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Patrick Oliver Sawyer’s Ebola death a teachable moment for Sirleaf and the Liberian political class

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh            Patrick Oliver Sawyer



I don’t know Patrick Oliver Sawyer, and I never met the young man, either. I understand, however, that he was a brilliant and vibrant young man who was full of life.

So full of life and progressive ideas to move his country forward, he moved back home to Liberia from the United States years ago to contribute his part to the development of his country.

Patrick Oliver Sawyer, (PO) to his many friends was not suppose to die now, this young; let alone, die far away from his native Liberian soil.

If he wanted to die for some reasons, or if we expected him to die because we knew he was sick, at least, his death would have kicked into our consciousness knowing that the young man was on his dying bed. That way, we would have prepared ourselves for the eventual rituals of burying him.

Mr. Sawyer, however, had no idea after he returned home to Liberia that his name would be associated in a negative with the politics of the deadly Ebola virus that took his young life in Nigeria, where he reportedly traveled for a conference.

As we question his senseless death and the deaths of others, we understandably want to holler, cry and rant, and put our collective frustrations on the political leadership that failed to do the right thing for him, the other victims and the Liberian people.

Doing the right thing means investigating and working hard to eradicate the disease from Liberia; or accepting the fact that the Ebola virus exists right now in the Liberian society, declaring national emergency; closing the borders immediately, isolating the sick and infected from the general population, providing protective gears and equipment to health workers, and instilling confidence in the Liberian people by telling them that the government is fully in control of the situation.

That is because the Liberian people, like all breathing people on earth expect their government to be responsive to crisis, responses to their needs, their pains and their frustrations; and is ready to take charge when the need arises.

As usual, this president did not take all the above into consideration, and did not consider the Ebola pandemic serious enough to declare a national emergency. Sirleaf did not even consider closing the borders to prevent Liberians and other foreign nationals from entering the country, immediately after the government knew of the virus. Madame Sirleaf did not assemble her public health team (if there are any) to get to work around the clock to help educate the public, contain the virus, and do whatever they can do to completely wipe the Ebola virus off the Liberian landscape.

What Sirleaf has done so far is to lead from behind by being slow, insensitive, naïve, and at times playing catch-up as if all is well in the country.

I don’t have an iota of confidence in the Sirleaf presidency and her leadership abilities. And if I had my way or a magic wand, I will have her leave Liberia and go somewhere in exile voluntarily to enjoy her stolen wealth to avoid a riot that will be difficult to contain.

Because in nine years of her presidency, Sirleaf has caused more harm, more damage in Liberia than good, and hasn’t demonstrated (other than her choreographed photo-ops that shows she is governing.

And when a president like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is so incompetent, insensitive and nakedly arrogant that she refuses to see, feel or hear her people cry; or when she is not accountable to her people, the first thing in my book is to fire her.

There has to be accountability and public hearings by that other boneless institution, the Liberian legislature, to know who fumbled the ball when the virus and the first patient were noticed in the country.

There has to be hearings by the legislative branch so that the proper operating methods and practice can be put in place for the future to combat this virus and other national disasters in the country. There has to be an investment or funding of public health education, public health workers, and funding for disaster relief, emergency management and training.

There also has to be hearings because democracy calls for openness.

The Liberian people were already suffering on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s watch when Ebola invaded the country. Now, what’s next?

Patrick Oliver Sawyer’s death and the deaths of others are teachable moments for the Liberian nation, the Liberian people and the entire political leadership.

May his soul and the souls of other Ebola victims rest in peace.


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