By D. Kaihennneh Sengbeh (firstname.lastname@example.org/06586531)
I was very astounded as still as I am when the news hit me (through text messages) that two best friends of the same profession, bearing the same first names – who had worked together—had died during the same weekend, same month and same year.
The untimely deaths (yes, that’s how at least I term it) of my two professional colleagues—Patrick Karmle Wrokpoh (always broadly smiling back) and Patrick Abu Paasewe (diplomatic and always serious)—have left me with a wounded heart and broken spirit, and I am compelled to write this piece, detailing how I got their deaths news and how and when I met and befriended them.
Until now, as I write this article of reflection of my interaction with the twosome, I can’t understand why Patrick Wrokpoh and Paasewe are gone at this critical time of our country’s history (2011Elections)—when they had tremendous unfinished businesses, when they, especially the types of Pat Wrokpoh, are needed most. But again, whom am I to question destiny, when, in fact, everyone including myself will follow them one day at the time.
For now, all I can say to those of us who are left behind (especially the Pats’ families, workmates and other close acquaintances) is, “have my sympathy”. I hope we all can pray for the souls of the Pats to rest in perfect peace as they have gone to join our forefathers and other relatives who had since departed this troublesome world. Yes, they came; they lived; they played their parts; and they’ve gone, leaving behind their own legacies.
The shocking news:
a. Patrick Wrokpoh
“Journalist Patrick Wrokpoh of the Inquirer Newspaper is reported dead,” a text message sent to me by one of my reporters read. It was around 10 pm, Friday, June 24, when I received this message. By then, my little family and some neighbors were watching an African movie in our living room; I was on my laptop writing some stories for Monday’s publication.
I immediately called Roland Perry (message sender) to warn him to “stop professing bad luck” on Patrick—my friend. He insisted he was telling me the truth. I immediately called Pat’s immediate boss at the Inquirer, Timothy Seaklor, who and I had spent the whole of Thursday together at a workshop. He had not gotten the information, then. “Let me call Philip [Wesseh] to find out; I will call you back, but it can’t be true,” he stated, sounding unconvincingly.
I immediately called Morrison O.G. Sayon (Inquirer’s reporter who and I live in the same community) but his phone was reported off. My next option was to call Winnie Saywah (Inquirer reporter and my former classmate in journalism school 10 years ago) to verify the hard-to-believe information. The background noise suggested that Winnie was in tears. Right away, Timothy called me back to confirm the report that his workmate was dead. “I am broken, I am broken Sengbeh,” I heard him sob. “Phillip has confirmed it; Patrick is no more. I am broken. I can’t believe it,” the conversation ended.
I knew Perry had not lied to me. Winnie Saywah would text me two hours later at 12:24 am to, I’m sure responding to my earlier call, inform me that her immediate boss was dead. “Patrick Wrokpoh is dead,” her one-sentence text read. By the next day, the news had spread like dry bush fire, especially by our colleagues from the electronic media and through text messages and calls, even before the print media picked it up early Monday.
b. Patrick Paasewe
Like Patrick Wrokpoh, the mind-boggling death news of Patrick Paasewe came to me via text. At about 06:52 am on Monday, June 27, while polishing my shoes to get set for work, the message tone on my phone sounded. ”Day has broken again”, I said to myself, thinking it was one of those usual ‘please call’ messages.’
“Hey comrade,” the message read, “u heard about Patrick Paasewe’s death? I am talking about Patrick from the Mansion. His lifeless body was found hanging today @ his residence on the Robertsfield Highway.”
I initially thought the sender was joking. At another point, I thought he was mistaking Patrick Paasewe for Patrick Wrokpoh, or he was not properly informed. But my judgments were wrong; he was right. Sky FM’s Executive Mansion reporter Robert Clarke, like most of us who have covered the Executive Mansion for the last six years, knew the two fine gentlemen very well. So, Clarke was making no mistake! Patrick Paasewe had indeed joined Patrick Wrokpoh in the space of just two days.
What I Know of Patrick Wrokpoh
I have been active in the Liberian media for the past 10 consecutive years now, rising from the post of intern, cub reporter to news editor. During all my practice years so far, I have never seen a journalist so determined, so industrious and so different like the late Patrick Wrokpoh. During my early years, I always admired him when we met at functions. He was always quiet, observant and asked the hardest questions, besides appearing simple and backing his cool facade with a broad and welcoming smile. He was not a follower of the wind and did not report the obvious. He did not practice first degree journalism (the ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ type) like most of us do. Rather he went beyond the obvious. That was one of his respected marks of distinction and I admired him for it.
I got to even know Patrick better when he and I covered the Presidency together. During those years (2006-2010) Pat, as I called him, was my best friend. He used to call me ‘Mr. Editor’ and always encouraged me to do my best. “I am proud of you; you are trying to make a difference, but you have to keep it up,” Pat told me once. That was his area—advising his colleagues to be professional and always work hard.
Most times, when Patrick could not attend to Executive Mansion weekly press briefing hosted by Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Badio, maybe due to circumstances beyond his control (such as class schedule or another important assignment) he would give me his tape recorder to record the briefing for him. He would ask me to ask specific questions which responses he would want on his recorder. I would do, and he would come to my office for the briefing. I, too, would do like wise.
Patrick was not a selfish friend, at least not to me. He always shared traveling and training opportunities with me and urged me to take advantage. Before he traveled to China in 2010, he always called me the ‘Man from China’, because I had travelled there for a study tour in 2008. Three days to his trip to Beijing, Patrick called at my office to ask me about the weather condition among several other questions including the types of food, to have him adequately prepare for the trip. I told him what I knew; we shared the fun. We laughed it out.
While he was in Japan early this year (when the earthquake was raging hell there), Pat and I communicated several times, and he told me that all was fine with him. He came back and wrote long articles, sharing his experience.
The last time I saw Pat was three weeks ago, at the intersection of Benson and Randall Streets, where he was buying from a petty trader (selling in a wheelbarrow). He spotted and called me. “Mr. Editor, am I the one you’re looking for? Just give me what you have for me,” he joked and we laughed. “My man, you are getting too big nowadays,” I said to him, and he responded: “That’s the benefit of the hard work we are doing.” We shoke hands and that was our last interaction.
Yes, Patrick is gone but his memory lives on. He left behind a legacy—a legacy of professionalism, hard work, respect for all. That’s why several of his colleagues or those who knew him could reply me on Facebook last week when I expressed shock over his death.
The following are some comments from Facebook:
Julu Johnson (The News) wrote: “I voted Patrick Wrokpoh as Assistant Secretary General of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) in 1999 and then Secretary General two years later. This means that he was not a stranger to me. I will miss him for the time spent together. He was always smiling until his death. Rest in Peace Patrick.”
Patrick Honnah (Truth FM): “Let me add my voice to the rest of you by saying my condolences to the bereaved family and to the media. Pat, we’ll miss you.”
Nuruddeen M. Abdullah (a friend of mine from Nigeria): “May he rest in peace. Take heart, my comrade!”
Precious Seboe: “Yeah, it was shock to me when I got the news that morning from Winnie and up to now I still see him smile as the last time I saw him. It puts me out of words.”
Samwar S. Fallah (GAC, Kenya): “Patrick’s death is really a heart break. We are not giving him his flowers because he is dead but he was a different kind of journalist from the normal practice of journalism in Liberia. May his soul rest in peace”
Morrison O. G. Sayon (Pat’s workmate): “Patrick’s death is shocking to everyone and a major blow not only to the Inquirer, but the journalism profession in Liberia. We will tearfully miss him a lot because he was a distinguished journalist. May our dear brother soul rest in peace as he departs this world. And friends, let be blunt that for now there is no replacement for this great hero of the journalist profession.”
Naomi Mondayma Miller:”RIP Patrick ….your friends at AME University regret your death!!!!!!!!!!”
Indeed, Patrick Wrokpoh will be missed. He is difficult to be replaced as he leaves a big vacuum at the Inquirer and the journalism profession in Liberia. I only pray that light perpetual shine upon him.
My Experience With Patrick Paasewe
Patrick Paasewe, like Patrick Wrokpoh, was also a friend and a professional colleague of mine. I can’t understand why, as it is reported he did, Paasewe might have taken away his own life. Frustration? Indebtedness? Family or external pressure? Dissatisfaction? What for? Well, you and I can’t explain, but it beats my imagination, if at all, it is true that the Paasewe I knew committed suicide.
I got to know the “Diplomatic” Paasewe, when I began covering the Executive Mansion in 2004, during the Gyude Bryant-led two-year transitional government. He was a protocol officer in the Office of the Press Secretary—similar position he held at the Executive Mansion before his premature demise. Premature? Yes, suicide!
Paasewe was very a organized and a no-nonsense man. He kept his desk in his office neatly dressed as himself. He executed his duties with time and speed and behaved very diplomatic. He told you straight in the face when you wronged him; he didn’t care what you felt about it. He would discharge his anger and be finished with it—in the form of what we call in Liberia ‘Cocoa cola vexation’.
Before we gathered in the Press Secretary’s office every Mondays for press briefing, it was Paasewe who would call. “You are reminded that there will be press briefing today at Two O’ Clock prompt, thank you,” would be his message which still keeps reechoing in my ears. Sometimes he would exaggerate what would be the content of the press briefing or whatever event is taking place. “It is very, very important and it is a must that you be there, thank you.”
Paasewe, as I knew him to be, was a man who hated injustices. He always wanted things to be done orderly. He advocated the public interest and always alarmed when there were reports of bad products or expired foodstuffs and drugs on the Liberian market, through his Consumer Volunteers Association of Liberia organization. He was a whistleblower.
Legacy of the Pats
It is saddened that today that these two gentlemen have left their huge responsibilities and gone. Each of them has left legacies behind that we should envy—I don’t need to list them further. You know them already. That is why I believe in the fact that we will all die one day as long as we were born, no matter how long we live. So, to me, it doesn’t matter how, where and when we die, but what people say after us when we die — and that’s our legacies. Patrick Wrokpoh, Patrick Paasewe, go rest in peace; your legacies live on. God bless you.