PNW Was Indeed Light Unto the Journalism Path -A Tribute by Stanley Seakor, Publisher/Managing Editor of The Analyst
MONROVIA – Sometimes life brings people together in very unusual circumstances. As Managing Editor and Publisher of the Analyst Newspaper, I have had the opportunity over the years of interacting with a myriad of states persons, corporate executives, politicians, academicians and ordinary Liberians during my sojourn as a journalist and media executive. However, none of those encounters stands out so lucidly as my 2003 inadvertent brush with one of Liberia’s renowned media gurus, Philip N. Wesseh, whose passing on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 has definitely left an indelible emptiness within the media community in Liberia.
Truth be told, unlike many of the glowing tributes flooding the Internet from people who had extensively known the venerable media guru Philip N. Wesseh as an unreserved giant endeared within the Liberia media cycle; who was often referred to as “the most unassuming boss”, “everybody’s friend”, amidst the cornucopia of the glowing epithets, my chance encounter with “Gina” (as Attorney Philip Wesseh was affectionately called) can be traced to May 2003, during the twilight era of the Liberian civil conflict, when Philip Wesseh and I formed part of a group of Independent Journalists selected by the office of the presidency to cover the Liberia Peace Conference in Ghana.
Admittedly, even though PNW and I were well-positioned at the time as media executives of our respective news outlets, my encounters with Mr. Wesseh prior to the Accra sojourn had been minimal until providence saw us leaving Liberia together to report on the Liberia Peace process that was about to unfold in Accra.
By a stroke of fate’s provident pen, the Government of Liberia had selected a group of independent Liberian journalists at the time to cover the Accra Peace Conference, an event that paved the way for the signing of the landmark Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) which actualized the myriad of security sector and governance reforms that Liberia now enjoys today.
The group of independent journalists selected at the time included your humble servant; Frank Sainworla, Winston Monboe; Sam Dean; Borbor McGill, and Philip Wesseh; as well as other journalists from former President Taylor’s own media conglomerates, some of whom included John Kollie, Trokon Tarr, George Barpeen, among others who were all fortunate enough to have witnessed the Government of Liberia’s briefing ceremony presided by former Police Director Paul Mulbah at the Roberts International Airport, regarding the ignominious transfer of the body of Sierra Leone former rebel leader Sam Bockarie to his homeland before our departure for Accra.
When we got to Accra, Ghana, I found myself sharing a room at the Victory Hotel in Circle with Philip Wesseh. He was my roommate during the entire peace conference in Accra. It was there that we became very close, where I came to see him as a dear friend that I could confide in with regards to the happenings surrounding the Liberia Peace Conference.
In Ghana, we had to cover former President Taylor’s activities at the M-Plaza Hotel where he resided and received former dignitaries and members of his cabinet; and we had to also cover the hectic opening of the Conference at the Accra Unity Conference Center. After the official opening of the Peace conference on Liberia that saw the attendants of several African leaders, well as representatives from the international organizations such the UN, EU, AU, amongst others, news spread that an indictment had been served on President Taylor by former UN prosecutor Alan White.
Our Ghana sojourn also included stints at the famous Akosombo Peace Center where the conference was officially opened, and then on to the M-Plaza where the conference actually took place and the peace accord was derived at. As roommates and fraternal colleagues, PNW and I were together throughout that journey and shared many happy and frustrating moments of Liberia’s rocky journey towards peace.
After that we came to Liberia and we parted ways, but it was during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf that PNW and I again interacted. At the time, I was opportune to serve as Chairman of the Publishers Association, from 2006 to 2017, having taken over from the veteran Publisher Sando Moore who was one of the founders of the Association and founding Chairman.
As Chairman of the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL), interestingly, the rest of my colleagues (Publishers) would always refer to me as “Mr. President” except PNW who would always refer to me as “Mr. Chairman”. I called PNW aside during those official PAL meetings and jokingly asked why, among all of our colleagues within the Association, he alone always called me “Mr. Chairman” while everyone called me “Mr. President”. PNW smiled, put his hands around me and said: “Stanley, I will always call you Mr. Chairman because you were not elected but appointed. You have to do the needful thing by ensuring we have a constitution and go to election. When you are elected, I will call you president.” Of course, this was his way of enhancing democratic tenets within one of the PUL’s biggest auxiliaries.
And so, midway into my administration, as we were struggling to come up with a constitution to guide the Publishers Association, I had no one to turn to but my former roommate from Accra and I hurriedly appointed PNW as Chairman of the Publishers Association Constitution Committee, and Chairman of the Advisory Committee as well.
PNW was a down-to-earth human being. He presented himself among us as equals, even though he was above us in terms of expertise. Gina was my inspiration by the way he managed the Inquirer Newspaper through objectivity and balanced reporting, especially during the administration of President Charles G. Taylor when journalists were plying their trade at their own peril.
And so, prior to the end of 2017 when I decided to cede the Publishers Association Presidency to a new leadership, I appointed Publisher PNW to head the PAL Constitution Committee of which I was ex-officio. The constitution was adopted and we saw two successive elections, all thanks to Journalist Attorney Philip N. Wesseh.
PNW, Gina, Philip Wesseh, Counsel, Professor, Nyemehjue, you are no longer with us. But for those of us who had the brief privilege of your interaction, there is absolutely no tribute that befits your humanity, your Midas touch that kept the Liberian media landscape glowing with the light you illuminated for us keeps the sacred torch of our societal duties burning forevermore.
Rest on Gina.