TRIBUTE TO COUSIN FATU GITTENS-WHITE“TATU”
Cousin Fatu was born on July 14, 1954 in Monrovia elevendays after my birth in Gbarnga.Both of us are Cancer and certainly we were good friends. She and I obtained High school the same year, she from B.W. Harris and I from Monrovia College(MC), again both of us met at University of Liberia (LU) and obtained our BA as well. I still remember the staunch debate for Miss LU 73/74 and certainly I wholeheartedly supported and when she won we celebrated it for a month. I called her Cousin while all others called her TATU and she used to smile when I used to tell her“You must be happy you get a white Cousin”…… She used to buy her books from my standard stationery stores on Broad Street few feet far from her school. At LU I always gave her and many of my class mates lifts (that time I was a prince, plying Monrovia streets with a new Mustang and the only white student….), since April 2012 I am using Taxi and whenever she stopped for me I used to remind her of the hundreds lifts I offered her in the 70s and she used to laugh… once she stopped for me and said, “Coz, you are known as president Sirleaf’s son and you are using taxi?” I replied her, this is transparency and accountability….she laughed and said, I BEG YOU YA…..She was right and I wish I listened to my elders advises……(Dad, Hykal, Hage, AbiJaoudi, Khoury, Saleeby, Saad, Haddad, Bayeh Etc…Etc…Etc….)
When the coup took over in 1980, Fatu was out of country and when she returned she worked for Liberia Timber and Plywood Corp. (LTPC)in Sinoe County. She was astonished to see my contact with President DOE (GOD BLESS) and the entire PRC members. In 1982, I was a member of Liberia delegation to UN headed by the late martyr President Doe and when I returned she asked me how I manage to enjoy President Doe confidence. I replied her, Coz, I crossed carpet from TWP to PRC camp and became very close to all PRC members. I remember several times per her requests I arranged appointmentsfor her with PRC Vice Chairman J. Nicholas Podierfor help because he was from SinoeCounty where LTPC headquarters was located.
On September 3, 2004, Professor Fatu as chairperson of the department of Business and Public Administration College, (UL), wrote me a letter inviting me to speak on Management – 436 (Business Management), a gesture I found it to be a great honor for me being an alumnus of this esteemed college. On September 25, 2004, I wore my latest outfit, stood earnestly as a white man behind a JJ Robert desk, no micro, heavynoisy rain flushing the room and I had to loud my voice, beautiful and ambitious students were looking at me asking themselves what Da white man doing here, I knew few of them and their parents well, then, Idelivered my prepared speech without glancing on it and all students’ presents cheered me up, at the end I entertained questions.Among tens of questions I quote two very interesting questions:
1- Sir, why a Lebanese comes to Liberia with an empty bag and open a store without a capitol and within few years he owns a building and other stores? I smiled and replied;My dear when a Lebanese arrives at other country for business he always has in mind that HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY IN LIFE, he gives priority to his creditors by making sure that the trust was given to him by his supplier is maintained. So, when he opens a store he makes sure that the goodsat his store not given to girlfriend or for drinks or for car like the majority of Liberians. I concluded, as you are aware that I was born in Liberia, me and Dad have interacted with thousands of Liberians and all of them disappointed us when we gave them credit becausethey used it on girlfriends, car and drinks among others. Etc…Etc…
2- Sir, next year we are graduating and the current business atmosphere discourage us to do business at the time we don’t have capitol at all. I replied, as you are aware next year is presidential election and I am sure Cousin Ellen Johnson-Sirleafis running for presidency, she will certainly win in Jesus name because she is an economist, a banker, a mother, a Liberian with a vision and last but not least a God fearing lady. Since all over the world universities are venues for political activities let us all gather together and storm Monrovia streets in support for Ellen and you will see that all of will reach to our destination in Jesus name…. I am also sure that one of her priorities would be the unemployment and providing a capital for small Liberian business. (In 2013, the astute CBL Governor Mills Jones provided loans for small Liberian business, and I pray he will not be disappointed like all of us in the business community). During my speech I was cheered me up many times and indeed from that moment I saw that GOD will rescue us by sending Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf….a student asked, and if Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf lost? I promptly replied, than there is no GOD my dears……..
The following day, Fatu called me and said, Coz, I invited you to speak on 436, management and business not to campaign for Ellen Sirleaf….I will not invite you again…I laughed and said, Cousin in 2006 I will be either a minister or an ambassador or President of LU…she laughed and said I hope so, but I doubt it Coz……(she reminded it many times when she used to give me lifts). The same day I emailed my speech to the press and many people including my daughter and Jess Sirleaf who highly appreciated my writing of his mom by the same Yahoo email.
We were in weekly contact and in 2006 I asked her if she was interested to work for GOL so I can push it for her, she thanked me and said she was happy at LU.
In April 2011, she called me to find out of LU professor who was dismissed by Dr. Dennis, I told her, that I personally reported that corrupt professor who is not qualified to be one of my drivers because he was immature, rude, hostile and has openly demanded USD from all of us at the class and I refused but many of my class mates paid him because they were rushing for photo with presidents Sirleaf and Dennis and for Diploma for job. (I told my class mates, I have hundreds of photos with President Sirleaf and Dr. Dennis, Please read INQUIRER newspaper, January 14 and January 29 and May 16, 2014) I also told her of my class mate who offered to pay the professor for me but I refused by adding that PH.D were working for me, Fatu was mute when she heard me calling names and figures…. When she read my articles at the INQUIRER newspaper on January 14 and January 29 this year she called me and appealed for me to stop such writings…then I told her, “Coz, I am now without a family,money, store, office, goods, equipment, vehicle, even good clothing and I have nothing to lose, I regret spending all my life in Liberia and I want to depart for good leaving foot print behind me.I have names and figures to support my writings…….she was also astonished when I told her since Doe days, many LU professors were demanding USD for grades and how many students graduated and spent few weeks at LU while I spent over 3 (2008-2011) years without missing a single class. Also many students including my house girl have begged me for USD to pay LU employees to be admitted. When she read that I am retiring in Lebanon this July 3, she told me that I can’t make it in Lebanon and I will return and she will make sure I am buried in Gbarnga. GOD bless….
When I was in Lebanon May 2011 to April 2012 Fatu used to call me twice a week:
Once one of my female graduate class mates called me to Lebanon and said, “Coz, Prof. …..wantedme to spend a night with him and he will award me A, then I reported him to LU authority.” When I relayed it to Cousin Fatu on phone she was astonished and promised she will follow it up with LU authorities. I also gave her my class mate name and cel number…..I am sure Fatutried and failed…..THIS IS LIBERIA……..
Once she called to say hello and explained to me why she couldn’t attend my daughter wedding, then I gave her the name of a Lebanese who invited me and Lebanon ambassador to Armenia in May 2011 for lunch and at the end he offered me a new JEEP and ROLEX watch just to get him a letter from Liberia Minister of Foreign affairs as a diplomat (Same of the Central Africa Diplomat who aid USD in 2011) at an embassy and I refused by adding, “My dear, this is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government and what your dad has obtained and paid for from Doe to Bryant Governments no more exist”. Though I was wrong but Fatu praised me for it…..later when other Lebanese penetrated the system, the man who offered me the jeep and watch contacted me and I was shame to talk with him. Then I gave him the minister name and cel number to try his luck. The same day I emailed President Sirleaf and ten other officials including Fatu with a caption, CONSULATE FOR SALE IN LIBERIA…..Only Fatu and the highly respectful Ambassador Eddie Dunn replied me. When I returned, I was astonished when Amb. Dunn, the chief of protocol of the republic of Liberia told me at his wife office and in her presence on Broad St. next to Palm Hotel that he was unaware and denied knowing anything of both the Lebanese man and the Central African diplomat (who paid handsome amount of USD for his appointment. I knew about it in 2011 but was afraid to inform President Sirleaf to avoid been in the past tense)and other diplomatic appointments and is now resting from this headache job. I congratulated him for his decision by adding that most foreign diplomats accredited to Liberia aware of it……indeed I am shame in town and I regret insulting the Lebanese who offered me the Jeep and Rolex watch that I need it badly…I repeat badly, …Indeed I was ignorant and I should have ridden the wagon like many other from top to bottom….THIS IS LIBERIA….. INDEED I AM SHAME…..
In September 2011, Fatu called me to find out of the Lebanese who was appointed consul general in Lebanon in September 2011 during Liberia heat election daysat the time all GOL employees campaigning out of town and ministries and agencies were empty ….I told her, yes I was informed by an official of Lebanon Ministry of Foreign affairs who was astonished as well, I concluded. The appointment letter was secretly signed on Randall st. and that Lebanese is an honorable man and I am aware how much USD he has paid an official of Liberia Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other personality….name available when requested at court….GOD DAMIT…. She was astonished and concluded, “Coz, this is your government”….Indeed I am shame in town when she told me “OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLE……” and I agreed with her….. THIS IS LIBERIA……..
At each funeral or wake we met, Fatuused to joke with me, “Coz, when you die, I will deposit a wreath on your gasket, the church will be full and a state funeral will be held for you and we will bury you in Gbarnga”. I used to smile and say, make sure that I am buried with my parent in Lebanon………GOD BLESS…
On April 26, 2014, she saw me again at my cousin George store on Broad St., (Mothers and Baby) and with her generous smile said, “Cousin, all your hair white”.I told her it is hard times…..When she left, George told me, Fatuwas an outstanding lady, then I explained to him my relations with her since school days, ….few days later, on May 2, @ 09:00 PM when I heard of her great loss, I cried bitterly and called cousin George with the sad news, for seconds we were mutes, then, he told me, “Fatu was one of the few most respectful, intelligent and GOD fearing ladies he ever met”. GOD BLESS…..
Fatu used to call me at each time I published an article and the most she liked are:
a- We are proud of you Cousin Amelia Ward@ INQUIRER Sep 28, 99 p-4.
b- Brothers and Sisters@ INQUIRER 02-10-99 p-4.
c- Women Feed The World @ INQUIRER 05-05-99 p 4.
d- It’s AWoman World @ INQUIRER 10-09-98.
e- Tribute To The Lady Mentioned At Proverbs 31st Cousin Clavenda Bright-Parker @ INQUIRER Jan. 14 and Jan. 29, 2014.
Last year I visited her boss and was astonished of the entire security team around him that reminds me during the war when I visited Charles Taylor in Gbarnga, George Boley in BTC and Prince Johnson in Caldwell, the following day I asked her what was that for? She said….TOO much begging and lying in town Cousin……I agreed with her and told her about the Taxi driver who refused to pick up 2 girls at 09:00 PM when I was discharged from SOS in 2012.….indeed this rape law must be amended my people…..
I missed her wake but on May 31st tears streamed down my face throughout when I saw the gasket bearing her mortal remains and the thousands of sympathizers @ St. Thomas Episcopal Church, I was warmed when I heard the family tributes.
Indeed Fatu was an outstanding lady, with strong character, warm personality, kind, loving, tender, had a sense of humor, strong morality, and above all she worshipped GOD.
Rest in peace Cousin Fatu……We Will Miss You