Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 February 2018:
Exactly ten weeks after her sacking as minister of social welfare and children’s affairs, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden speaks to the people of Sierra Leone about corruption and poor governance in the country. This is what she says:
“Fellow Citizens of Sierra Leone, this is one of the longest pieces I have ever written. It is both a personal exercise and also a national Call. If you can read through to the end, thank you in advance.
Now, today Thursday 1st February 2018 marks exactly 10 weeks from Thursday 23rd November 2017 when I was sacked as Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.
In the Press Release from State House announcing my dismissal, absolutely no reason was given for why I was sacked. With humility and the fullest of respect for His Excellency the President, I have no problem with the President exercising his constitutional mandate to fire any Cabinet Minister without giving reasons. Section 56(4) and Section 60(2)(b) of our national constitution, gives a President the discretionary power to sack Ministers as and when he feels like.
So this piece is not about me protesting my dismissal nor is it about the series of well-documented, sequentially orchestrated events (all futile) prior my sacking. No, not at all. I have accepted the dismissal from the Cabinet in very good faith as the Will of God. As a fervent Christian, I know that I serve a very powerful God who has always guided my life’s trajectory. As my Muslim brethren will say, Maa-shaa Allah (Let it be as Allah wants it). I hold no bitterness and leave all the actors to the judgment of the Almighty.
However, it will be clearly recalled that just that morning of ten weeks ago on 23rd November 2017, over one radio station’s local and international LIVE broadcast, I had been accused of presiding over 6 billion leones (an equivalent of US$800,000) allegedly disappearing from my Ministry’s accounts.
Credible journalists at a credible radio station will look first into the veracity of such a sensational claim before airing. However, as part of the well-oiled plot, that radio station went Live to broadcast the unverified item as their lead story that morning.
It was only after globally airing the allegation that the female radio station manager then phoned me and said the whole world had listened to the accusation by no less a person than a deputy minister appointed by His Excellency President Koroma and everyone around the world wanted my reaction.
Fellow Citizens, it was very unprofessional journalism on the part of that radio station BUT if I had refused to react that morning as so many listened locally as well as internationally through a live Facebook broadcast, it would have been framed worldwide as a sign of my Guilt; as if I had something to hide. So I wisely took the radio station’s phone calls and maturely, calmly refuted the lies.
Since then and for the past 10 weeks, I have continuously been challenging for evidence of the claims uttered to listeners around the World. It has been a complete SILENCE to my challenge. The accuser(s) have acted as if they all who orchestrated the nasty gimmick, can pretend they never accused me of six billion Leones embezzlement and in turn, they expect I will forget about it all and walk away.
Indeed, I might have just walked away had it not been for the subsequent well-calculated efforts to demonise me after I had been sacked. This was through actions which gave undue credibility to the claims. These included a Spokesman going on radio to give interpretation beyond the official press release.
Agents were sent to go on social media and they went amok. Research Director for a certain political party and another person who is District Chairman for same party, both spread innuendoes in public gatherings as if I indeed have some impropriety or corruption standing unresolved. Many efforts have been made to try to give credibility to claims of corruption around me. The intent is to smear me from future service. That is how good people in this country get surreptitiously smeared by those who have nothing to offer except incompetency.
Over the last ten weeks, I have reminded and challenged in the hope that someone may come out and apologise. In response, I got threats of being taught a lesson should I decide to do what I have now commenced to do. Well, we can all take lessons from one another. There was a delay in my starting the conversation due to the loss of my maternal grandfather, a politician per excellence and my role model in Politics. He has now been laid to rest and I am ready to converse with fellow citizens.
So, the purpose for me starting this conversation is two-fold. Firstly, to highlight my dedicated and selfless service as a Cabinet Minister contrary to the funny claims of six billion Leones corruptly missing. Secondly and most importantly, to commence to raise critical issues to the fore about service delivery to vulnerable citizens whilst bringing certain hidden facts to light as we all approach a pivotal decision-making time in our motherland: – our next General Elections.
Let me at this point, sincerely from the bottom of my heart thank His Excellency the President for appointing me into his Cabinet and letting me serve thus for 20 months.
In the past, I have thanked him for the privilege and today, I want to again say it has been one of the highlights of my life to serve in the Cabinet and I am very grateful to him.
I will always do my best to remain grateful to President Koroma and to protect him when such protection does not conflict with overall interest of Sierra Leone. He is a good man who means well for Sierra Leone.
So this piece is not to be construed in any way as targeting the President who I have so much respect for nor is it a targeting of the ruling APC to which I belong.
This is just a conversation for us to ask ourselves as citizens as to what we want for Sierra Leone especially over the next five years.
President Koroma has served to the best of his abilities. He has scored many great goals for this country and like all humans, he has made mistakes whilst serving.
Overall, I remain proud of President Koroma’s service to Sierra Leone but I do realise that as we prepare to be led by whosoever will succeed him, we need to challenge ourselves to think better, work harder, be more sincere in our various service as we take Sierra Leone higher than where we are right now.
Now to the main issues:
I have successfully challenged my detractors for the last 10 weeks as I vehemently denied the claims of corruption. Today, I will go a step further to say that not only did I NOT steal a single cent but on the contrary, the truth is that I actually spent HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF LEONES of my PERSONAL SAVINGS to run the Ministry’s critical nationwide programmes to serve Ebola Survivors, Disable Citizens, other vulnerable and marginalised citizens including women and children.
This will happen whenever the cash-strapped Ministry would be supposedly unable to fund such programmes and I saw the need to not fail those of my suffering compatriots who needed to be served. I pre-financed critical interventions from my personal funds without winking my eye.
I love my country and I love my fellow citizens across the entire country so I severally ran the ministry functions from my pockets. ON A MONTHLY BASIS, MOST OF MY MONTHLY SALARY went towards national service.
The evidence of my selfless, patriotic service is all there. The last programme which I pre-financed between August 2017 to early November 2017 amounted to a budgeted sum of 49 million leones. Every single cent of that 49 million leones was from my pocket! I repeat, every single cent of that huge sum of money was from my personal savings. It was to finance our ministry’s ten weeks long Comprehensive Survey and Statistical Analysis of all Homeless and Encamped Disable Persons in the Western Area.
As I type, the 49 million leones (and even more) of my money is un-refunded. So much of my personal funds were spent and remain un-refunded as at now. This PATRIOT who can take 49 million leones of her personal funds to serve our long-suffering Disable populace inside this nation is the one they have tried to paint black.
This PATRIOT who took several thousands of pounds sterling of her money in the year 2016 to pay for a Tracking Database for Ebola Survivors when a certain donor agency stalled to fund the critical process, is the one now being called a thief. As I type, not a single penny of my thousands of pounds has been refunded to me. I am very proud of myself. I am very proud of my service to Sierra Leone. Such selflessness on my part is not strange.
The examples are so many. Let me cite just one. Citizens will remember I was the very first Sierra Leonean who during a trip to Canada was taken by SALNAM to a Canadian charity whom I personally lobbied and succeeded in receiving over one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) worth of items to fight Ebola.
Faced with the challenge of moving such a huge consignment to Sierra Leone, I singlehandedly paid over $7,000 (seven thousand dollars) from my personal savings in July 2014 to airlift the items from Canada to Lungi Airport as the emergency loomed. I remain very proud of my service to my country and my people.
I come from two Sierra Leone families with excellent ancestral pedigrees that I always keep in mind whilst I served my country. I have too precious a lineage to roll over when my name is smeared. It is time for me to start talking to my Fellow Citizens. Time for me to start letting them know what a selfless public servant I was and the depths of my courage to stand up for what is right for my people.
Today, I am releasing this accompanying 22 minutes Audio clip which I recorded a little over thirteen (13) months ago on 15th December 2016. It is the first in a series of various kinds of releases that I will be sending out to keep the public well-informed of my SPECTACULARLY SELFLESS and BRAVE service to my beloved country when I was a Cabinet Minister. Please take a careful note of the exact date of the Audio: 15th December 2016.
Please listen to what I had to say in this recording at the following link: https://soundcloud.com/sylvia-olayinka-blyden/truth-about-unicef-joining-corruption-in-sierra-leone/
As the conversation continues into the future, you will understand the significance of this date viz-a-viz an intriguing joint exercise by senior officials of Government and UNICEF. By 20th December 2016, top UNICEF officials in-country and top Sierra Leone officials had started a spiral of egregious events organised to pressure President Koroma sack Dr. Blyden as Minister.
To the wonderful credit of President Koroma, for many months, he resisted tremendous pressure to sack me. Indeed, President Koroma recognised the asset I was to him and his Government. Even though he later succumbed to pressure, let me again state that for his continued confidence in me for so long, despite all the massive pressure he faced to sack me, I will always remain grateful to President Koroma.
I am sending out these 22 minutes of me standing up to international and local rogues who were short-changing our people. Inside those 22 minutes are more than just highlight of my courage in tackling corruption.
Let me say that in these 22 minutes are some deep thought-provoking issues to draw the attention of citizens. Please kindly listen to this entire 22 minutes recording I am releasing today.
Please kindly listen keenly as, on behalf of the long-suffering people of Sierra Leone, I addressed the now-outgone, criminally-minded UNICEF Country Representative Mr. Geoff Wiffin right in his face alongside dozens of witnesses including the Anti Corruption Commission at the Conference Hall in Youyi Building housed Local Government Ministry on 15th December 2016.
Please kindly listen to my lamentations as my heart bleeds for my people especially the Ebola Survivors.
Please kindly listen as I lament how high level manipulation derailed the Presidential Post-Ebola plans for ESPECIALLY THE EBOLA SURVIVORS by persons who were on political points scoring, playing very cheap politics and exhibiting an insatiable appetite for Corruption at detriment to very vulnerable persons like our precious Ebola Survivors.
Please kindly listen as I categorically assert of Gross Corruption in the UN System in Sierra Leone which is being done in connivance with senior officials of Sierra Leone public service and civil service at detriment to vulnerable women and children.
Please kindly listen as I state of how the UN Partners will be encouraged to bypass the critical Ministry responsible for social welfare, women and children (MSWGCA) and instead encouraged to utilize other MDAs like Office of Chief of Staff at State House and its appendages like the Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr headed Post-Ebola Priorities programme.
Please kindly listen as I state of how the UN Partners will be encouraged to bypass the critical Ministry responsible for social welfare, women and children (MSWGCA) and instead utilize the Local Government Ministry.
Please kindly listen as I lament of how Donors will bypass MSWGCA and even take Executive arm functions to the Legislative arm in Parliament all in a bid to bypass a Minister who was not playing ball with the SHAMEFUL CORRUPTION BY THE UNITED NATIONS SYSTEM IN COUNTRY – I repeat, the utterly shameful corruption by the United Nations system inside the country.
Please kindly listen as I lament of how key programmes have been FAILING because Office of the Chief of Staff, Parliament or Local Government Ministry were all not wired to serve the functions for which MSWGCA is best suited but those MDAs were utilized because the Minister on the seat at MSWGCA was not, in the words of a certain politician, “playing a good ball game with the Donor Partners”.
Please kindly listen as I lament of the hiding of ministry bank statements from the Minister by civil servants with very different agenda from President Koroma’s Agenda for Prosperity.
Please kindly listen as I state my anguish over an insistence by UN and other Donors to apply an unfeasible approach to female circumcision aspects of the sacred Bondo Society; an approach that will put millions of dollars into certain pockets but be with counter-productive outcome to our social order.
My Fellow Citizens, kindly listen keenly to my lamentations and ponder. Play this 22 minutes audio clip in your houses. Play it for your wives and children. Ask your husbands to listen to it. Send it to your friends and ask them to send it to their own friends. Play it and ponder over it to your friends and family. Every single sentence of mine that I uttered that day is just the TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH.
After listening to it, you are going to have MANY questions – the very first one will obviously be to ponder as to what was the reaction to my stated misgivings on such corruption whilst our people suffered? Rest assured that this is just the start of my conversation with you all my Fellow Citizens.
You will hear many praises of the U.N. and Donor system in Sierra Leone. I am telling all of you today to not be misled. Some (not all) of the Donor and U.N. Systems in Sierra Leone are no less immoral than the same public service helping the politicians to run our Government.
Do not be misled. Look around the numerous challenges we have in service delivery sectors within which the UN in Sierra Leone and other similarly operated Donors claim to have pumped in so much money! It is mostly gimmicks with little sincerity on the part of some within the Donor System inside our country. International staff arrive and simply take advantage of an inherently corrupt climate.
They form liaisons with government functionaries and harness ‘civil society’ with grants and perks so ‘civil society’ as well turns a blind eye to a system that is not producing results.
The conjoint Mantra is: “Scratch my back and let me scratch yours and if the suffering citizens don’t benefit, WHO CARES?”. The conjoint Donor-Govt liaison regularly make speeches to praise each other but look around at miserable conditions of our people; especially in the poor rural areas and ponder.
Thank you for reading this far and please, once again, I want you to feel free to reshare this 22 minutes Audio Recording to as wide an audience as possible. It is just the start of our long conversation over the next five weeks until Elections Day. President Koroma has done his bit and he is on his way out. We have 5 weeks within which we can carve out the direction that we want our next President and our Donor Partners to take.
I will continue this conversation through many different media. I will regularly address you my fellow citizens over the next five weeks.
To start listening to me, please tune in to AYV Radio 101.6FM and AYV TV Channel 33 and also listen online over www.ayvnews.com at exactly 8pm Sierra Leone time on 1st February 2018 for my initial public broadcast – face to face dialogue at the AYV Media Empire on their popular HOT SEAT programme. 8pm SHARP.
As I said at the start of my piece, this my conversation with Sierra Leoneans is to open up a firm & frank dialogue as to WHAT we want for our country; WHOM we desire to selflessly lead us for the next five years and HOW do we want better service delivery to happen for especially our poor citizens in rural and poor urban areas.
It is not an attempt to campaign against the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC); a party to which I proudly belong. Far from it! This is rather an attempt for us all to have a frank dialogue as fellow citizens as to why and how come we continue hearing these reports of hundreds of millions of dollars from Donor sources but they are not reflected as improvement in our lives – especially on the lives of that 60% of our population who live in the rural areas.
It will be good for the APC leadership and general APC membership to also join me in having a frank dialogue with Sierra Leoneans as to why over the years we keep on hearing of hundreds of millions being poured in to our country but yet still… yet still… yet still… This is not a phenomenon that has only existed in the last 10 years. It pre-dates the APC back into the days of SLPP being in government so SLPP can also join in this conversation and engage on the topic.
The brand new parties and the smaller parties can also join in and enlighten our people not only in the towns and cities but in the downtrodden rural villages where 60% of the voters live. How come Sierra Leone now has debts running into Billions of Dollars but when last year, I visited a small town in Kenema during a flooding incident there, I found there was not even one panadol tablet in their health center let alone an intravenous drip? Not just in Kenema but up North, South, East and West, there is just too much short-changing and lip-service.
So let this dialogue on donor funding and corruption, continue non-stop over the next five weeks. Let us raise as many issues as possible and through it all, let the thought of what Corruption wrecks on a Nation, be the driving force behind our search for the best way forward over the next 5 years – and I mean the thought of thoughts of those sad days of a brutal Civil War and the thought of thoughts of those despondent days of Ebola; periods that some will want us to not learn lessons from.
For me, I cannot forget those lessons and so, in the name of all those who died from Ebola, Civil War and the other vices of Corruption, I stand honourably to talk and talk to all of you over the next five weeks until Elections Day. Join me in the conversations.
This country is ours. As our hardworking President Koroma prepares to say farewell, the ball is in our court as to what we want over the next 5 years. Will we stay silent or will we raise as much issues as possible to ensure the successor to President Koroma maps out credible ways of lifting Sierra Leone even higher?
Of course I am aware that I am going to face reactions from some forces since I am questioning not only corruption amongst Sierra Leone public officers but also within some (not all) of our Donor Partners who claim to be assisting our people. Many of the usual suspects are going to be hired to strike back but hey!, my name is *Sylvia Olayinka Blyden* and I am READY: quite ready and well armed with facts for this conversation over the next five weeks. Let’s roll.
May God Bless Sierra Leone and may God bless all true Sierra Leonean Patriots.
Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Officer of the Order of the Rokel
Thursday 1st February 2018
You can watch Dr Blyden tonight on AYV MEDIA at 8pm tonight, Thursday 1st February 2018 on 101.6FM or on AYV TV or online at www.ayvnews.com