular campaign, but she has in most cases undoubtedly educated the public about the nitty gritty of issues that may otherwise have been swept under the carpet.

Back in the days I used to be a big fan and admirer of the publisher of AT and I still am in so many respects. I say kudos to you Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and a job well done to all and sundry who through their efforts have made AT what it is I today. Well done!!!

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.