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Sylvia Olayinka Blyden and the Complexity of Simplicity

OCTOBER 3, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin

GONE WITH THE ‘SEA’ … some State House sources say Dr. Blyden was asked to resign or be sacked

GONE WITH THE ‘SEA’ … some State House sources say Dr. Blyden was asked to resign or be sacked

It is incredibly extraordinary how a ‘Doyenne’ like Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who was so vital to the ‘optimal functioning’ of President Koroma since her appointment as Special Executive Assistant (SEA) in February 2013, and one that was supposedly ‘The Eye’ of the president, could throw-in the towel at such a critical time in the nation’s history when everyone with a natural mind, who truly and aptly love the president, would stand by him. Because their service, however controversial, may be viewed was needed in times like this.

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden woke up at sunrise fraternizing with the Sierra Leone’s People’s Party (SLPP) only to hop-step-and-jump into the waiting arms of the All People’s Congress (APC) by sunset. She had no compelling reasons to advance her action. The need for clarification of her action assumes even greater urgency because the APC’s core visions and values were portrayed as being diametrically opposed to her fundamental personal principles. This was almost an indictment on her individual moral bearing and character as well as those of her new foster family – the APC as it was then.

We know though that politicians are not beholden to any one political party and that allegiance is transferrable. However, to be taken seriously, especially if one is portrayed as a leader, a role model, a pacesetter, a trailblazer or one views oneself as such, political re-calibration must be justifiable. Otherwise, cross-carpeting of convenience will just demonstrate that, self-promotion apart, the individual stands on nothing and stands for nothing. Such characters must be called out in order to be known for what they are and to decongest the stagnant pool of individuals in Sierra Leone erroneously referred to, and parading themselves as leaders and statesmen.

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden needs no further introduction. She is a well-known personality, for good or for bad. A trained medical doctor by profession. Like most of her contemporaries from Krio ancestry, she enjoyed quality education from primary to university level. At a very young and relatively youthful age she was already on the political landscape of Sierra Leone. She represented Sierra Leone in privileged positions, seminars and fora at local and international levels. As a result, she had in-depth knowledge of top national secrets, which were preserved exclusively for statesmen. However, she was calm because she knew she was not done yet with power. Characteristically of her, she deployed all the arsenals at her disposal for which she is known to be a master dribbler. She confused those who had the intent of pulling the rug off her feet. She infiltrated various social media platforms. She succeeded in causing confusion everywhere. No one was able to curtail her. None could critically read the handwriting on the wall.

It did not take long before the opportunity she was waiting for materialized and as soon as it presented itself, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden never hesitated in grabbing it. Little did she know that positions of leadership such as elected or appointed are simply platforms that individuals mount in the same way an actor climbs a stage. Although theatre and politics are different sides of the same coin, yet they both mirror the joy and tragedy of human existence. They present opportunities to perform. Just as one can be booed off stage by a disgruntled audience, in like manner citizens can also bring an ‘actor’s’ performance to a premature and unceremonious end should s/he fall below expectations.

The action of President Koroma was logical going by the fact that the office of the Special Executive Assistant to the President had never existed. It was only created by the president to accommodate Ms. Blyden. However, the president, in his wisdom, never thought otherwise to appoint his fellow northerner of Temne extraction to the office.

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, while serving as SEA to the president, never mastered the art of intricate scheming and permutation interwoven with consistency, personal sacrifice of one’s alter ego, generosity of spirit in accommodating divergent interests, and the art of bowing very low when forced to bow. She was a demigod, invariably hinging on her personal relationship with the president. Her desperation to maintain the position of ‘SEA to the president’ from where she derives her relevance, influence and, I daresay, affluence, beclouded her sense of reasoning while her quest for popularity was next to none. She has been ruthlessly distorted by the Sierra Leone political class. Many members of the ruling party and the various shades of political opposition alike clearly share a misconception about her.

Although Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has never been confronted with allegations of corruption and or under-performance, her usual dismissive response to public officials and their statements, using social media and her daily tabloid “Awareness Times Newspaper”, would remain her greatest undoing while she was serving as SEA to the president. Her armor-bearers in the form of aides and spin-doctors on social media plunge into depths of inconsolable despair should one have divergent views from that of Sylvia Olayinka Blyden. Their default setting is to try to discredit her criticizers. This aligns with their stunted belief that all Sierra Leoneans owe her blind obeisance for as long as she remains enthroned the SEA to the president. To the best of my knowledge, such a privilege remains the exclusive preserve of the Lord God Almighty.

If Sierra Leoneans do not have the right to criticize the SEA, who else will? If Sierra Leoneans do not have the right to openly challenge her flagrant acts of abusing and demeaning State officials, who else will? Surely, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has deliberately, consistently and without remorse abused privilege, position and power. She has shown no respect to offices of State officials within the land. Her irresponsible and boisterous nature have daily eroded and undermined the quality and quantity of leadership being provided to millions of Sierra Leoneans of every age, tribe, region and religion by President Koroma since the outbreak of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone.

She forgot that her primary obligation was to serve and protect Sierra Leoneans and conduct herself in a manner that does not bring her office into disrepute. She forgot that every Sierra Leonean has an inviolable right to freedom of expression without being accused and insulted on social media and on her tabloid, without being shouted down, victimized or branded an enemy of the State. She forgot that every public official has a duty of care, responsibility and, most importantly, subservience towards all the citizenry, all of the time. She forgot that every true public official should accept criticism – no matter how scathing and regardless of its provenance – along with the accolades. However, she failed abysmally in remembering all these. After all, there is no right way of doing something that is wrong. Highhandedness is high handedness and failure is failure.

Sadly, the political powers she wielded in the name of SEA to the president have increasingly become the architects of her declining political fortune and invariably brought her current misfortune. Suffice to say that she may now be destined to take up permanent residence in Sierra Leone’s Political Hall of Infamy for her actions and inactions. Attempts to bury or airbrush her misdemeanors can only take her a short while. Thankfully, nothing remains hidden forever.

Finally, in the words of wisdom that Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu’s father passed down to him as a child, he puts simply: “When your opinion differs from someone else’s, rather than raise your voice and ego, improve your argument and swallow your pride”.