John Baimba Sesay-CHINA
Few years in journalism, but my less than a year period at Awoko newspaper helped in shaping me professionally for the unknown future and to this end, the late John, who until his call to eternity was Editor, did play his part.
Rounding up my studies for my first degree at Fourah Bay College and then a contract with Search For Common Ground/TALKING Drum Studios coming to an end, it took Umaru Fofana (BBC) to approach the leadership of Awoko newspaper, to recommend me for a job. That was the start, in March of 2008, of a long journey of camaraderie and Staff-Boss relationship with Samuel John.
Awoko newspaper was to later provide an environment where all of us saw each other as members of one large family but from different backgrounds and Samuel John was to be the beacon of direction and professional excellence, next to the newspaper family head, Kelvin Lewis.
My spell at the newspaper was brief, but extremely helpful in shaping my journalist profession. The regular production meetings provided us with the opportunity to know what an office environment meant.
The late man’s instinct for exclusive stories enabled reporters to be hardworking, not being lazy; to go for the news to be published the next day only by Awoko. He was amongst the very last set of people to leave the office at odd hours, when some of us are home sleeping. An instrumental person in the growth of the newspaper, media and journalism has fallen!
There was this American/Japanese intern, Yu Nakayama. We both had been sent to Waterloo as we were to do a piece on decentralization. Our return to the office was greeted by this ‘exciting’ but frustrating experience Yu had, using a poda poda with close to 20 persons.
Much as people wanted to hear the experience, Uncle John was much concerned about the outcome of our investigation. That was the kind of person he was, never wished to see the paper go dry the next day in terms of meeting the expectations of the public.
The late man had this feeling of making use of persons and resources to get the office work going. Ishmael Bayoh once doing a piece on how Yu would be missed by the newspaper wrote “…our deputy editor, Samuel John will badly miss him when adverts come in hard copies and Yu is not there to help him out with his electronic typing…”
For him, the growth of the newspaper was very crucial.
There were those moments he would shout, those crazy periods in the newsroom when we would be running up to meet deadline. But never was there a time he exhibited anger to the point of wishing to see you out of the paper. Never! He was like a father to many and journalistically helped to professionally tidy up a lot of us, through Kelvin Lewis, the quintessential managing editor.
Joining the newspaper, I was provided with the platform to develop my writing skills. Aligned to the APC but never was I questioned on an issue by the late man. I and Ishmael Bayoh grew interest in doing feature articles right from AWOKO newspaper where we had been provided with the opportunity to do that
Even after leaving the newspaper for the Society for Democratic Initiatives as Communications Officer, and later becoming a Diplomat, the late man and the newspaper never stopped providing that overall support to me. AWOKO happened to be one of two newspaper offices I would work from, whenever in Freetown. The editorial board has always seen me as part of the team. Thanks to Samuel John and Kelvin Lewis for that!
Despite the policy of ‘exclusive’ stories for the paper, I have always enjoyed the support of my news items being published even if not at all times.
The late man was a great editor that contributed in his own way to not only the growth of many reporters, but also towards national development through his long spell in the field of journalism.
He was simple, down to earth and above all accommodating. He was a pillar at the newspaper. His demise has left a gap, one that could take a while to fill. As he takes his final rest, I pray that the paper sustains the high standard of professionalism it has maintained over the years. That should be dedicated to his memory!
It is sad, extremely so, that death, an inevitable commodity has snatched from us a former colleague and a brother.
Sleep on Uncle John! You have made your mark! You lived your life once because you lived it well, once we have come to accept, is enough! Rest in peace till we meet someday, with faith, and philosophically, in heaven!
NOTE: John Baimba Sesay was a reporter at Awoko newspaper. He is Sierra Leone’s current Press Attaché to the People’s Republic of China. Tribute was published in Awoko newspaper, Sierra Leone!