Tribute To A Fallen Hero, Comrade Theophilus T. Bettie

 

 By Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan

When I entered the University of Liberia, I heard great stories of men and women who had achieved great exploits during their days there, at our dear “ Lux in Tenebrix “ [the university’s motto in Latin for light in darkness]– Bettie’s record of academic and political achievements at the university were legendary and exceptionally inspiring.

We met face to face for the first time at a July 26 Celebration at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC in 2007. Instantly, both of us experienced an indescribable sense of fulfillment and joy – because it was, as if both of us were craving for a century to see each other. We talked about our favorite subject, Mama Liberia, and Bettie intimated his desire to come to Liberia and assist in the Herculean effort of restoring hope to our Motherland.

A few months later, he would join the team at the Central Bank of Liberia, my former workplace. With his country’s cause always defending and “with valor unpretending,” he executed his job with passion, with dedication, and with integrity.

Whether it was in the conference room at the Ministry of Finance or at the Central Bank of Liberia; or whether it was in the conference room at the IMF or at the World Bank; whether it was in the conference center in Freetown or in Kinshasa,  or the many other places around the world where both of us were engaged in the ennobling cause of upholding the dignity of the Liberian flag and advancing the cause of our compatriots, one thing was sure – his brilliance, pure like gold and sharp like knife, was always  truly impressive!

As we sang the chorus of national development, his bass helped to create a palatable melody; and in this relay run called the Race of National Transformation, he gave Mama Liberia a head- start by running very fast on his part of the track.

In my mind’s eyes, I still conjure fond and fresh memories of all the great moments we had together – our reflections in the streets of Freetown in 2009, our excitement in Paris in September 2010 after we had successfully made the case for 100% cancellation of our country’s debt to the Paris Club creditors. Oh, and there was the truly unique experience of visiting the Kinshasa General Market in August 2011.

We both celebrated whenever we heard good news concerning any one of us; and we both cheered each other up whenever the news was not too good. We both were busy men, extremely busy men. For the past six months, we had not met to compare our usual COMRADE NOTES on a wide-range of issues. So we talked on the phone about a month ago and agreed that when I return from Bali, Indonesia and him from Abuja, Nigeria, we would find time for our usual COMRADE RENDEZVOUS.

But while going through check-in proceedings at the Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, I almost collapsed when I read on my phone that that cruel and selfish thief called Death had struck you!  Comrade, while we were still reading the words of the well constructed sentence that was your Life; our reading has now been punctuated by the period called Death, leaving us with a sentence fragment.

While we were still receiving the light of direction and hope from your candle that glowed with sparkling brilliance, our light has been blown off by the gusty wind called Death – and now, all we see is the dreadful darkness of the moonless night.

Death is the Truth that we wish were a Lie. But we know that Life is a toll road, with no bypass, which empties into the checkpoint called Death. And one by one, each of us will have to reach that checkpoint someday, sometime, somewhere. But painfully, you have reached that check-point so soon.

Bo, Big Brother, now go in peace, ever remembering that Liberia is getting better because you once lived.

Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Minister Of Foreign Affairs, Former Minister Of Finance, Former Assistant Manager Of International Banking At The Central Bank Of Liberia (CBL). November 23, 2013

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