He is ever present on MacDonald Street where the office of the publishers of the Daily Observer newspaper is located in Monrovia.
“Johnson is his name,” a passerby told our reporter, “I understand that his late father made him crazy.”
Why? The answers are many. But most people in the area say Johnson’s late father was the cause of his son going crazy.
Our informer who narrated the whole story said, “Johnson’s later father was retired by the Liberian government from the Armed Forces of Liberia. He was among the soldiers discharged during the administration of President Charles Taylor.
“His take home pay, like all those retired, was US$540. But then the old man’s money disappeared and everyone in his household denied taking the money. It happened that this guy, Johnson stole that money.”
The rest of the story is that after a frantic search for the money and everyone in the family stating they had no idea who could have taken it, the frustrated father decided to punish whoever might have stolen the money.
“He visited a juju man who warned him about the serious consequence that would befall the culprit if he did the work. He warned the old man to tell everybody in the family, including his own children, to confess or face the consequences. The father did as he was instructed by the juju man but again, everyone in the household including his son, Johnson, denied taking the money.
People believe the father was convinced that it was one of the boys staying with the family who took the money so he went back to the juju man and told him to go ahead with the medicine.
The result was what became of Johnson,” our informer said, adding, “It also led to the father’s death when he realized that for US540 he had brought upon his son such a terrible fate.”
Apart from his mental handicap Johnson is well-built and appears healthy in spite of eating from the garbage and whatever cook shop left overs he gets in plastic bags. He also drinks water from dirty containers and sleeps in a corner of the shed where the newspaper vendors buy their papers.
If left alone, Johnson is none threatening and says nothing to anyone. The main offence from Johnson is his refusal to wear trousers. He strolls around the community holding a scant rag around his torso, leaving his private exposed to the public, including the many children who stare questioningly at him.
Johnson walks to and fro Benson and MacDonald Streets area and does not care about what goes on around him. His mental condition is so severe that he is always naked.
“This guy is always naked walking around this area where at least four schools are located, including the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University and the Zion High School.
“This is not good for students to see a man always naked around here,” said a female student of AMEZU.
Perhaps going around naked is Johnson’s way of crying out for help.
Though the Daily Observer could not get confirmation of the cause of the victim’s mental difficulties, a source said mental problems can be treated and thinks the Ministry of Health& Social Welfare could be helpful to save these Liberians that society seems to have forgotten.
For example on Bushrod Island, near Point 4, a young man in his late 20s walks about the area oblivious of the necessities of life.
Confronted, he told our reporter, “My name is Junior,” and demanded for money to buy something to eat.
In the same area a woman, who evidently is mentally disturbed, was seen with a load on her head. A closer look indicated that like Johnson earlier mentioned, she was in a world of her own.
For many Liberians, mentally challenged persons may be suffering as a result of retribution for past crimes. There is evidence that illicit drugs are the cause of much of the mental illness in the society.
Investigations conducted by the Daily Observer revealed a number of young and old men and women who congregate in what is commonly called ‘ghettos’ particularly in slum communities in Monrovia.
“Illicit drugs that are mixed in pepper soup and some even turned into kanya (peanut and farina squares) is what they consume,” an insider confided.
Not much is known by most Liberians about the many diseases and conditions such as severe depression that can lead to mental illness and that all should not be blamed on witchcraft and drugs.
With overburdened resources further depleted by the recent Ebola crisis, health officials are not talking about interventions to rescue these forgotten Liberians.
The Ministry of Health & Social Welfare has a department of mental health, headed by Ms. Angie Nyakoon. Telephone calls to Ms. Nyakoon initially went unanswered, but when she eventually took the call yesterday and our reporter identified himself, she interrupted him and without asking the reason for the call, said she was in a meeting and suggested our reporter should call back in one and a half hours.
Our call made at the time requested was not answered.
Many Liberians interviewed have expressed exasperation (vexation) at a government ministry that seems not to have adequate rehabilitation programs to care for its mentally challenged. And like the failure to protect the abode of the Liberian dead, someone remarked, “If we cannot protect the abode of the Liberian dead, can we support those who are living let alone those who are mentally challenged?”