Liberia: “The Executive Horn I Knew”

This famous traditional horn blower, Executive Horn, went to be with his Maker

Monrovia – I knew there was going to be a big funeral for the late Gabriel Wilson, commonly known as ‘Executive Horn’. A lot of good things were said about how he was dedicated to his service.

Report by Mae Azango [email protected]

Frankly, yesterday, March 11, all of those colorful descriptions and words were total wastes, because I and many others know that Executive Horn never felt the impact of his work while he was alive.

The Executive Horn I knew, was an older man, in spite of his age, he was down to earth. He mingled and played with everyone, including those far younger than him. I think he was overlooked at his jobsite. Maybe because of his sense of humors the very presidents he served, by always blowing the traditional horn behind them, didn’t really regard him that much.

His bosses forgot to know or deliberately chose not to fathom that Executive Horn occupied a very significant space in the Liberian culture and so they didn’t opt for him to have a protégé.

Now that he’s gone to rest with his maker, the ‘horn’ is going to be silenced as there is not a known person to fill his shoes. This absence was felt on Monday, February 11, when President George Manneh Weah delivered his Armed Forces Day speech. Other areas the President has visited since the passing of Executive Horn, the famous melodious tunes from the famous Executive Horn have been silenced.

Executive Horn will be remembered by many of those residing in the “God Bless You Community” sandwiched between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Building (Pan African Plaza).

Executive Horn always walked across the open space between the Foreign Ministry and the small community to come into the community, where on many days he would beg for transportation and food to eat.

I remember vividly, Wilson, on big celebration, like the Armed Forces Day, after the formal program, he would come across some big shots and be bellowing his horn so that those people can give him tips.

Of course, most to them would just dismiss him, saying “Executive Horn, nothing there hoo,” and pass by him. Some did give him handsome tips, though.

When I interviewed him in 2017 on Armed Forces Day about his horn blowing, he laughed and told me how he learned the art from his father. After our talk, he said to me, “My daughter, please pay my way to go home.” When I asked him why he blowing the Executive Horn directly behind the President of Liberia would not be assigned a vehicle or be having money to pay his way home especially after a major state event, he replied; “My daughter, it hard to talk hoo. After this kind of program when I am finished blowing this horn, I can be hungry. But nobody will have my time,” he said sadly.  

He would always call me his daughter, when he came to where I resided than in the “God Bless You Community” because of the way I treated him like a father. He would come first thing early in the morning to look for something to eat in order to begin his day.

I remember one morning, he came to my apartment and knocked on my door very early. When I unbolted the door, he greeted me. I asked why he was in town so early, he said where he lived along the Somalia Drive, it was hard to get vehicle to come to town at some point of the day because of the very crazy traffic, so he had to wake up very early as 4:30 a.m. to catch first bus to town. “My daughter I am hungry ohoo. I never had anything to eat yesterday when I left town because I am broke.” I then gave him L$200 to buy tea and bread.

One time, when I returned from a two-week trip from Nigeria, he said to me, “My daughter, I missed you ohoo. Where you went?” When I told him that I had traveled to Nigeria, he said sadly: “I wish I were like you ohoo, because since I have been blowing this horn, I never one day travelled with the President outside of Liberia. When our big, big office people making the list for people to travel with the President they cannot even make mistake to include me, only for trips inside Liberia. They will force me to go weather I sick or not. People like me, are not important in society, then worse of all, I do not know book,” he said.

When news of his death reached the community, nearly everyone, who interacted with him cried. The yard where I used to live and the entire community called me to verify whether the news was true.  

He once told another neighbor in the community why he never had a wife. He vowed to her to never get another wife. Executive Horn narrated how his wife, the mother of his sons, was killed by rebels during the civil war. He told her that he never wanted another woman to mistreat his boys, who are now grown.

In his last few years, even though he still served Presidents, including former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Executive Horn was reduced to a beggar, after many years of service which began in 1981. Will we ever hear this famous horn again behind a Liberian President? You served your nation well; Rest in Peace, Executive Horn.