From Obscurity to National Hero

... A story of how a single act of honesty saves poor 18-years old boy from poverty

When Musu Yancy, a prominent businesswoman in rural Nimba County lost US$50,000 she had limited hope of ever seeing the money again. 

Musu knew that it was going to be difficult for anyone coming across such an amount to return it. However, she decided to give hope a try. 

“When the money was lost, Musu had little hope of recovering it,” said a family source with knowledge of the situation. “Even after promising a handsome reward, we still never expected to get it back because of the high rate of dishonesty and poverty rate in Liberia.

“And after a considerable amount of time, with no one coming forward, her world came crumbling down, as it ended. She was scattered, and totally confused,” the source added.  “It took lots of monthly sales to raise that money and losing it just in a split second, Musu could not get over it.”

Musu, who is based in Tappita, takes goods from merchants, finds new customers to whom she sells the goods, and returns a share of the proceeds to the merchants.

In an earlier interview with a local radio station in Nimba, Musu Yancy said: “We usually take goods from my business partner in Monrovia and, after selling, we return the money,” she said. “But it had been quite some time since I didn't return money to my business partner due to the bad road conditions.”

The unthinkable 

And as Musu’s hope of recovering the money diminished, a nineteen-year-old boy who lives in abject poverty in Gblor Dialah, one of Nimba County’s poorest settlements, became her savior. He found the bag of cash.

Emmanuel Tuloe, a fatherless child, decided the unthinkable – returning the US$50,000 plus an additional L$100,000 after coming across a radio plea from Musu, who was in search of the money.

The 19-year-old stumbled upon the money while returning from a dowry payment program in Graie, a town along the Ganta-Tappita highway, precisely between Zeonghain and Volay – 30 minutes’ drive from Tappita City, where Musu lives and runs her business.

Tuloe found the money lying on the roadside wrapped in a plastic bag unnoticed.  The highway in question is one of the busiest in Nimba County and is frequented by motorcyclists.

“I was afraid because the money was plenty; and so I brought it home and gave it to my aunty to keep until the owner could ask for it,” Tuloe told the AFP news agency last week. He then returned the money after Musu had gone on a local radio station “crying for her money and appealing to anyone finding it.”

Upon reporting the money, Musu rewarded him with a token of US$1,500 cash and other materials.  It was then shared by some of those who were traveling with him. Tuloe took US$500 and gave the rest of the money to his aunty who kept the bag, to distribute the remaining US$1000 among family members who were with him when the money was found.

Battle against dishonesty 

Tuloe’s action, which is difficult to see in a poverty-stricken country like Liberia, has rattled the country – pitching honesty against dishonesty – as he is being mocked by some friends for doing what is not so obvious for a poor boy like himself.

 “Since my decision, when I have a breakdown on the highway and some of my rider friends see me, they do not help. They say I acted stupid to find and return the money. I should let the money help me,” Tuloe disclosed prior to meeting President George Weah yesterday. “They tell me I will never get rich in my lifetime. They say because I returned such an amount of money I will live and die poor.”

In Liberia, a country vastly rich with natural resources, many of its citizens are poor and, with pandemic level corruption, there is little or no hope for the future of the country’s youthful population.

And despite the relatively small population of less than five million, poverty and inequality are major issues. Poverty affects 50.9 percent of the population, with the burden heavier in the rural areas (71.8%) as compared to urban settings (31.5%). Liberia is ranked 175th out of 189 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index 2020.

According to the World Bank’s Macro Poverty Outlook of June 2020, Covid-19 increased extreme poverty in Liberia such that the proportion of people surviving on US$1.90 per day or less, rose from 44.4 percent in 2019 to 46.3 percent in 2020.

But Tuloe's unprecedented record challenges the perception that Liberian youth nowadays cannot be trusted.  His persistence to overcome the odds of poverty temptation, which many would have fallen prey to, has landed him from obscurity to becoming a national hero in a matter of days.

“Emmanuel is giving hope to the remaining honest people who have lost the battle to dishonesty, which has bred corruption,” said Eric Benson, Uncle to Tuloe. He is single-handedly facing off with an entire segment of a population that practices dishonesty and corruption as a sport. He has been mocked daily, though he remains undeterred from holding fast to the value and importance of honesty.” 

Benson, who says he is not surprised by Tuloe’s decision, described his nephew as being very honest from childhood and one who hates cheating.

“He always performs his task accordingly, and while selling for me sometime back, nothing got missing,” Benson said, recounting his nephew’s good deeds.

President Weah move

And in spite of being mocked for his honesty, Tuloe, who dropped out of school in 7th grade to work as a commercial motorcyclist, has in the midst of the criticism remain largely upbeat – not regretting his action, which finally caught the attention of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and President George Manneh Weah.

At a meeting with the Liberian leader, he was praised for his exceptional sense of morality and good citizenship, which the President called on others to emulate.

“You are a prime example of what the Bible teaches us in Proverbs 22:1, that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” the President said. “I want to inform you that at the next national investiture ceremony, you will be recognized and honored with one of Liberia’s highest Orders of Distinction for your honesty.”

But President Weah did not stop there; he offered Tuloe a scholarship to attend any school of his choice in Liberia, up to Master’s level, as an additional token for his bravery, which is highly seen in Liberia.

 “I am hereby presenting you, herewith enclosed, an amount US$10,000.00, as well as two brand-new motorcycles for you to improve your circumstances and sustain yourself financially,” President Weah added. “Although it is often said that virtue is its own reward, I believe that you should be additionally rewarded for this virtuous act, which brought miraculous rescue and relief to a hardworking businesswoman. Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite.”

Before the President’s gesture, Tuloe had been struggling to continue his education since dropping out of 7th grade, and occasionally had to borrow a motorbike from one of his friends when he was off-duty in order to earn a few dollars to sustain himself.