By John Erakias Fallah, PhD
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Mt16:24-26
The Late Harry A. Greaves
It was about a month ago today when I received the vexing text that suddenly altered my usual Starbucks and after-church happy mood. The colloquial subject line read: “Someone did Harry Greaves.” “What!” ” I wonder what happened”, I thought to myself. A string of other questions and conspiracy theories subsequently invaded my mind. But the autopsy report says that subject line was erroneously predictive of the cause of death. The preliminary findings suggest that Hon. Harry A. Greaves, Jr., whose remains were found naked on the beach in Liberia, died from drowning.
Hon. Greaves, you and this tribute writer had nothing in common except Liberia as our common patrimony and a shared vision for a better country. Our paths never crossed in Liberia. The closest this writer ever came to knowing you was about two decades ago when he mingled with other student leaders at the University of Liberia frequently discussing watershed political developments of our country. We had shared public knowledge of your alleged complicity in the failed November 12, 1985 abortive invasion and your membership in the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), all of which preceded the Liberian civil war.
But on hearing the news of your death, and engulfed in sadness for the sudden loss of a prominent Liberian, I made new attempts to know you better. In my research, I stumbled on some of your last activist work on earth: writings and audios for expanded electricity in Liberia; and the fight against corruption and other complex issues that have long challenged our country. I was further consumed with sadness as I listened to audios of your appearances on radio talk shows in Liberia. Particularly moving was your appearance on the Costa Show in 2014. As I listened to you and simultaneously stared at the picture of your naked remains in a very despicable state, I couldn’t help but think of you as a true Liberian patriot and hero who fought a good fight for a sea-change in our country. I spent the rest of the week seeking information about you and listening to your lofty and intelligent ideas on how to make our country a bigger and better place to live again.
Your passion and broader vision for expanded electricity to boost the country’s struggling economy is unmatched in our history. Your resounding message that expanded and cheap electricity is the single most important economic issue of our time resonates with me and your countrymen. You reminded us that electricity was indeed your passion, and even if no one would join you, you were determined to be a Johnny-one-note in this effort. Your eloquence in explaining this vision, punctuated with useful statistics–150-200 megawatts of power needed for Monrovia and 700-800 megawatts for the country—points to your resolve for a new and better Liberia. You had a clear vision, determination and a plan to mobilize investors to build a 21st century power infrastructure for your country. With such a vision, one cannot help but ask, why were you only able to mobilize 12,000 signatures and not a whacking 3.5 million to change the monopoly laws of our country and privatize electricity in Liberia?
The answer is simple. Despite your Nkrumah-like vision for your country, there is still a divided view on your vision and activism. Your critics see your last activism for a better Liberia as demagoguery by a sleazy politician who wanted to bring attention back to himself after losing a lucrative public job and a special place in the corridors of power. But your admirers are fearlessly determined to remind those critics that you debunked that theory long before your demise. Believing in the character and substance of your activism, your admirers will remember you as a businessman and patriot who did not desire reentry in government but instead a revival of the private sector to boost the struggling Liberian economy. Further, to your critics and detractors we would like to ask these questions: What if his “demagogic activism” which mobilized 12,000 signatures were to succeed in pressuring the legislature to change the monopoly laws on electricity in Liberia? Who would have benefited the most, Liberia or Hon. Harry Greaves? It is quite obvious that Liberia and Liberians would have benefited immensely.
Besides, the battle between Hon. Greaves and the executive branch to either change or maintain the monopoly laws on electricity was healthy in the spirit of Barron de Montesquieu’s doctrine of Separation of Powers for guaranteed checks and balances in Liberia. Unlike the past, Hon. Greaves, for the first time, employed a more democratic mode of activism to influence public policy through the rule of law. To that extent, we are very proud of you, Hon. Greaves, as your ultimate goal was deeply rooted in enhancing public good in a country where public interest is always on the backburner. What is even more fascinating about your style of activism is the evolution of a man who once subscribed to a covert conspiracy for change to a more transparent and democratic means. You rallied and built a coalition of Liberians for reliable power through ERESCELCO (Coalition to Bring Plenty Cheap Reliable Stable Electricity To Liberia). Your admirers view this evolution as conscionable of a man who seemingly sought to make amends with his past. For this, we have no regrets in honoring you in this public manner as a hero who has petered out the voices of your critics, thus, earning you an enviable position in the annals of our history.
Hon. Greaves, we can say for certain that you were the loudest and most quintessential “electricity voice” of our time. We love you and will forever remember you as such. This is the kind of legacy and justice we seek for you. Martyrs and heroes don’t seek justice from autopsies. They owe their lives to public causes and we take solace for their loss in the divinity of a High Power who watches over all activities in the universe. Hence, we are convinced of one simple fact: our Higher Power who is all-knowing was watching on that fateful day and knows whether you accidentally or willfully took your own life or were murdered. If the latter were the case, we believe that the Almighty and all-knowing Judge would reveal himself from above and mete out his kind of justice. We also draw consolation from that old-fashioned Liberian parlance “God got on short trousers these days.”
But most importantly, the respect and honor that Liberians behold of you, Hon. Greaves, are not any less even if you were murdered and your murderers intended a despicable end of your life. So were most great men and martyrs in secular and religious history. The Indian spiritual and political revolutionary, Mahatma Gandhi, was shot by a fellow Hindu who detested Gandhi’s dream for Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsis, and Christians to live side by side with other Indians. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain for his passion and fight for the civil rights of African-Americans and other minorities in America. John the Baptist was decapitated by Herod because of his dissenting voice against Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife. The Apostle Paul was also decapitated for his faith under the rule of Emperor Nero who himself committed suicide the same year in 68 A.D. St. Stephen was stoned to death for this stern faith. And of course, the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ, was hanged on the cross for relentlessly challenging the political and religious establishments of his time. Simply put, it is not how you die but the cause and circumstances of your death that matter the most.
Good-bye Liberia’s activist, good-bye Liberia’s hero, good-bye Liberia’s Harry Augustus Greaves, Jr. Please pray for us now that you are alive in the spiritual world and can communicate in the spiritual language of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. May your soul and the souls of the faithful departed rest in perfect peace!
The Author: Dr. John Erakias Fallah is a proud product of the University of Liberia, BA, Sociology and Political Science; Washington University in St. Louis, MSW, Social and Economic Development; and St. Louis University, PhD, Public Policy Analysis-Social and Economic Development. He resides in St. Louis, Missouri, USA and can be reached at email@example.com.