Liberia: Johnson N. Gwaikolo, an Astute Educator, Politician, Dies at 68

Johnson N. Gwaikolo, a prominent figure known for his roles as an educator and politician, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, February 19, at the age of 68.

Formerly representing Nimba County District #9, Gwaikolo served as Chairman of various committees in the House of Representatives, including Foreign Affairs, Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, Rules, Order and Administration, as well as Education and Public Administration.

His sudden death occurred at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia, with the cause of his passing remaining undetermined. Gwaikolo’s recent defeat in the October 10 election to Rep. Taa Wongbe has been speculated as a possible contributor to his untimely death.

The news of his passing has deeply saddened colleagues at the House of Representatives, as well as residents of Nimba County and the nation at large.

In addition to his legislative contributions, Gwaikolo had a diverse professional background that included roles within the National Transitional Legislative Assembly, executive positions within various government ministries, and leadership roles at the United Methodist University, where he served as president.

The former Nimba County Representative (Legislator) was both a seasoned politician and an educator. Rep. Gwaikolo was a member of the Interim Legislative Assembly, which later transitioned into the Liberian National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), from October 2003 to January 2006.

He served as Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly, at which time he provided administrative direction to the Body until a Speaker was designated by the appropriate Party.

During the LNTA, he served as Chairman, of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and also Chairman, of Ways and Means, Finance, and Development Planning. Eleven years later, Rep. Gwaikolo again joined the Legislature after the October 2017 General Elections when he was elected Representative of District 9, Nimba County.

He was the Chairman, of the Committee on Education and Public Administration, and Co-Chair of the Committee on Public Works. He lastly served as Chairman on Rules, Orders, and Administration.

In the Executive Branch of government, the late Gwaikolo served in various capacities, ranging from Executive Director for the National Investment Commission to Deputy Minister for Administration at the ministries of Finance, Labor, and Public Works, respectively.

He also worked with UNDP to establish the Development Diplomacy Program by which Liberian Foreign Service Officers were assigned to Liberian Diplomatic Missions to specifically pursue development initiatives.

With the United Methodist University (UMU), he rose from Vice President for Business and Finance to President. At the helm of the UMU, He provided leadership and surveillance for all aspects of the University, including academics, finance, planning, student affairs, enrollment, advancement, athletics, and other key areas.

He worked closely with the Board of Directors to ensure that the strategic direction and policies of the university are aligned with its mission. Under his leadership, the UMU established the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to govern research activities at the University. 

Gwaikolo's educational background encompassed advanced degrees in Inter-Disciplinary Leadership and Leadership Studies, highlighting his commitment to academic and professional growth.

He obtained his EdD in Interdisciplinary Leadership (Creighton University), a Master of Arts (MA) in Leadership Studies (Augsburg College), and BA in Accounting (Augsburg College). He has written two unpublished papers: Transformational Leadership in Africa, the Case of Ghana; and Improving Higher Education in Liberia, the Role of Student Engagement. 

To sum up his legacy, Johnson N. Gwaikolo leaves behind a rich tapestry of accomplishments in both the political and educational realms, impacting the lives of many in Liberia.

The late Representative Johnson N. Gwaikolo is survived by his wife and four children.