Liberia: To Jay N. Sloh - Not a Eulogy, Just Random Thoughts

It was just a week ago, we spoke on the phone. He posted pictures of the roads in Southeast, where he had spent two days in the mud, trying to reach his district in Sinoe. In a very Nagbe Sloh way, he called out the Minister of Public Works. There were pictures of tens of trucks parked on the side or in the mud. He was not one to keep his "mouth shut" simply because he was part of "the system." A member of the Legislature, he spoke and wrote as the journalist he has always been.

It was in 1991, after work at the Ducor where Dr. Sawyer had his offices as President of the Interim Government, a colleague and I decided to take a short walk on Broad Street. We stood in front of the Rivoli movie theater to buy fruits. Jay Nagbe Sloh was standing across the road, in front of the Ministry of Finance. He yelled our names and walked to us. He was holding a big file under his arm. When I asked him where he was headed, he said, "I am glad to see you two because I wanted to send a message to President Sawyer." We asked him why. "How can you guys work with the President and allow him to break the laws that he himself had written? If he cannot put his foot down, we will join the opposition in the press to speak up." It was about Dr. Byron Tarr, who had been rejected by the transitional assembly for the post of Minister of Finance but was kept in his job two months later. The opposition leaning press had taken up the issue. He said Dr. Tarr was no longer enjoying the respect of the people in the Ministry. He laid it on us for almost an hour. We went back to Dr. Sawyer and pushed the issue until Byron Tarr left.

Fast forward, decades later. Around 2010-2011. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was in the middle of her first term. Jay Nagbe Sloh lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was always online. Almost every day, he wrote something about Liberia, the government or President Sirleaf. We spoke on the phone on many occasions, with me trying to convince him that things were not as he was told. I tried to convince him to go "home and see things" for himself. He had been such a great admirer of Sirleaf when she was in the opposition that he named his first daughter after her. Whenever I asked if she did something personal to him, he would say, "Doc, you know that this is about our country, nothing personal." Finally, one day, he called me and said he had spoken to some friends back home and he had decided to go to Monrovia to "see for himself." But he was still hesitant. Amara Konneh, Medina Wesseh and Gurley Gibson also got involved. He finally left and went home. From the plane, he called me to say: "Doc, I will blame you, if anyone bothers me, thanks." After almost two months of him walking the streets of Monrovia, he finally decided to meet President Sirleaf. He ended up at the Liberia New Agency, (LINA) which had been dormant.

We usually met at Terra Cotta restaurant, now located in Congotown for lunches that ran for three hours. When he told me, he was planning to run for the House of Representatives, I joked that people in his district could hardly remember him and his response was, "Doc, you know our people never forget... " Indeed, he got elected. And as usual, he became restless. The journalist in him could never let pass an occasion to write or say something. He joined the CDC but will form his own coalition to keep the House's leadership on its toe. He went to visit his constituents frequently and posted pictures. He had his share of contradictions, but he was not one to deceive.

Two weeks ago, when we spoke, he said, "Doc, you can't stay there... you brought me to Ellen, and I will bring you to Weah... " We laughed. In March, I posted a question online: "What is the first thing you'd do after the pandemic?" His response was: "Go to America." He had a medical condition and needed to see a doctor every few months. When I saw the article about his passing on FrontpageAfrica, I was shocked. I sent a note to Mr. Sieh and he responded: "Yes... " And then I rationalized it. "We all die... " But the death of certain [people make it real and personal.

Once, he took ill in Monrovia and he was taken to Catholic Hospital and when a visitor told him that it was the same room Baccus Matthews had passed away, he said he sat there for three hours, thinking about his political mentor and then asked to be moved in a different room. This is not a eulogy, just random thoughts about a great friend, a man of his word and a man filled with confidence, pride, and dignity. May be that is why he could not lie. Rest in peace, my Friend. Until we meet again. Your strong voice will be missed.

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