— V.P. Taylor, others, pay tributes
The funeral of the popular businesswoman and politician, Dr. Katherine China Akalonu Wayas, fondly known by her family and friends in Liberia as Katherine Kpoto, took place in Abuja, Nigeria on November 30, 2019.
According to a release from the Embassy of Liberia in Abuja, Dr. Kpoto was admired in Nigeria for her political slogan, “Politics with a Human Face,” when she became the first woman in 1992 to run for President in Nigeria under the Social Democratic Party. A member of the Kpoto family of Lofa County, Liberia, she also ran for senator during the 2005 presidential and legislative elections that brought President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to power.
The release notes that Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor in her tribute to the Kpoto and Wayas families, said Katherine would be remembered for the help to her family when they were forced into exile in Calabar, Nigeria in 2003. As we remember “her laughter, beautiful smile, ability to move and make a difference, always wanting to help others, make things effortless, and her love and concern for others, may her soul and the souls of all the faithfully departed rest in peace.”
Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Al-Hassan Conteh, said “Katherine was a rare patriot and daughter of Liberia, who never gave up her contacts with her fatherland and affiliation with Liberians across the social, cultural and political spectrum in Liberia and Nigeria. On behalf of the Government and people of Liberia, I hereby express our deepest, heartfelt condolences to the family of our dear, departed sister in Nigeria and Liberia. May God Almighty accept her gentle soul in bliss and may her soul rest in perfect peace.”
At her funeral on Saturday, in Abuja, her eight surviving children and four grandchildren paid tribute to her as a “strong, resourceful, and vibrant mother to her children. Never a dull moment with her. When in the sanctuary of her home, she could be caught singing off-tune, cooking, making smart comments and jokes. She will be dearly missed by her loved ones,” the release adds.
The Grand Patron of Legacy Initiative International (LII), a group that works with religious leaders in Nigeria to promote peace, said she had “elaborate connections with the leadership of some West African countries, especially Liberia, and she proved herself to be a solid woman of substance in the way she undertook all the assignments that she was given to undertake in those very difficult period of Liberian History. Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi of Imo State Nigeria, said: “Katherine was a true gem, beautiful in heart and spirit and committed to God and family.”
Born in Firestone, Margibi County on June 10, 1953, Dr. Kpoto’s parents were the late Professor Sylvester Obi Akalonu and Madame Beatrice Ngoba Kpoto. She lived in Liberia with her parents and five siblings during her childhood years, and later relocated with her father to Nigeria to attend the American International School in Lagos, Nigeria, the release recollects.
Thereafter, she graduated from New York University and trained with Indian Airways, an expertise which applied to her work with both Air Liberia and Nigeria Airways. She was about to launch a private airline business in Liberia before her passing.
At the onset of Liberian civil war in 1990, Kate was a pillar of support to Liberian refugees in Nigeria. She is affectionately remembered for her cordial interaction, and regular visitations with Liberia Embassy officials in addressing the then gloomy political, economic and social problems back home. She unfailingly shared her great entrepreneurial and political ideas and exhortations on how to address peace and economic development in Liberia, the release concludes.