UL Campus Recharges ‘Revolutionary Days’ -Ideologues, Veterans, Cadets Spiritedly Celebrate Fallen Dr. Sawyer

For the most part the 1970s and 1980s, the University of Liberia diversified its theoretical enlightenment crusade to include mass political and civic consciousness building amongst the Liberian citizenry. At that point, the UL matured into a strong epicenter and Shrine for upcoming scholars and progressives in the drive to setting a firm trajectory for national renewal. And the Priests in the Shrine of Progressivism included Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, who would be used twice or more as the cavia porcellus in Liberia’s tortuous struggle for democratization and for rice and rights. In those days, the campus of the University of Liberia was heavily charged with militant rhetoric and progressive activities. As the fruit of the struggle sprouted into a more open society, the good old days of progressivism waned away. But as the UL campus yesterday hosted a special occasion posthumously honoring Dr. Sawyer’s legacy and contribution to the progressive community, the nostalgia of militancy was heavily recharged, as The Analyst reports.

The Main Campus of the University of Liberia betrayed the sorrow state of mind it should have been in having lost one of its pillars—someone who helped to set the foundation for quality education and elevating its status as a virile microcosm of the larger society in the 1970’s.

The UL yesterday, March 31, played host of an Honoring Program to celebrate the contributions of Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, a longtime member of the academic staff of the University who fearlessly and substantively spread public knowledge about Liberia’s political economy and conscientization of the younger generation.

The occasion was characterized by militant battle cries and other celebratory rhymes, coupled with the lineup of iconic speakers of progressive background—all invoking reflections of the good old days of progressivism in Liberia.

It was Dr. Sawyer and his progressive collaborators who made useful and productive contributions in educating citizens and widening their horizon about democracy and stability; some that impacted the enthronement of popular democracy in the country.

As if to say the program was planned far ahead going into years, it came well executed and for a long time, it will remain one of the best send-forth assemblies ever accorded someone whose life, time and cause meant a lot for a people and succeeding generations.

The University of Liberia in collaboration with its associates, friends and comrades of the late Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, former Chairman of the Department of Political Science and former Dean of the Liberia College held a Day of Honor for him in recognition for his many years of commitment to the cause of knowledge and strong advocacy for the betterment of the country.

Dr. Sawyer’s presence and works at the UL inspired a generation of young Liberians who have today emerged as key players in various sectors of life, and as the outcome of the gathering, a strong recommendation has been made by his colleagues for the endowment of a Chair in Good Governance, Rule of Law and Democracy at the University of Liberia.

Several speakers at the occasion were unanimous in the view that Dr. Sawyer needed to be immortalized and that keeping his legacy alive is to set up a structure where serious research and teaching of the fundamental beliefs, philosophy and thinking of Dr. Sawyer, covering democracy, development, rule of law, academic freedom, and strengthen governance through innovation and robust engagement will take place.

The President of the University of Liberia, Prof. Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson Jr., set the tune of the celebration by going into memory lane to track what Dr. Sawyer stood for and what he did for Liberia.

He said, “Even though today is a mournful day, but it is also a joyous day because we have come to celebrate the life of a man who has played his part well in life; a man who played his part to the fullest and very well that impacted the lives of many of us. A man who also played his part to show the light for others to see and follow.”

Dr. Nelson spoke of Dr. Sawyer’s exceptional brilliance and his perspective on things geared at advancing the cause of nation building, humanity and intellectualism.

He said Dr. Sawyer was among two other former lecturers, Prof. David Kpomakpor and Prof. Wilton Sankawulo, who all played their parts outside of the university during the turbulent periods of the civil war to provide leadership for the country and all worked towards the attainment of peace.

Prof. Nelson called on the academic community, especially his colleagues and associates, to play leading roles in finding ways to keep the fallen Liberian statesman’s legacy alive in the area he excelled so well before going into government, first as the Premier Interim President and ten as chair of the Governance Commission.

Another iconic progressive, Dr. Togbah-Nah Tippoteh who was a longtime colleague of Dr. Sawyer in the academia, politics and advocacy dating back in the 70’s, said he felt a personal loss over the death of Dr. Sawyer.

He said what matters most is the life Dr. Sawyer lived, the lives he impacted and the solutions he provided to intractable problems, adding that he was not just an educated man whom people felt could talk, but who also walked the talk.

He said though Dr. Sawyer worked with so many institutions; there are two institutions he worked with that showed his zeal to finding solutions to common problems. They named those institutions as  Susukuu and MOJA.

Dr. Tipoteh noted that while MOJA was mobilizing and educating the citizens on their rights and the wrongs and corruption in government, Suusukuu was addressing the issues of farmers’ plight and poverty in the rural parts of Liberia.

Goodwill messages came from international organizations like the African Peer Review Mechanism, the African Forum, an association of former African leaders and eminent persons, African Union, ECOWAS, etc.

Mrs. Medina Wesseh, who spoke on behalf of the Mano River Union as Executive Secretary, said that the organization was touched by the death of Dr. Sawyer because he did amazing things within the MRU during the civil war as he managed to contain the war using his relationship and network he built in the sub-region

Perhaps the most exciting tributes besides the colorful academic sojourn came from former Defense Minister Brownie Jeffery Samukai who provided some interesting behind-the-scene narratives that went on during the tenure of Dr. Sawyer as President of the Interim Government.

Speaking for a group he called “Class of 488”, which he described as a reflection of the determination of the Liberian people to support the ECOWAS peace process with the inputs from the Liberian people when the peace was being threatened by Mr. Charles Taylor and his rebels as well as the unsung stories of those who made the supreme sacrifices to protect territorial integrity of the country.

Samukai said it was also important that Liberians should not only look at the “intellectual side” of the later leader, but also the other side that has to do with the role he played during the civil war.

He named Fomba Sirleaf, Madison Togba and him who were deeply involved on the military side and linked to the formation of the Black Beret that fought alone the ECOMOG to resist the attempt of Taylor and his ragtag rebels in 1992.

He said Dr. Sawyer was a listening leader and some people had misconstrued it for weakness but it has to do with his philosophy to build consensus in taking decisions.

He said Dr. Sawyer allowed everyone to make an input to enrich the discussion and at the end of the day with his wisdom and uncommon sense of judgment, sound decisions are made.

Mr. Samukai talked about the various peace conferences held around the world and the selfless sacrifices Dr. Sawyer made to achieve peace when against all odds, he stepped down for another subsequent interim government to take over.

Dusty Wolokollie, a confidant of late Dr. Sawyer, and a former executive committee member of the Liberia People’s Party, a party founded by Dr. Sawyer, said in his reflective mood that the late professor was a consensus builder and a man who showed integrity for the democratic processes and will be dearly missed.

Samuel Kofi Woods, a human rights activist, former student leader and former cabinet minister under the regime of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf expressed his gratitude to the legacy of Dr. Sawyer, saying “I am very proud that I had the opportunity to work with him.

Woods added that the Progressives have played significant role in promoting multiparty democracy over the years and Dr. Sawyer was a champion.

He said he could not weep because Dr. Sawyer has left an indelible mark on the academia of Liberia and further said that if Dr. Sawyer was alive “He would have wept for the failed academic system of the Country.”

“Dr. Sawyer was a philosopher; he looked into the future of the Country and told you what will happen,” Mr. Woods said, emphasizing that “We have to work very hard, because I heard that degrees are being rationed at the University”.

He proposed, like other speakers, to endow a chair in honor of Dr. Sawyer at UL geared towards promoting democracy and good governance.

Alaric Tokpa, former Chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University and a former student of Dr. Sawyer, while paying his tribute in a very mournful but moving manner said that UL should find a better way to remember Dr. Sawyer so that his legacy will not die.

Mr. Tokpa, who was taught by Dr. Sawyer during his school days, suggested that UL administration finds a way to memorialize the legacy of the fallen professor.

Dew Tuan Wleh-Mayson, another close colleague of Dr. Sawyer who also like Sawyer hailed from Sinoe County and was imprisoned in the 70’s along with other progressives, said Prof. Sawyer used his education not just for personal investment but to educate others.

He further noted that the late Professor laid a legacy of intellectual commitment and added that the late Prof. doesn’t need a praise singer for his “Life speaks for itself”.

“I have no doubt  today that tomorrow we can create more Dr. Sawyer that can speak truth to power,” Dr. Wleh-Mayson said.

Speaking on behalf of the Sinoe County Legislative Caucus, Senator Milton J. Teahjay praised Dr. Sawyer for living such an exemplary life and teaching a whole generation of progressives that have played and continue to play meaningful roles in the society.

Senator Teahjay said that it was high time that members of the progressive class who fought for the enthronement of multiparty democracy in the country paid serious attention to keep the flame of change Dr. Sawyer left behind by establishing a center in his honor at UL.

Numerous other tributes came from organizations such as the Liberian National Student Union, the Federation of Liberia Youth, The Mano River Youth Parliament, the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberian National Bar Association, the University of Liberia Faculty Association, the University of Liberia Alumni Association, etc

Senator Conmany Wesseh, who is the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the program and had earlier spoken about all the positive attributes of Dr. Sawyer, while giving his closing remarks tendered his apologies to all the participants for the fracas that briefly occurred between youths from the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and some members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) which was promptly brought under control.

He said the committee had invited all political parties in the country to be part of the program because he was a former leader of everybody and thanked the University authorities for stepping up to the game to bring the situation under control.

The other entertaining side of the program was the selections and dancing from the UL Chorus and traditional singers from River Gee County, South East of Liberia and had prominent South Easterners such as Dr. Togba-Nah Tippoteh, Senators Conmany Wesseh, Milton J. Teahjay, etc taking to the stage to celebrate the day.

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