‘Vlah Broke Our Hearts, Not Forgotten’ -Jewel Tenders Moving Tribute at Nyenpan’s Death Anniversary

Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, has released an emotional eulogy for the late Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan today, November 26, exactly a year after his death. She is widely believed to have had intimate relations with the fallen Public Works Minister. The first Vice President of the Republic of Liberia invokes tears and fond memories of Hon. Nyenpan in an emotionally charged tribute, stating amongst other things, that he “broke our collective hearts with the sadness of his passing, and yet, his was a reminder to all of us to always strive to make the best of life for it is likely to come to an end when we least expect.” See below Madam Howard-Taylor’s Tribute. 

A Memorial Tribute to Honorable Mobutu Vlah Nyepan, Sr.

By Jewel Howard Taylor

On today, November 26, 2021, family, colleagues, friends, well-wishers and loved ones, we are again drawn together by memory to mourn someone who was loved by many and to recall an impactful life. All of us would have wished Honorable Senator Mobutu Vlah Nyepan, Sr. were here and not transcended in peaceful repose. But, like all of us, he, too, belonged to a Heavenly Father whose appointed time for his life must be fulfilled. One year later, as we still struggle with the truth that Vlah is gone, we know he will not be forgotten because for many of us he continues to live in our memories. His effervescent smile and characteristic warmth we may no longer see and feel, and yet, he continues to inspire us and show us a better way to live with others. He broke our collective hearts with the sadness of his passing, and yet, his was a reminder to all of us to always strive to make the best of life for it is likely to come to an end when we least expect.

October 30, 2020, began like all other days. But it was fateful for all of us. It was Vlah’s day to quietly, and it is fair to say, unexpectedly slip from our world to where we believe him to be, in a better place where sickness and pain do not exist. It still seems like a dream. One last breath and Vlah’s lips were sealed. His smiles, voice, jokes and laughters silenced. Vlah laid lifeless – the light of a family went dark, the support of many taken away, the hearts of many broken, a voice of calm and reason, stilled. Too many questions have been asked, and yet, more than a year later, no answers have been found. We cling to his cherished memories in the promised hope to meet again – to laugh again, to talk again, to joke again, to argue again, and yes, to love again.

Mobutu, as he was called by many and Vlah to his closest friends, was born to humble beginnings on March 20, 1964 to Mr. David Tunning and Mrs. Francis Tunning. His Father was a bus driver and his mother a housewife (both deceased). His parents had several other children who grew up under the stern tutelage of their father. His mother’s first Child, Vlah was loved and cherished. This love became the foundation of Vlah’s personality. He was a people’s person and would be seen gathering people from all walks of life to celebrate, mourn or just talk through his favorite subject, politics. Eventually, he would gravitate to become the center of the conversation.

With academic degrees in Engineering, International Relations and Law, Vlah easily combined the technical and the methodical powers of reasoning to offer insightful persuasions to discourses and seeming discomforts for those in opposition to his views. He held strongly and persuasively to positions, and combined wits, experiences and the sharpness of his critical mind to persuade favorable ends to conversations and disagreements ensuring they often ended jovially. Vlah was the life of a party, pulling others toward him with infectious confidence and unmatched ease so that everyone around him felt humanely treated, valued, respected and important.

More than being a lawyer, an engineer and a politician, Mobutu, was also a leader, a writer, a loyal partner and an endearing nationalist. When you’ve grown up being poor with no inheritance to call on, you are best served bettering your mind and trying your hands at many of life’s presenting opportunities. Vlah knew this very well. And so, he was also a social entrepreneur and a businessman. He was not just about making profits but investing to lift others up. As if a constant reminder to himself, Vlah would often say, “I am working hard, as hard as I possibly can, to make a better life for my family.” He was a good father to his children, and was a true father and role model to many, many young people from all walks of life.

Everywhere he went, it was common to hear Mobutu being endearingly and respectfully called “Papay”. His reaction was characteristically Vlah’s in acknowledging kindly and proudly embracing the term as a badge of recognition and honor. It was understandable for a young man from Voogbadee, in Sinoe County, who had worked as hard as anyone would expect him to work, in order to reach the heights he attained and the popularity he achieved in the Liberian society. He built his own ladders to success where none existed, and willed himself to climb, even when climbing seemed impossible, so that the name Mobutu Vlah Nyepan, growing out of obscurity, would be increased in deserved respect and prominence.

Vlah, was exceedingly proud of his political journey. He would gladly share the many stories of the struggles for multi-party democracy and the many lessons learnt from his Political Godfather, the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews, and other senior brothers involved in the struggle for political transformation in Liberia, all of which combined to hone his political outlook. A deep thinker who always believed in the unending possibilities of a better Liberia, Vlah would also take time to explain the intricacies of the civil war and its many unintended consequences. He was particularly hopeful that Liberia will continue to rise leaving behind the difficulties of its past to embrace the possibilities of a united and prosperous future. Vlah is no longer here to see the Liberia he imagined possible. But the vision he helped to inspire lives on – the vision of a continuously progressive and better Liberia will never die! In believing thus with all his heart, he often said – “The Road to Development begins with the Development of Roads.”

Today, I employ us to celebrate the fullness of Vlah’s life. At first, there was the baby boy, born to a typical Liberian rural household in which many things are lacking for a happy life. However, I am told by family members that there was always a glow in Mobutu’s eyes which made one to believe that the boy child would endeavor to actually lack nothing while providing many things for others, some of which he did not personally know.

Then there was Vlah, the student – making his way through primary and secondary schooling in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh Counties to eventually seek university education in Monrovia. Vlah was never unsettled by living in the Capital and under challenging circumstances. He was motivated daily not by all that was happening around him but intrinsically by his own burning desire to be the best he could possibly be, thereby reminding all of us that it never is about where we came from. It is always about where we believe ourselves to be headed, and how hard we are each willing to work to get there. As a student, he did not settle for the easy way, he studied engineering, and went on to study law. His was a competitive spirit, and his battles to succeed were always a fight he had with himself feeling inspired by, and not envious of, the successes of others around him.

Then there was Vlah, the Engineer – though politics was in his DNA, he would tell about his father cautioning him about politicians not living stable or comfortable lives. So, although politically super-active, he studied engineering at the University of Liberia and came out with flying colors. The study of engineering enabled Vlah not just to build things but also to see life from every possible angle and perspective. As a result, it sharpened his skills, vocabulary, ability to debate, hold persuasive and meaningful conversations, and write with higher levels of proficiency. He worked as an engineer for USAID, building schools and other facilities which are dotted across the country. Vlah would proudly identify each of his engineering handiwork as he travelled across the country.

Vlah was intrinsically a politician – Mobutu Vlah Nyepan, Vlah or Senator Nyepan, as he was commonly called by his colleagues, brought a critical eye and reasoned thoughtfulness to debates on the floor of the Liberian Senate. In fact, if his colleagues knew Vlah would be debating on a particular subject, everyone knew they had to spend time adequately preparing for his incisive mind and piercing arguments. Even when countered he was quick on his feet to offer perspectives that countered the counters. He was masterfully persuasive. A simple question from Vlah would unravel arguments and prove enlightening. Members of the 51st Legislature were happy if Vlah was on their team. He was diligent in his duties and inspired all others to do similarly. As a result of his work and love for the people he represented; Vlah became the voice and heartbeat of the SARPO PEOPLE, and dedicated himself to speak passionately about their hopes, aspirations and plans for their tribe; the most important of which was the listing of the SARPO TRIBE as one of Liberia’s Official tribes. He was proud of his heritage and made everyone aware of it, calling out the names of many areas throughout the Southeastern Region with such fervor, that those of us who heard them wished they would be opportune to visit. And indeed many visited as a result of his warm invitations.

Though he had a short stunt of 9 years in the Liberian Senate, he left a living legacy in the Halls of the Capitol Building. Keeping his dream alive, after he left the Senate, he went back into private practice and obtained a Law Degree and a Masters in International Relations. Vlah became an active and influential member of the United Peoples Party (UPP). He remained therein until 2016, when the face of politics shifted from the Old to the Young, which ushered a new wave of populist politics and leaders. He then joined the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) becoming an integral part of the leadership which took the Coalition for Democratic Change to an overwhelming victory in 2017. For the first time, the CDC won every county except Lofa. Vlah was proud of his record. As a result of his leadership during that election, the CDC won Sinoe County with over 90% of the registered voters, an enviable record that no other county attained.

Then there was Vlah, the Minister of Public Works – Vlah was appointed and confirmed as the MINISTER OF PUBLIC WORKS, a position in which he served until his demise on October 30, 2020. Minister Nyepan, took the responsibilities of this assignment as amongst his greatest, and worked 10 to 12 hours a day, checking and double-checking the figures, drawings, statistics, and even feeling the pulse of the public on the level of work being done across the nation. His one dream was that this government would complete the Coastal Corridor Road to fulfill President Weah’s promise to his native South Easterners from the perennial problems of inaccessible roads. Vlah was a hands-on Minister, and you would find him, during non-working days and long into the nights at project sites, to the chagrin of those closest to him. Indeed, Vlah took the job of the Minister of Public Works to a higher notch, always saying, the President is depending on me to construct and finish his roads.

Vlah was a father – Papay, as he was commonly called by many, and Daddy, as he was called by his biological children, had a dream that his children or those in his sphere of influence would be strong, diligent, patriotic and hard working. Epitomized by his own life, Vlah believed these were the best attributes for life and would guarantee a successful future for his children and their grandchildren. He would often remark – MY FATHER WAS A BUS DRIVER AND MADE ME WHAT I AM TODAY. He loved each of his children and was a father figure to his younger siblings as they called him Brother Mobutu in respect. All his children would confide that in spite of his undying love for them, he also was a stern and disciplinary father.

And Vlah was a friend – Vlah was a friend to many and an endearing one to me. For many of life’s challenges and need for support, he was always there, and a trustful and committed partner. With him in my corner, I was always reassured that it was possible to overcome all challenges. The circle of our friendship was shattered on October 30, 2020, when we received the news that Vlah had given up the fight, and quietly returned to his fathers. The news was shocking, numbing and the walls seemed to grow tighter and constricted. In dreams, we see him smiling as if to say, go on, all will be well. But when you have come to count on someone being next to you and saying constantly that all is well, it takes more than just a dream to remember the greatness of the MAN VLAH.

Sometimes, we let ourselves think all of this is just a joke, and that Vlah will walk back through the door and say – “Look oh, what’s happening here?” Vlah was the epitome of a good and faithful friend, a true brother who could be counted on in the trenches, and yet, one who was quick to correct, when we were wrong.

To all of us who came to know Vlah, I know that last year has been hard. But Vlah was about life. He showed us it is possible to live beyond difficulties. He showed us that it is possible to come from nobody and grow to become somebody. And yes, he showed us that to each of us will come an end. Vlah would want us to live well, as he did, and leave our marks in the sands of time, and in the lives of others, as he also did. So, yes, we must look ahead and walk in the steps of his good examples.

So today we honor his memory and ALL that he was to each of us.

For me I can only say, I wasn’t ready to let you go.


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