Many may have forgotten or may not have been aware because of the Ebola crisis which has pre-occupied everyone’s mind, that yesterday was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s 76th birthday. The celebration was low key with the president in a calm and reflective mood.
This unusual silent celebration is understandably because of the Ebola crisis which has taken a dreadful toll on the country’s population and the economy. However, the positive reports that the virus is now waning, may have been a reason not to celebrate yet, but to be hopeful and thankful and bring the President some measure of cautious relief.
President Sirleaf spent the whole day working at her Foreign Ministry Offices while at the same time intermittently receiving guests who had come to extend birthday greetings.
She received and held discussions with several individuals and institutions some of whom presented her with gifts among which were donations in support of government’s efforts to fight the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). This was to the President’s great delight.
The gifts included birthday cakes, an ambulance and many anti-Ebola supplies, including buckets, chloride and disinfectants.
Visiting the President yesterday were representatives and members of institutions including the Liberian Senate, the Booker Washington Institute family, Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank, Central Bank of Liberia and Land Commission.
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, of which the President is a member, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund and several others, also arrived to convey birthday greetings.
The first group to identify with the Liberian President was the Booker Washington Institute’s alumni association and its administration. The BWI family through the chairman of the Board of Governors, alumnus Kenneth Y. Best, presented several anti-Ebola items.
Mr. Best said, “We want to wish you, Madam President a happy birthday and also want to thank you for the opportunity to be here. On behalf of the board of governors of BWI, faculties, staff, alumni and the student body, we want to thank God for this day and we also want to present these gifts, which is our way of joining you in the fight.”
A high level delegation from the Liberian Senate, headed by Senator Cletus Wotorson, also paid a brief visit with the Liberia leader. Senator Wotorson said that Senate Pro-Tempore Gbehzongar Findley would have loved to be present, but was on his way from Grand Bassa so he had instructed him (Wotorson) to lead the delegation.
The Grand Kru Senator informed the President that as their gift the Liberian Senate had passed four bills that are intended to enhance the efficiency of the Ellen-led governance exercise.
Some members of the Senate delegation included Isaac Nyenabo, Alphanso Gaye, Frederick Cherue and others. Senator Joyce Musu Freeman Sumo sang a birthday song for the President.
The Senators were followed by a delegation from the Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank. The GT Bank delegation donated one Nissan Urban Ambulance as a way of buttressing government’s efforts to eradicate Ebola.
CBL Governor, Dr. J. Mills Jones, led a hierarchy of the Bank to wish the President a happy birthday. They presented an undisclosed gift. However, Governor Jones said the gift could be used to carryout humanitarian services.
The sorority group presented as a gift, a masterpiece cake with a famous picture of the President exquisitely displayed on it. They provided some words of encouragement to the President through a poem that they read and called on her to keep the focus, especially during these difficult times.
President Sirleaf thanked all of the visitors and told them how happy she was to see them at her office in such numbers. “My heart is indeed warmed to see you people here. I have been receiving a lot of calls since this morning, but it is touching to see you people here. I want to thank all of you for taking off your time to come here. But my major request is for us to remain vigilant until Ebola is kicked out of our country,” said the President.
The President had earlier noted that she will not and does not intend to celebrate as there is nothing to celebrate and all should focus on ways in which the virus can be defeated.
This year’s celebration was void of the pageantry and fanfare which usually characterizes her birthday like the one held last year at the Omega Community in Paynesville. The President used that occasion to raise thousands of dollars for the construction of the Omega Market Project.
Liberians on various radio stations around the country, by early morning, began to wish their leader happy birthday. Some asked God to grant her long life and wisdom in order to carry out the mandate of the presidency, especially during this difficult period in the country’s history.
The President, who did not make much of the occasion, had only one request: a hand wave from the Liberian people on her natal day. She told reporters during an interview, “I will spend my birthday here at my office working. I’m not celebrating because there is nothing to celebrate. The only thing that I want from my people when I’m passing is a birthday wave.”