By Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, CEO, the Patriotic Vanguard, Vancouver, Canada.
I became aware of a gentleman called Edward Babatunde Blyden (pictured) in the early 90s in Freetown, Sierra Leone, when I was a younger newspaper editor.
It was a turbulent time in our country’s history. The National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) military junta was in power with Captain Valentine Strasser as Foot of State.
It was a time of great tension with arrests, beatings, incarcerations and even brutal murders. I was one of the first victims of that junta; arrested and thrown into one of the cells of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), one of the filthiest cells in the world at the time. Some people were defecating and urinating on the floor because the lone bucket provided for that purpose was constantly overflowing.
My crime? Busting a criminal racket at the Ministry of Health involving billions of Leones (in today’s currency rate). The junta was quietly milking that cow (budget and donor funds) until I sent one of my reporters to split it wide open with documentary evidence. Of course I was the one they grabbed. Put me in that cell for about a week. Had detectives asking me foolish questions; I laughed in their faces for answers. Some of them even laughed with me. With no evidence to hold me any further the junta released me without giving me the opportunity to appear in court where I was planning to expose them even more for all the smell of feces and urine I endured in that cell. I think they knew about my plans. They probably had spies with me in that cell.
I was there when some soldiers brought in Salami Coker, a fellow journalist and movie actor and some palm wine tappers and a lady; they were accused of plotting a coup at Waterloo, 20 miles from Freetown. They were later executed or murdered together with the former Inspector General of Police Bambay Kamara, Major Kawuta Dumbuya, Colonel Yaya Kanu and others. Those were terrible times; you young journalists having fun on social media in Freetown these days have no idea how bad it was for us in those days. I envy you.
Anyway, back to the late Mr. Blyden who passed into eternity Tuesday February 14, 2017 in London, UK. He was 74 years old.
The current Social Welfare Minister and proprietor of the Awareness Times newspaper, Dr. Sylvia Blyden, is one of his children.
Pa Blyden was a Pan-Africanist who used to lecture us on Pan-Africanism at the Miatta Conference Centre. He was a walking encyclopedia on Pan-Africanism and Black Consciousness. He was not one of those African intellectuals who go around always condemning Africa and Africans to please their masters. He would have none of it.
He organized workshops on African values, civic responsibilities and Africa’s rich and proud history. He was an authority on Sierra Leone’s history.
I admired him and published each and every one of his speeches and press conference statements in the now defunct (shut down by the junta) New Breed newspaper.
As many Sierra Leoneans know, he wrote our National Pledge together with Dr. Kadie Sesay, an academic and politician who I hear is critically ill and hospitalised in Nigeria.
Good bye, Chief.