The wild rumor last spring that President Ellen Sirleaf had died of cancer was an expensive joke. But such is the kind of rumors that have emanated from the Executive Mansion for decades. The main sources of Executive Mansion related rumors are sycophants - that gravy-seeking bunch who, while singing praises to the all-powerful Liberian president, are always telling on him/her.
Yet, such bizarre but widely circulated gossip is typical of the negativity that Liberians peddle about populist political leaders with whom they subsequently become disillusioned. And, when ordinary Liberians do, they don’t care about details as such rumors have always had grains of truth. Who knows? President Sirleaf may have been hiding something about her health which some disenchanted sycophants around her may well know about. Or, is her rumored death a metaphorical death – a subtle way of saying “Go, Oldma go with your big, big head tie” amidst the stagnation, starvation and armed robbery in Monrovia ?
The point is, the spread of rumors, innuendoes, and scandals about an incumbent Liberian leader has been a good measure of discontent in the contemporary Liberian society. These Executive Mansion backbites can be mind-boggling and bizarrely hilarious, but essentially they speak volumes.
THE DOE EXECUTIVE MANSION AND RUMORS OF OPIUM
"Ah, ah, ah, my hand not there"; first lady Nancy Doe was rumored to have retorted in response to a question by a local journalist who wanted to get her opinion on a current issue, "da Sammie and Podier them non smoke opium". To the illiterate Krahn-speaking Liberian First Lady, the word “opinion” sounded like “opium”, the Liberian brand of marijuana. The object of the rumor was not whether Nancy was illiterate or whether or not she knew the different meanings of “opinion” and “opium”. It was rather to throw out to the public information about an unsavory habit of the nation’s then populist military leader as he now becoming increasingly unpopular.
The trouble was, head of state Samuel Doe and fellow members of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) were compulsive marijuana smokers. They actually smoked it in the Executive Mansion – presumably in the presence of the poor Nancy who knew before coming to the Liberian powerhouse that marijuana was forbidden but who was yet to grasp the husband’s newfound gravitas.
Varying versions of rumors about the Doe Executive Mansion went hand in hand with his notoriety. The rumors machine in the 1980s even metamorphosed into an informative anonymous leaflet dubbed REACT featuring every frailty of Head of State Doe. It soon put the tyrant on the spot and made him more vulnerable.
The Tubman Executive Mansion and Rumors of Adultery
Executive Mansion related rumor as we have come to know it dates back to the 27-year long presidency of William Tubman. Tubman was said to be a dandy and a hedonist with insatiable tastes for women and wine. On coming to power in 1944 on a populist platform, he soon became power drunk and paranoid. He subsequently became a tyrant. His presidency was therefore shrouded in secrecy amidst an intricate network of spies and sycophants alike. Yet, rumors about his sexual misconduct and abuse of power were widespread. The most persistent rumor had it that wives of his ambassadors or delegates he sent on foreign missions were his concubines. And that wives of members of his cabinet invariably played the multiple roles of spies, Pros and ultimately concubines; he would regularly have private meetings with them much to the painful knowledge of their husbands who dared protest. Given the carrot and stick tactic of the autocrat, his rumored sexual promiscuity at the Executive Mansion was merely whispered in street corners. Was there any grain of truth? Probably yes, for the Tubman clan - a network of Tubman children of illicit relations - clearly points to the high probability about the personable Tubman’s covetous eye for married women.
Although he clearly triumphed over rumors; William Tubman's sudden death in an eye clinic in London generated wild rumors that were fraught with conspiracy theories. One unfounded one had it that the Tolberts had bribed a British eye surgeon who pulled the plugs on the sedated old man.
The Tolbert Executive Mansion and Rumors of Pedophilia
No sooner had President Tolbert assumed the presidency than rumors of his perverted sexual behavior began to spread like wildfire. The Baptist minister turned president was widely rumored to have been a pedophile. It was said that the president actually abused girls in the Executive Mansion . Even his apparently well-intentioned Gbalatuah School for girls in Bong County was construed as being a sort of brothel for “iron-tits tits” (a Liberian coinage for steady breasted virgins) whom he allegedly preyed on at weekends. It was also said that the reverend president used the Gbalatuah girls in guest rooms to wait on visiting male dignitaries, his guests most of whom were African heads of state and business people alike.
William Richard Tolbert was President Tubman’s vice president for nineteen years. In 1971, he became president of the nation upon the death of his boss. Determined to make a difference, he assumed a neoliberal posture. Tolbert was opening up the country for greater participation in democracy and economic development. But he carried a baggage of Conguardom, a scourge he handled with ineptitude. Hence, discontent about his administration cropped up a little too early, and it was expressed in innuendoes about his alleged frailty (e.g. his predatory sexual behavior). Indeed, President Tolbert’s neo-liberal posture did not stand the tide of Monrovia rumors. Widely hated, he died a scapegoat.
The Taylor Executive Mansion and Rumors of Orgy and Sodomy
“O, wait yah, Lofa Mountain”, the rebel leader turned President Charles Taylor was rumored to have often referred to his indignant wife Jewel Taylor on bringing a group of teenage girls into his bedroom to perform orgy on him, “Let people have lit’ fun”, he was rumored to have asserted. Taylor , whose gangster-style bid for the Liberian presidency, drove thousands to their early graves and terrified millions of survivors, is said to have a weird sexual behavior of some maniac proportions. Apart from sexually abusing teenage girls who called him papay, President Taylor was rumored to have messed with wives of members of his kitchen cabinet. The most bizarre rumors had it that Taylor even sodomized some male members of his cabinet as a way of commanding their loyalty.
Any grain of truth, my people? Well, Charlie is widely known to be a psychopath. His reported cruelties, like the one he allegedly masterminded in neighboring Sierra Leone , have made people to cringe He has been perceived not only as a rapacious criminal but a monstrous sadist. Not only did Taylor at the tragic expense of Liberian lives elbow his way to the presidency, but he also held the nation hostage. Hence, Liberians dreaded and hated his presidency. And such bizarre rumors may have been an effective weapon against his repressive regime, thereby making him vulnerable and subsequently accountable. He dishonorably lost the presidency only to languish in a foreign prison.
It is rather too early to give credence to rumors surrounding Ellen Sirleaf's Executive Mansion , but report about her death that was never is bad news.
The sycophants around her are too many to rely on, and one should only hope that she is learning from history.
THE EXECUTIVE MANSION RUMORS...
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Let the Lord bestow lasting peace and rest to our brothers and sisters, fathers, mothers, all beloved ones, and babies who went to their early graves from 1979 to 2003. I hope every Liberian will have a moment of silence in this April; a month when our nightmare started.
It is my aspiration that we, as Liberians will use this time to reflect on our past and look forward to a better future of a unified nation and people. I pray that God will forgive our land and us by removing hatred from our hearts and replacing it with love and forgiveness.
I pray that God will strengthen our leaders so that they embark on the genuine tasks of reconciliation and development. All Hail Liberia! God Bless Liberia, Africa, and the world as a whole.
This fateful month is April. This fateful day in Liberia is Saturday and these fateful dates in Liberia are April 14 and April 12. The 12th comes before the 14th on the calendar but Liberia’s calendar is weird. Therefore, the 14th comes before the 12th. The new breed of political activists have arrived from the USA where they underwent various political trainings, among which are political science, political economy, and political violence to crown it all.
G. Baccus Matthews, Marcus Dahn, D. Kahn Karloh, Oscar Quiah, Chea Cheapo, and etcetera are in Town. Their big political brothers: Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Amos sawyer, Boima Fanbulleh, Dew Mayson, and etcetera are trying to finish the battle Fanbulleh Sr., Albert Porte, D. Tweh, and others left unfinished. The merger is the beginning of sorrow. PAL-Progressive Alliance of Liberia is born unto MOJA-Movement for Justice in Africa.
The two movements have a blind bomb ready to explode. The results of the explosion for yesterday, today, and tomorrow are volatile. The sky and the earth are mute. The month of April is here and the sky and earth are still mute. There are no signs and signals. April is not talking either. At the Merry-go-round, market is a chaos. At the waterside, market is more chaos. In the slum of Gurley Street is a small pink color building near the BTC Military Barracks out of which battle cry echoes to New Kru Town, West Point, Center Street, and Logan Town.
April is not talking except it is about to say good-bye to dry season. It is close to half way-a day before. She is a sweet month that brings the balmy and gentle wind from the Atlantic Ocean before good-bye and welcome to rainy season. Her favorite day is Saturday, which does not seem to be happy. It is obvious why the sky and earth do not make Saturday dazzling. Behind Saturday is a hidden red. Behind the hidden red is a timed bomb. It sums up with weather without rain and shine. That is why lovely Saturday is not assumably happy.
When April speaks, she speaks in the middle of “Red Saturday.” PAL and PPP members and supporters are gathering at the little pink headquarters. Red berets task force from the Capitol Hill surrounds them. Soldiers from the barracks are sneaking out-maybe out of curiosity. Monrovia is tense right now. Government law house stands on top of all. The president is nervous. Tension is fermenting and growing in all progressive bases.
Behind this, all is a well-planned demonstration to demand reduction in rice price and perhaps intimidate the government or pressure it to loose its grips on power. West Point group has arrived and is marching towards downtown Monrovia. New Kru Town (Gibraltar) group sends the message to Duala, Logan Town, Jamaica Road, Terminal Island, and other progressive areas.
Market women are leaving market earlier as PPP flyers and words of mouth announce the city will soon be under siege. ELBS relays the message from the law house that the president is not happy with current security situation. “Mr. President must resign-no more monkey work baboon draw,” reverberates across the city. Lebanese and Indian stores cannot stand the tension and the losses that are coming along. Red berets task force is patrolling and does not seem too friendly. The progressives have gone underground as their men storm business districts and other soft target areas on rampage against government order.
An old man in the remote area of Liberia sees a stereo set first time in his life. He wonders what is happening. Never before has he seen a big sound system leaves the city to the village for less than half of a price. However, the story begins to reveal itself. People from PPP and PAL are carrying out a big demonstration in Monrovia. Several people are injured when police tried to disperse demonstrators. Soldiers from the barracks are siding with demonstrators.
The demonstrators broke into Lebanese and Indian stores in a looting spree. Foreign soldiers arrived today, supposedly from neighboring Guinea to help Mr. President. The country has completely changed. PPP and PAL bosses are rooted from their hidden places and thrown into jail. In the cause of the people, the struggle continues or in the cause of the people, the trouble continues.
April 14 has come and gone leaving bitter scars and unforgettable images in national and individual life. The nightmare, first in the country’s history continues to hunt once a peaceful nation and people. The haven in Africa, yea Africa’s only hope of political stability and icon of civility is on the verge of a failed state. Opposition members headed by Hon. G. Baccus Matthews are in custody. Speculations are the order of the day, whilst uncertainty forms a dark cloud over the country. Mr. President has ordered the execution of political prisoners before he travels to an unknown destination. Soldiers from the barracks are attending political meetings and secret political meetings.
“Mr. President must resign, Mr. President must resign,” is the big talk in town. “No more monkey work baboon draw,” echoes everywhere. The fateful year 1979 vanished in a thin air and without a trace. Thank goodness, this ugly month has left. She brought us nothing but sorrow and division. She puts us against each other, oh goodness, bye forever, Miss “79” for you are so malicious and please do not return. Not even in our dream.
The reality of an imminent civil war is far from being over. The year “79” has gone in disgrace or perhaps in shamelessness, but her daughter remains to finish the unfinished business. That is April. That bastard daughter of her becomes the grand daughter of the year “80” whose hands are crammed with blood. She comes with a hatred harbored for hundred years. Her eyes are red like a fire chunk and drunk with blood like a vampire. She has transformed herself into seventeen bloodthirsty soldiers. Oh, “Miss 80” you have come in our land and we welcome you with open hands but we see deceit written on your face. We see a long and a double-edged sword hidden under your garment. What have we done to you? Moreover, on your forehead is written all the tribes of our land. On your forehead also, we see arrows representing the tribes and these arrows point from one tribe to another. We have no clue what these signs mean, though we remember your granddaughter April, who was 14 years old and brought blood to our land. Now she is not growing older but rather growing younger by turning 12 again.
She turns 12 on Saturday Morning at about 5: AM Liberian time. Her exact surfacing time remains a mystery up to date. She might have come into everyone’s view at 6: AM.
The National Anthem plays from ELBS, the landowner’s mouthpiece. People are about to begin their normal routine. The early morning national anthem troubles everyone because it never plays at this hour before.
The atmosphere abruptly changed. Birds remain in their nests and tree branches are calm. Wind ceases and apprehension swallows up every community. People retreat to their homes and go close to their radios for ELBS. At the finish of the anthem comes a wavering and unfamiliar voice:
Fellow citizens, this is Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyan Doe of the People’s Redemption Council. The government of Liberia has been overthrown for rampant corruption and misuse of public offices. A dusk to dawn curfew is hereby imposed. In the Cause of the “People, the Struggle continues. Thomas G. Quinwonkpa, commanding general of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Thomas Weh-Sen, vice head of state, and J. Nicholas Podier, speaker, flank the Master Sergeant.
In the background are Hon. G. Baccus Mathews, chairman, Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) and proposed Progressive People Party (PPP), Oscar Jiah Quiah, secretary general, PAL/PPP, Chea Cheapo, member, PAL/PPP, D. Kahn Karloh, coordinator, PAL/PPP, and Marcus Dahn, assistant secretary, PAL/PPP.
The motto: In the Cause of the People the Struggle Continues was troubling. So political analysts predicted the struggle would continue to the point it will become “In the Cause of the People the Trouble Continues.” Yea the trouble continued to 2003.
Know where you are coming from to know where you are going. Know your past but do not live it. Use your past mistakes to correct and shape your future.