Patrick Oliver Sawyer, “PO” was a true patriot. I say this with strong convictions. He believed in Liberia and was convinced that the country’s best days are yet to come. Patrick demonstrated his love for country in many ways.
In December 2008, he left his wife and kids in Coon Rapids, Minnesota and took a job with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs as County Development Officer in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. He left the luxury of his Coon Rapids city to reside in a town that had no running water, no electricity, and not even a drivable road.
He accepted these challenges and performed his duties diligently without a government-assigned vehicle, and with little to no logistics. For two and a half years Patrick traveled the length and breadth of Grand Bassa County either hitchhicking rides or riding on motorbikes driven by untrained motorcyclists. He made all these sacrifices earning US$2,000.00 which was never paid on time. With the level of hardship he endured rendering service to Liberia, he was never associated with corruption or bribery. Patrick epitomized nationalism as compared to some government officials who are now demeaning him, even in death.
The “system” failed Patrick. If the country had a comprehensive Ebola containment plan, Patrick would not have boarded the plane to “export” Ebola. Some may argue that he should have self-contained. That is true, but, did he know he had the deadly disease? We will never know. Or perhaps, God destined him to die this way to awaken the country’s leadership, and to expose the level of ineptitude in the management of the country’s healthcare system.
It is being reported that the authorities at Mittal Steel cautioned him to stay away from their facilities after they learned that his sister died from Ebola. How did the authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MHSW) miss that? Was he ever monitored? Did the MHSW inform the Ministry of Finance of his exposure and the risk he posed?
Poor inter-governmental coordination manifested itself in this situation.
Patrick was a well known figure in the healthcare circles in Liberia. As a Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs’ employee, he voluntarily attended high-level meetings at the MHSW. He was a PhD student studying Public Health. This made him valuable in those meetings. It puzzles me to learn that officials from MHSW could “not easily locate him” to be monitored or confined. How many other people have been exposed and are walking around Liberia, or may have even left the country?
The Ebola crisis exposed the weaknesses in our country’s healthcare infrastructure. Let us stop the “blame game” and pay respect to a Liberian who died performing official government functions. He traveled on government-approved trip; he was given taxpayers- funded per diem, and he kept in constant communication with government officials while he was in Nigeria-even eight hours before the report of his death was made public.
Patrick was not a “mad” man. Patrick was one of us. He was one of Liberia’s rising stars! The Government of Liberia needs to stand by Patrick Sawyer and his family, and not kowtow to some “regional super power.”
It is disappointing, discouraging and unfortunate to hear some officials of government making derogatory remarks about this fallen compatriot. They should not hide behind their own ineptitude to disparage the dead. If the Government had closed the borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone at the onset of the outbreak when it was publicly warned to do so, the Ebola virus would not have put the health security of Liberia and the entire region at risk.
Liberia should take the blame and learn from this crisis by putting into place a comprehensive and sustainable plan that ensures our countrymen and women who cannot afford to travel to Ghana or the United States to get better healthcare and health protection at home.
May the soul of Patrick Sawyer (the “Drum Major of the Neo-Progressive Movement”) rest in peace!! May the Angels escort him along the streets that are paved with gold!!
PO, papa O, rest in peace, my brother. You are a true patriot! I believe that one day, very soon, the Liberia that you dreamed of will come to pass.
Today it is Patrick Oliver Sawyer, Tomorrow might be YOU. Stop playing deceit and take responsibility for your failure.
“When you give to the poor the world calls you a saint, when you ask WHY the poor have no food to eat….the world calls you a communist want to-be, ooh what a world.” …Patrick O. Sawyer
Jonathan Geegbae can be reached at 404-707-7064, or