Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 November 2017
After ten years of presiding over one of the most corrupt regimes in Africa, president Koroma yesterday once again proved his lack of leadership skills and knowledge of how to run a government, when he sacked the only minister who has been overtly consistent in standing up against corruption in the country.
Dr Blyden (Photo) was yesterday afternoon sacked along with her deputy minister – Mrs Neneh Rugie Turay in the social welfare ministry, after her deputy minister broke cabinet protocol and went to a local radio station to make serious allegations of corruption against Dr Blyden.
This is the statement from State House announced yesterday, 23rd November 2017: “The general public is hereby informed that his Excellency the president Ernest Bai Koroma has decided to relieve Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and Mrs. Rugiatu Neneh Turay of their duties as minister and deputy minister respectively in the ministry of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs. In consequence thereof, it has pleased his Excellency the president to assign Ms. Isata Kabia as minister of social welfare, gender and children’s affairs with immediate effect.”
On 7th of March last year – 2016, president Koroma sacked his two former ministers – Alhaji Moijue Kaikai and Mustapha Bai Attila, who were in charge of the same ministry of social welfare, after fighting broke out in the ministry between the two.
Although ministerial brawls and fist fights are nothing new among president Koroma’s cabinet ministers and senior government officials, yesterday’s sacking of the popular minister Blyden had nothing to do with fist fights, but a viscous war of words that started after the appointment of Mrs Neneh Turay as Dr. Blyden’s deputy minister.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph is reliably informed that Neneh’s animousity towards Dr Blyden started when Dr Blyden took a public stand to defend the right of traditional Bondo women to carry on their practices of initiating and circumcising women – with the proviso that no young girl under the age of 18 will be circumcised.
It is understood that a budget of about $12 million has been earmarked by certain international agency to support the abolition of female circumcision in the country, and that deputy minister Turay is trying to access this funding to help her work in ending the Bondo tradition.
But critics say that president Koroma’s decision to appoint Neneh Turay as Dr Blyden’s deputy was part of a well-orchestrated plot to get rid of Dr Blyden, who has become a thorn on the sides of corrupt public officials and ministers.
Dr Blyden was appointed as minister of social welfare last March 2016, in a snap cabinet reshuffle.
But the last few weeks have seen a public stand-off between the office of the president and Dr Blyden, after she refused to obey an illegal order from the Secretary to the president, to authorise the release of funding for the National Disability Commission, who had failed to produce and submit accounts to the country’s National Audit Office as required by law.
Last week the country’s parliamentarians agreed with Dr Blyden’s decision not to authorise funding, until the Commission submits a report as to how the previous year’s funding had been spent.
But it seems Dr Blyden’s tough stance against corruption and graft in Sierra Leone has made her become unpopular among her senior colleagues in government, including State House.
So when her deputy Neneh Turay broke away from administrative protocol yesterday and went on the air to make allegations of corruption against Dr Blyden, the president saw an opportunity to finish the job by sacking Dr Blyden without due process.
This action is reminiscent of president Koroma’s decision two years ago to sack the country’s vice president Sam Sumana without proper due process, a decision that is now the subject of a judicial hearing at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Courts. A decision on this case is expected next week.
With seven days to go before the ECOWAS Court decision about the legality of president Koroma’s sacking of the country’s vice president Sam Sumana (Photo), president Koroma is now stoking a much bigger political row with sections of the ruling APC, less than four months before general and presidential elections are held.
But the question that critics are asking is: How can a president encourage a deputy minister to persistently undermine the authority, integrity and trust of a minister? Either the president is complicit and wants to see the demise of the minister by using the deputy to do his bidding or he has completely lost control of his cabinet.
If a deputy minister has evidence of wrongdoing involving her boss, the president must in the first instance examine the veracity of that evidence, and if found credible, suspend the minister and bring in the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate..
The president failed to intervene earlier, so as to end the persistent war of attrition being waged by the deputy against her boss.
Koroma has lost control of his government. He has failed to maintain order and preserve the integrity of his cabinet.
Where is the discipline in this APC government? And yet they want the people to keep them in power for another five years?
Tonight there is confusion on the streets of the capital Freetown as to how president Koroma could have got his judgement so badly wrong. Supporters of minister Blyden are angry. This is what one of them said yesterday:
“Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden is one of the strongest and most descent cabinet ministers in President Koroma’s government, this country has ever produced.
“She has been vindicated for standing for righteousness. History will one day serve us well. I wish President Koroma could have conducted an independent investigation at the ministry before taking this hasty decision.
“Hon. Dr. Sylvia, we the upright and forward thinking people of this noble country hail you for a job well done; and we will always be proud of you. We would always pray for you, but remember Sierra Leoneans love you. If only we could have just three of your kind in this country, Sierra Leone will move forward.
“Bravo, bravo – Dr. Sylvia Blyden.”
Will the opposition parties be knocking on Dr Blyden’s door to join them to help win the 2018 elections?