Edward Walter Babatunde Gustavus Blyden – A Tribute By APC Comrade Israel Ojekeh Parper Snr.
In this stage of life, we make our entrances, play our parts well and exit with the grace, mercy, and power of our Almighty Maker.
Within its narrow focus in the decades preceding independence, emerging political awareness began to animate young individual minds and mobilise forces that eventually come together as a social democratic movement in the corpus of the All Peoples Congress (APC), in contrast to the enabling western colonial political culture.
Comrade Edward Walter Babatunde Gustavus Blyden was one such intellectual progenitor whose inspirational participation helped galvanise the APC Party’s credence to some of it’s desired zeal and revolutionary images that imparted early electoral appeals.
The emerging political climate then, was a mixture of Marxist/Leninist ideology blended with a leadership, encouraged by moderately mixed economic socialism that was cemented by practical constructionism, which young minds struggled to understand.
Grounded in the basics of ITA Wallace-Johnson’s Youth League (a branch of the West African Youth League set up at the grassroots of our political emancipation), as opposed to the conservative traditionalist benchmark to which some of our early politicians lend their loyalties backed by colonial masters, Babatunde and his ‘radical’ colleagues such as Olufemi and Adewole John and Arthur Fanusie quelled potential conflicts by displaying leadership within the ranks of the APC Party ( and especially its Youth Wing) whose aim was to publicise the then iniquitous state of inequality and try to alter the economic, political and nefarious social construct that was giving dissatisfaction and causing misery to the masses. This state of affairs was intolerable and the likes of Wallace-Johnson followed by Siaka Stevens etc. voiced their disdain in this regard. It was this message Babatunde and his colleagues using their outspoken and lively minds were to carry across until the resultant electoral successes were achieved in 1967 when for the first time the opposition voted out the incumbent party by the ballot box.
The twilight of the APC Youth League inherited the rudiments laid down within the ‘Election before Independence Movement’ and with comrades such as Mrs Mabinty (S I) Koroma, Marcus Grant, Edward Lamin, Eustace King, Kojo Randall, Caleb Aubee, Adewole John, Monty Cole to name but a few, the functionality of the APC Youth League (and the Women’s Wing), gained potential. This energy, fearless master oratory and brave determination, resulted in the successful organisation and staging of the very first APC Youth League Convention in 1971 at Cape Sierra Hotel at which he Babatunde, was elected The National Organising Secretary and Chairman, Western Area. The Late Leslie P (Bob) Allen was elected President, Isaac Seray-Wurie, Secretary General, Alfred Akibo-Betts, Western Area Secretary, Tamba M’Briwa, Secretary Eastern Region, my humble self, National Auditor. Babatunde had thus helped to create a formidable body of youths both male and female to move the party forward.
Babatunde played many interesting roles within the APC context: scenarios that time and space will not permit. For example, In 1964 whilst at Fourah Bay College, he organised the very first RAG week. The RAG is really a sort of university students’ fundraising charity but has the tendency of being noisy, disorderly and defiant! but playful and with much fun. The high-light of that particular RAG week was to ‘Kidnap the then Mayor of Freetown’. To secure his release, a ransom MUST be paid. But this was no ordinary Mayor but, Pa Siaka Stevens (Mayor:1962-1964). This “JOKE” was not taken lightly by the Limba people, and it nearly backfired when the Limbas came out angrily with their CUTLASSES to secure the release of their hero – Siaka Stevens. “Di joke nearly lef pa an!”
But compare this light moment with the two serious situations below that impacted on him personally. Here is a young man, fearless and determined faced, with the prospect of a bright future yet, ready to make and/or engineer sacrifices that will benefit others. Babatunde had the chance of being the Member of Parliament for Wilberforce (a constituency that spreads all the way to Juba then). Having built up a firm foundation and victory was clearly in his grasp, backed up by one of the most influential Party top Brass, S I Koroma. This was the constituency of the Late Cyril Rogers-Wright who had died. Suddenly, Desmond Luke came in from Germany and also wanted to be MP for this constituency. The simplistic, emotional fineness of the man Babatunde Blyden, weighed upon him seeing that the episode nearly sparked a brush of conflict between S I Koroma and Siaka Stevens. Babatunde convinced S I Koroma that he was backing down and giving support to the choice of Pa Siaki.
This scenario was replicated earlier when his father-in-law, Prof. Solomon A Jollyboy Pratt was to become the MP for Regent. He stood as Independent using a Bus as his Symbol. The substantive APC candidate, one of those who were present in the Lancaster House Independence Conference – comrade Hector Bultman, had to step down for Pa Pratt, because Babatunde was mindful that with the two of them standing as Candidates, the votes would be split and would result in the Other Political Party Candidate winning. He was able to persuade the Party’s hierarchy to switch the Party symbol over to Pa Solomon Pratt. Even as a student at FBC then, he was so respected, that when he took Mr Solomon Pratt to the Party Chairman, Siaka Stevens and recommended him for Membership, the APC Party accepted. Hector Bultman subsequently became the Ambassador to Liberia and later in his life, Deputy High Commissioner to the UK.
Babatunde has left his footprints in the sands of Sierra Leone and in the APC Party in particular. We can only refresh our minds from the numerous attributes and activities on his journey and the way he has painted beautiful pictures in our minds’ eye on the canvas of time.
My deepest condolences go to the entire family.
REST IN PERFECT PEACE MY BROTHER-COMRADE EDWARD WALTER BABATUNDE GUSTAVUS BLYDEN
© Israel O. Parper – reshare freely
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