Tuesday, April 16, 2024



A Patriot’s Diary with Ekena Wesley

A native of southeastern Liberia who was birthed as an unknown quantity or a nobody, little did Cllr. Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah come to realize that some are born great; others achieve greatness; while some have greatness bestowed upon them. We cannot define our humanity let alone its complexity. Former Interim President, Professor Wilton Sankawolo wrote: “No One Knows Tomorrow…” Tolbert Nyenswah did not come from an affluent family line or a well-to-do line of inheritance. He resiliently lived the harshest moments of impoverishment. It did not deter him. Like many huge indigenous Liberian families, children epitomize wealth, fame, and status. Tolbert Nyenswah is indicative of that stock.

Tolbert Nyenswah was amongst the dozens of Liberians whose life was generationally eroded by the trappings of a senseless self-destructive conflict. But it was in no way a deterrence as it were. He gallantly persevered. Tolbert knew he had a purpose and a goal that he had set his eyeson. He embattled the odds even as a refugee in Ivory Coast after the Liberia war forced him and thousands of others into an unanticipated life in exile. Liberians carry harrowing stories about their initial life in exile but in spite of the challenges of the moment, they rose to the occasion. Surely, everyone has a story. Tolbert Nyenswah held his head up high with valor unpretending.

Amid the uncertainty of life in exile, international humanitarian interventions created opportunities for emergency-styled learning. Schools opened and many Liberian refuge-stricken children seized the moment. Tolbert did not wither as he joined scores of young and enterprising Liberian young men and women of school-going age to get an education. He is a proud beneficiary of the Cote d’Ivoire-based Refugee School System. Despite the refugee setting, the mode of learning was competitive. Teachers who fled into exile were mobilized into action to teach and mentor refugee students.

As some semblance of sanity became restored, Tolbert later sought repatriation to his native Liberia and relocated to Monrovia. A devastated Monrovia already ravaged by a cruel war was in ruins. The capital had changed hands severally amind one Interim government after another. Then his journey in a much tougher Monrovia began in earnest. Throughout his rough cum herculean sojourn, he remained focused, humbled, and diligent.

Tolbert Nyenswah’s intriguing but determined walk along the course of a new horizon started from being an ‘office boy to Liberia’s most respected Ebola hero’ at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. He entered the University of Liberia (UL) after sitting its placement and entrance exams and passed. So he chose to combine school and work.

He conscientiously needed the two. The school would determine his better tomorrow while work had the propensity to subsidize faintly the question of survival since paycheck rarely came by. Tolbert Nyenswah enrolled at the Science College at the University of Liberia where he studied Biology.

At the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tolbert steadily climbed the ladder and rose to the position of Assistant Minister for Health for Curative Services. While serving in that position, his homeland experienced the worst pandemic to ever shatter the West African Subregion let alone the Mano River Basin – the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Liberia came under attack from an unknown enemy. There was nowhere to turn.

A haphazard approach to making intervention was not yielding any dividends. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf assembled international partners, the Ministry of Health, and key government ministries and agencies.

That meeting became a turning point. Young Assistant Minister, Tolbert Nyenswah was named Head of the Incident Management Team (IMC). A working group that later changed the course of history and saved precious lives as Ebola rained havoc. It was that challenge that eventually re-engineered the dawning of a historic cruise in the aggressive fight against Ebola as the IMC jealously rose to the challenge for the greater good.

Although a dozen others were actively involved in the Ebola fight, the Incident Management Team led by Ebola Hero, Tolbert Nyenswah, provided the central nervous control and most effective coordination, networking, and aggressive mobilization to make Ebola a matter of historic relic. Tolbert Nyenswah did not only rise to the occasion, he scrupulously led the charge as he led the IMC.

In the wake of a post-Ebola era, Tolbert and others reckoned that there will always be a reoccurrence of an outbreak and therefore saw the need to make public health a stand-alone. Thus the birth of the national Public health Institute of Liberia. He spearheaded the crafting of the draft Act, engaged Capitol Hill frantically, defended the overriding objectives, and ensured the realization of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL). Tolbert Nyenswah became the first Director General of NPHIL.

He enjoyed the unqualified backing and support of former President Ellen Johnson. Prior to the coming into force of NPHIL, he was elevated to the position of Deputy Minister of Health owing to a proven track record. Tolbert Nyenswah who earlier pursued a Master’s in Public Health Law returned to John Hopkins University – School of Public Health, Bloomberg in pursuit of Doctoral studies. It is this latest feat that we celebrate Tolbert Nyenswah today upon successful completion having met all the requirements as stipulated by John Hopkins University – School of Public Health.

Barely 48 hours ago, Tolbert Nyenswah posted on his official Facebook page: “Just defended and passed my doctorate dissertation!! It’s now sealed and delivered. Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), from the prestigious, #1 public health School, in the United States, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health. Thank you, Dr. Nuzzo for your support and for tweeting this!!” Then came this Tweet from Dr. Nuzzo: “Congratulations to Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah @NyenswahG for successfully passing his @JohnsHopkinsSPH DrPH dissertation defense! In honor of his hard-earned doctorate, I’d like to reshare (below) one of Tolbert’s many important observations. Highly relevant still today.”

Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH – @JenniferNuzzo – ·Jun 11, 2020, famously remembered this quote from Tolbert Nyenswah: “If the community is not on your side you cannot do any public health intervention,” said Tolbert Nyenswah…”

A Patriot’s Diary – @Ekena Wesley wrote: “Comrade Leader, @ Cllr. Dr. Tolberts Nyenswah – The trappings of an overly capitalistic America eluded a late response. But belated as it is and coming from a respected brother, it is a compelling acknowledgment amid such a remarkable feat. The race was neither to the strong nor the herculean task to the swift but essentially to thou that endureth till the end.

On behalf of A Patriot’s Diary, we say a big congratulation on your accomplishment. As an iconic Liberian and a venerated household name in the public health sector nationally, regionally, and globally, especially our heroic epitome in the aggressive fight against the Ebola virus disease, your name will go down in history as one having foresight; recognizing your country needed you the most, you undoubtedly rose to the challenge. CONGRATULATIONS! Comrade Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah. Well deserved! Eh-kon-Be-saei!!”

Popular Talk show host, Henry Pedro Costa went all out on his official Facebook page: “Please join me let’s congratulate one of our finest sons, the internationally acclaimed public health expert, Cllr. Tolbert Nyenswah, on successfully defending and passing his dissertation today earned his doctorate degree in Public Health from America’s finest public health school, Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Cllr. Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah is a Senior Research Associate at the Bloomberg School where he just earned his doctorate. He recently shared the stage with Bill Gates and other world-renowned leaders in the field, at a global conference in Brussels. See pictures. Congratulations, my dear brother. To say we are proud of you would be an understatement. Keep on winning!”

Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah, your country is proud of you! You have crossed the Rubicon! keep soaring! Remember, first you’re a Liberian. We leave you with what John Kennedy told Americans many years ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. Congratulations, Comrade Cllr. Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah on your accomplishment.

Smart News Liberia is an online news outlet, a product of Smart Media Group Inc. publishes a wide range of content including politics, business, sports, and entertainment on and about Liberia. Contact: +231777425285/ 886946925 Email:

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