The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 October 2014
The Special Executive Assistant (SEA) – Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden (Photo: Right), appointed by president Koroma in February, 2013 to help steer the ship of the embattled Koroma government through stormy and murky waters, yesterday tendered her resignation in the form of a simple memo addressed to the president.
Although her resignation will not come as a surprise, many supporters as well as critics of the government have long held that the relationship between the SEA and the president was not made in heaven.
According to sources at State House, Dr. Blyden who is also the proprietor of the popular local Newspaper – Awareness Times, tendered her resignation after what was described as a ‘a frosty’ meeting with the president.
She is believed to have been told by the president to tone down her fierce criticism of the government’s handling of the Ebola crisis, especially the alleged under-reporting of the Ebola transmission and deaths figures.
Dr. Blyden has very few friends or allies in the government, that is made up very largely of ministers that simply do as they are told, rather than question government policy and direction.
Since her appointment last year, ruling party faithful have hardly hidden their anger at president Koroma’s decision to appoint Dr. Blyden as his Special Executive Assistant, which they say by-passed more qualified, politically experienced and loyal candidates.
Critics say that the post of Special Executive Assistant, though carrying a cabinet minister status, was created by president Koroma, so as to control and curb Dr. Blyden’s Newspaper criticism of his government.
This strategy has not only failed miserably, but, some cabinet ministers – including minister of information Kanu, have publicly rebuked and insulted Dr. Blyden, calling her a traitor and an opposition SLPP party mole.
Her call to duty as presidential Special Executive Assistant was poisoned even before her appointment.
Just a few years ago, she was dragged to court by the Attorney General, after publishing a series of articles referring to the colour of the president’s underwear, and his secret lover posing as the First Lady.
But after several weeks of court drama, the Attorney General applied the usual ‘nolle prosequi’ – a euphemism for ‘presidential pardon’.
During the 2007 elections, Dr. Blyden portrayed the then opposition leader – Ernest Koroma as a two-horned red devil to be feared by the electorate.
Hence, when president Koroma took the decision to appoint her as his Special Executive Assistant, there was consternation among a large section of ruling party rank and file, media editors as well as senior executives.
She also helped to leverage moral and financial support for Koroma’s election campaign, from former Nigerian president Obasanjo to the chagrin of the opposition SLPP. (Photo).
But judging by the tone of her resignation memo, it was obvious she had no choice but to resign from the Koroma government, rather than wait to be sacked by the president – an option that was reserved by Koroma for the most convenient appointed hour. (Photo: Obasanjo and Koroma).
Dr. Blyden did not give the president the pleasure of telling her: ‘You are fired’.
In her memo, she told the president; “I want to start by once again thanking you for graciously appointing me to be your Special Executive Assistant (SEA) with Cabinet Rank, back in February 2013. You created a unique position for me to hold in your Government. I will forever remain grateful to you for this.
“It has been an educative experience to serve loyally, truthfully and with utmost commitment to you and your vision for this country. It has been a privilege. Indeed, I have been proud; very proud, to work as the Special Executive Assistant to President Ernest Bai Koroma.”
So why did she resign?
She said; “…..because of reasons which I explained to you during our closed-door discussions at State House today, it is now time for me to resign from the position in your Government. I am resigning for reasons I expressed to you. But I assure you of my continued unflinching loyalty to your good causes. I firmly believe in your overall vision for this country and I will continue to do the best I can to serve you; but from outside of Government. May God Almighty continue to provide you with the wisdom needed as you lead us all.”
But many analysts believe that president Koroma’s decision to bring Dr. Blyden into State House was a coup, against the opposition SLPP that went terribly wrong.
Instead of turning her venom entirely against the opposition SLPP, she relentlessly exposed weaknesses in the government’s handling of Ebola.
She blasted the ministers of health, and information, for denying the existence of Ebola, as early as March.
Dr. Blyden became the subject of intense ruling party venomous media attacks, long before she was appointed Koroma’s SEA.
Yet her critics would argue that given her avaricious appetite for political power, and her passion for not only making the news – but becoming the news, yesterday’s resignation opens the door to another chapter.
As she now returns to leading the editorial board of her Awareness Times Newspaper, her fans would no doubt be hoping that she continues her well known brand of investigative journalism.
The SEA may be gone from State House – but certainly not finished.
What is uncertain though, is the direction she now takes in rebuilding her political and journalistic career.
Will Dr. Blyden stand for presidency in 2018? Which political party would she lead? Those are the questions that critics and fans alike, will tonight be asking.