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Sierra Leone News: TRIBUTE- The ever ready ‘Juni Juni’

MR. SAMUEL JOHN

MR. SAMUEL JOHN

There was Solemnity in the news room of the Awoko Newspaper on Tuesday September 13th as we spoke about the life well spent by Samuel John, former Deputy Editor. It was never a dull moment in the Awoko news room when Samuel John was around but that day and many more days to come will see dull moments. Always considering myself as part of the Awoko family having worked there for a considerable period of time, the news room is not restricted to me.
As I sat in the newsroom that Tuesday morning without the physical presence of Samuel John, we sprang in to action by recalling his antics. At least it drove for a moment the tears. Awoko needed somebody like him as deputy editor; he was very dedicated to his job, a master class in sports reporting and a reference point for us. He became so attached to the staff that we nick named him ‘Juni Juni’.
I worked with him much longer than most of the staff at Awoko and have studied him so; I was in a better position to understand him. (but Mr. John nor easy for study oooo- the study kin fail at times). When he was alive and I had paid a visit to the news room, he would be quick to shout out ‘padi man duya ar beg u comrade nor de naya- ar nor want noise’ (my friend I beg you to maintain decorum as your comrade in crime is not around). That was just one of his several welcome to me. But those of us who have known him, will just ignore him and do a shout out to him in this way ‘juni juni’.
Juni Juni most times made the news room unbearable for us when we were not yet matured at Awoko. His supervision was so hard on us that most times made the news room have no dull moment. After the editorial meeting and you still sit in the news room at Awoko, Mr. John will tear you apart. There were moments when Mohamed Tiamieu Fofana, Betty Milton and I would gauge time for our different beats. Tiamieu was covering Parliament, Betty the special court trials and I was covering the APC trials and mostly these three areas commences at 10am. Mr. John will shout here and there that ‘doe don clean for una back wit borku tok tok look me dummy wae ar don draw, all the pages empty o’ (its another early morning for you people with lots of talking. I have drawn the dummy and all the pages are empty).
The early morning sessions were just a warm up for him and us. The sustained bout was always between him and the graphic designer, Celina. What to lay where and when to lay them was the crux of the bout between them. Mr. John would want to start the work in earnest immediately after the meetings and Celina would just shout ‘ayy Mr. John duya ar beg make ar go fen food eat fos’ (let me get myself food to eat first Mr. John). Mr. John’s reaction might take more than 10mins- shouting left to right saying ‘ una cam woke and tem for woke una wan do other thing’. He would always start work so early but was the last to leave office.
Each and every staff had their own sessions. Our afternoon session would come when we return from our beats. And guess what, Mr. John will be on his machine working and very attentive or tense. Make God comot behind we de type we story and de tok hahahaha, that will be the most tense moment. His usual comments were, “the pages are all empty and there are no stories, even the provincials have not sent in their stories and you people are supposed to submit three stories each but you talking”. He would comment loudly, “today I am not ready to stay here till after 10pm, as soon as its 5pm, you people will grab your bags and go home like civil servants”. Betty would remark ‘ bor Mr. John na u kin wan stay na ya oo wae den story den wae bin lef yesterday, what about the upline stories wae u nor use yet- den pass ten so. He would respond thus ‘nor tell me that Betty, ar say no story nor de, since u go special court nor to 3 o’clock u cam, Saffa Moriba and Easmon pass Mr Lewis read den story den fos. Una sidon na ya de make mama ar crase, but wait make Mr. Lewis cam make ar tell am’. His frequent threats to complain us to Mr. Lewis will never be carried out.
It reached to a point that the news room was filled with FBC graduates and all read Mass Communication- debates became heated which most times infuriated Mr. John. He had this habit of always ‘peeping’ on your desk top what you typing. He would pretend as if he was going to use the toilet and if he spots a mistake, you are finished. He would say ‘ una sidon naya de holla fbc fbc look wetin u de type’. But that person had not yet finished typing his story nor read over it. Most times when we have started typing our stories he would say ‘padi man this headline change am’. Tiamieu will retort by saying ‘Mr. John I have just started let me finish’ he would again remark ‘ enti na una go FBC’. But he was very helpful especially when it came to cross checking our stories. Full names and spellings of dignitaries and places.  Saidu Bah was always quick to call him to spell some difficult krio names- he would say ‘Mr. John how u spell this name – na u krio fambul den’.
We will see our nightmares during editorial meetings where we also review the day’s publication. Mr. John will always keep the last bullets to hit at us by identifying our mistakes. He would say ‘kelvin you can’t believe it that na doctor wake me this early morning de complain say wetin de appen with awoko so so grammatical mistakes and for the sport, e say usai Bernard e attention kin de’. When the landline was functional and he received a call, after dropping the receiver, he would turn to us and say ‘na one me good friend wae don de read awoko for long say d layout na d front page don change’. Another fire in the house as Celina would remark ‘ den nor tell u so well make d person cam show me me job now’.
There is one particular reporter that knew how to put Mr. John under control. When he would have raised his voice here and there, Saidu Bah would calm him down. ‘Mr. John sidon ya nor worry- u don buy and sell from daily mail to we yone. Two times Olympic correspondent, long time only cricket writer. That is the time Juni Juni would smile. There was one Olympic games he covered in Sydney and for anytime we joke about it why he did not seek asylum then, he would tell us-‘ ar go tell una bad word, na me de go clean white man s**t?.
That Tuesday morning in the news room, Mr. John who was so particular about ensuring memoriam were laid out and the person he would always quarrel with to lay them out was the person that designed his obituary picture. I shed tears when Celina brought the obituary designs of Juni Juni. Mr. John was very friendly, simple, dedicated to work and lived a life well spent. Rest in Peace sir.
NOTE: Ishmael Bayoh was a reporter at Awoko newspaper who is presently working at the Human Rights Commission
By Ishmael Bayoh
Tuesday September 20, 2016

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