Daniel Bashiel Warner, the 3rd President of Liberia, is highly remembered for penning the national anthem of Africa’s first independent republic.
Now, 138-years after his death, President Warner’s gravesite, which should have been a national heritage site, lies in ruins at the corner of Warren Street and Camp Johnson Road.
Warner’s gravesite, for several years now, has been in deplorable condition, with fissures in the fences that are covered by mold, grass and dirt, flakes of paint peeling off all over. There is no sign of anyone appearing to undertake a repair of the gravesite as the situation becomes worse.
The trees and flowers planted at the gravesite are overgrown and, from their appearance, one can easily notice that they have not been trimmed in ages. Residents of the community where President Warner’s gravesite is located disclosed to the Daily Observer that the grave has not been touched in the last two years and, worse still, on Decoration Day it is hardly visited by any government officials, whether past or present.
“If not for our intervention, the current status of the grave could have been worst by becoming a dumpsite for street boys who collect dirt in the night. If the area was clean, no one would be stupid to throw dirt there,” a resident, who spoke with this paper, said, adding: “This is the grave of a great statesman and President of Liberia, which deserves proper facelift and constant visitation by government officials on Decoration Day, at least, to pay respects by laying wreaths.”
Prior to becoming President of Liberia, Warner served as the fifth Vice President of the country and the nation’s third Secretary of State.
Warner, an African-American, was born on Hookstown Road in Baltimore County, Maryland, to a father who was a farmer and ex-slave, acquiring his freedom one year before Warner was born.
Young Warner also served as a member of the Liberian House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate and, as President, his primary concern was his government’s relationship with the area’s indigenous people, particularly those in the interior of the country.
Under his administration, he organized the first expedition into the dense forest, led by Benjamin J. K. Anderson, which led to the signing of a treaty with the king of the Kingdom of Koya.
When contacted, a staff at the cultural and tourism department at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism who begged for anonymity, said the awful state of former President Warner’s grave is the result of lack of budgetary support to the department from the national government to maintain the grave as a historical site.
“It is sad but there’s nothing we can do. If you look at the 2018/2019 budget, we don’t have money there for the maintenance of any cultural site across the country. We have a lot that are in ruins but there’s no money to give them a facelift. No money. So we cannot turn the grave into a national shrine from which we can generate money by using the grave as a tourism site,” the staff said.
The saddest thing is that the grave site of other presidents, like William VS. Tubman and J.J. Roberts, are well maintained and are frequently visited by government officials.
Interestingly, only a few times did former-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf visit the grave site of former President Warner on Decoration Day holidays during her 12-years rule. President Weah who, during this year’s Decoration Day, embarked on a visit to grave sites of several former presidents of Liberia but did not pay a visit to President Warner’s grave.