Tribute To The Late Honorable J. Emmanuel Zekpehgee Bowier

By Joe Bartuah

The late J. Emmanuel Zekpehgee Bowier

Honorable J. Emmanuel Zekpehgee Bowier, former Assistant Minister and Special Assistant to the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, former Executive Editor, The New Liberian newspaper, former Minister/Counselor for Press and Public Affairs at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC and former Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Republic of Liberia. Mr. Minister, you made your debut into this world on January 17, 1950 and over the years, you ably played your part until June 28, 2021 when, at a relatively young age of 71 years, the cruel hands of death snatched you away from your beloved family, your church, your many friends and the Liberian public.

From the onset in 1987 when you were whisked off from the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC and sent back to the Information Ministry in Monrovia, you didn’t know personally know me, because I had not joined the Ministry when you were Executive Editor of The New Liberian newspaper in the early ‘80s. However, upon taking over, you later proved that you were very eager to assemble the necessary talents in getting the job done.

As a result, when my late friend and colleague, Mr. Morris A. Gardea, who apparently appreciated my writing skills, suggested my name, you didn’t hesitate to give me the necessary preferment. Because of that, I got a transfer from my sub-editor post at the New Liberian to Senior Features Writer at the Public Affairs Bureau, and four months later on March 15, 1989, you effected my first publicized preferment when I heard on ELBC Radio that I had been appointed Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the New Liberian. In short, you were my benefactor, for which I remain immensely grateful, even as I mourn your untimely demise.

Upon reflection on your administration, there is no doubt that you were an action-oriented cabinet minister who was determined to restore the relevance of the Information Ministry at a difficult time in the nation’s history. Further reflecting on the three ministers under whose administrations I worked at the ministry in pre-conflict Liberia—Carlton Alexwyn Karpeh, Samuel Momolu Getaweh and J. Emmanuel Bowier—you were the youthful and literally the most athletic minister. You’ll frequently scurry from upstairs, get to your official vehicle and even open the door for your security detail, before Mr. Bowman, your chief security he got to the car.

While some other ministers appeared timid in those days to visit the Executive Mansion and make the necessary fiscal case for their ministry, you were always determined to do so with ease. As you used to jokingly tell us, “Samuel Doe is my crowd of boys.”

When the editor-in-chief of the New Liberian was experiencing some administrative hiccups and I began acting, I realized that you were a down-to-earth gentleman. I have reason to believe that had our interations been during the advent of cell phone, perhaps I would have been on your favorite contact list at the time, due to your concerns about the newspaper. In the absence of that, as a former executive editor, your were not an armchair minister, because you were a frequent unannounced visitor to our newsroom, trying to ensure that the paper was put to bed in an appropriate fashion.

As the nation’s Chief Spokesman at the onset of the rebel war that turned out to be a 14-year devastating conflagration, you were one of the key front-liners who were frequently put in a tough corner in crocheting a delicate semantic equilibrium aimed at calming the people’s nerves. Whether it was in the Gambia or in Sierra Leone, as you and other compatriots engaged in shuttle diplomacy, aimed at adverting a disaster, you didn’t relent in alerting the nation and even President Doe about the lurking danger.

Of course, when common sense couldn’t prevail, as Liberia became a zone of deaths, you instinctively made the right decision by going into exile. In subsequent years, you opted for a career adjustment in becoming a minister of the Gospel, in order to fully serve your Maker, who had spared your life in the unprecedented melee.

As a result upon your return to post-conflict Liberia, what I have been hearing is that yours has been an essential voice of reasoning, as you became very keen on cautioning and guiding our young and energetic compatriots, while simultaneously reminding older folks about the historical trajectory of our common patrimony.

I believe you were doing that because you rightly reasoned that once a public servant, always a public servant. In so doing you were also adhering to the Lord’s call to duty, for he had admonished us all to work when there is time (St. John 9:4). Indeed, your passing is a great loss, not only to your family, but also to the Republic of Liberia. My deepest condolences go to your wife, your children and your congregation.

May your soul rest in perpetual peace.

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