Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 November 2017
With general and presidential elections just four months away in Sierra Leone, serious questions are now being asked within the ruling APC party, about the wisdom of the president, after his sacking of one of the staunchest members of the party – Dr Sylvia Blyden, from her ministerial post yesterday.
What is not clear today is how Dr Blyden is now going to respond to what many are regarding as a gross violation of her right to fair and due process by State House.
Writing to president Koroma a few weeks ago, it is obvious that the minister had been troubled by several issues in her ministry, which she desperately wanted to discuss with the president but without success. (See letter below).
According to Awareness Times Newspaper report today, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden is warning her former boss – the President “to tread cautiously in the weeks and months ahead. According to her, she is not concerned over being relieved of her duties as Minister as she knows none of what has been thrown at her, can ever stick.”
The paper says that: “She however cautioned that the fact that His Excellency the President could openly side with corrupt persons against her own steadfastness in curbing corruption, should be a cause for concern to all who campaigned and voted for the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) exactly five years ago in 2012.”
So why was Dr Blyden sacked?
According to Awareness Times: “It is a fact that Minister Blyden has stood very firm to protect Government funds and has turned to the Anti-Corruption Commission with cogent facts several times.
“Those complaints, some of which like the AFCOM Case, have spanned over 15 months being investigated, all had documented evidence submitted. This also included the recent Hajj corruption in which $314,000 was stolen from the Ministry. That one is also under investigation. So many other cases with evidence, some of which were never even publicised, have made many advisers of the President to be jittery. They advised that Blyden should be removed from office.”
But it seems the decision to sack Dr Blyden had been bubbling for quite some time, and that the president was waiting for the right opportunity to wield the axe.
According to Awareness Times, “the chance came up when the Minister recently defied directives of her boss. The President had asked his now-sacked minister, Dr. Blyden, through the Secretary to President, to turn a blind eye and sign the PETS FORMS (funding approval forms) to endorse release of money for the Disability Commission to access funds, despite glaring evidence of corrupt heartlessness towards vulnerable Disables in proposed use of the funds. Despite documentary evidence that 200 million Leones was planned to be used to pay as rent for a run-down bungalow which was not worth that amount.”
The paper said that in response to the demand from the office of the president to approve those corrupt funds, “the sacked Minister stated in a letter she wrote to President Koroma dated November 2nd 2017, that she instead prefers to be sacked by him than betray her conscience and the Oath she took.” (Read the letter below).
So why didn’t president Koroma sack minister Blyden just then?
Awareness Times says that; “President Koroma however realised that the female Cabinet Minister was so popular that if he had sacked her over her stance, it may have been difficult to defend the sacking. The matter was then cleverly transferred from State House to Parliament, with the MPs given the impression that Dr. Blyden was being unreasonable in her refusal to sign the funding approval.
“Indeed, on the day she first appeared in Parliament, she initially met a very hostile environment with many of the MPs prepared to guillotine her. But with calm eloquence, the Minister was able to make her case so well, that even the most hard-hearted person in that Parliament was left with no option but to be convinced that her decision was correct and in the interest of vulnerable Disabled citizens,” says Awareness Time.
So what was president Koroma’s next move to get rid of Dr Blyden?
According to Awareness Times: “The next move to embarrass and create a platform to sack her, was at the Parliamentary Budgetary hearing for her ministry. Persons unknown had told the social welfare ministry’s staff to submit a mumbo jumbo document to MPs that would naturally get the MPs asking embarrassing questions. Once again, divine intervention stepped in and those who went to parliament to embarrass the Minister got thrown out by MPs who knew the diligence of the Minister.
“When they appeared again, this time persons unknown got the ministry’s Accountant – who also tried to embarrass the Minister. But again, the Almighty stepped in and guided the Minister to speedily swear an affidavit under Oath with the facts as to why she had insisted on the Truth to be reported to Parliament. The elected MPs speedily approved the (Dr Blyden’s ministry) budget.”
So was the social welfare ministry budget approved, knowing that minister Blyden was after all going to be removed from office, and to provide her successor with cash which minister Blyden had been denied for so long by the president?
The answer to this fundamental question of injustice may never be known, but according to Awareness Times; “It was now a time of desperation for her detractors. Dr. Blyden needed to be sacked as she was a stumbling block. But an excuse was needed. So, heads came together to help the Head of State pull all possible stops to remove the popular Minister.”
And what part did yesterday’s unprecedented abuse of ministerial protocol play in the sacking of Dr Blyden?
According to Awareness Times; “So it was that the deputy minister suddenly started to threaten that she has evidence of “Corruption” and went on radio. Nothing she could say on that radio yesterday morning of November 23rd 2017, made much sense. The deputy minister was just screaming like a banshee. It took eloquence of the Minister to save the day when the radio called her for her own side. Clearly, the stage-managed radio programme was done to incite the Minister to serious anger. The Minister once again exhibited calmness and maturity that won her so many more admirers yesterday.”
So was that the alibi and opportunity president Koroma had been looking for in order to wield the axe?
Awareness Times says that: “The President now believed he could relieve the Minister safely, and that his media team seems to have assured him that they will spend enough money and time to effectively demonize the Minister as being sacked because she went on radio to defend herself and the government of stupid allegations.
“Indeed, all over social media last night, ruling APC party operatives and State House staff were busy posting scathing pieces to attack the sacked Minister – that she was sacked because when she was called by the radio on the nonsensical allegations, she defended herself.”
But Dr. Blyden is having none of that – Awareness Times says.
And what is Dr Blyden’s response now to this charade and gross injustice in the face of naked corruption in the Koroma government?
“Nobody who listened to that radio programme can fault my response when I was called to defend whether 6 Billion Leones was indeed missing at the Ministry” Blyden explained.
“Sending Neneh to make those outlandish claims and then relieving me of my duties is a game plan. But I am assuring them again that I am a Teflon Politician who will surprise my detractors” she boasted, adding; “the plans to rub dirt on me did not work and will never work. But I want to caution His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma and my beloved APC party to be very cautious in how they condone corruption, whilst our vulnerable people suffer so much. It is unfair. Let us not take Sierra Leoneans for granted,” Dr Blyden warns.
As the dust begins to settle in the coming days, Sierra Leone will see a new Sylvia Blyden – freed from the shackles of State House’s acquiescence with rampant corruption in government, and fired up by yesterday’s sacking.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has learnt that at least one opposition party will be approaching Dr Blyden to join their leader and presidential candidate to take on the role of running mate at the next elections in 2018.
President Koroma and his ruling APC have been put on serious notice by Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden.
You can read the leaked letters that paved the way for Dr Blyden’s sacking here: