By Amadu Lamrana Bah
I am now coming to terms with the death of my boss and father figure, Mr. Philip Neville; the man who gave me the opportunity and guided me to become what I always wanted to be- a journalist.
I will celebrate Mr. Philip Neville, a man who started his media from something small with only a newspaper and built it into an institution called Media One Center, adding a radio and TV station through which many young journalists, including my humble self, have passed and are all excelling. I will forever be grateful to him.
As a boy growing up at Kissy with a passion for journalism, I get to know the name, Philip Neville, from reading articles or stories in newspapers at Jallay’s Shop at Ghana Field and listening to him, Hon. Alhaji I.B. Kargbo and Prof. Septimus Kakai (late) on UN Radio.
I started volunteering at Star TV in late 2017 as a sports reporter and then I was told that Mr. Neville has instructed that I should start doing other stories. After working for him for over a year, he called to meet with me and I was scared thinking there was a problem. No, there was none, all he wanted to do was to commend me for my stories from the weekly SLPP press conference on Wednesday’s where John Oponjo Benjamin (JOB) will always have allegations to make, and from the government press conference the following day, Thursday, where I.B. Kargbo would react to the allegations.
As shy as I was then, he kept me in his office sharing his experience as a cub reporter, and how he rose through the ranks to become a media owner, and how I should stay focused. I left motivated and with some broad smile from the Neville goodwill, enough for the whole month to pay for my two-way daily transportation from Kissy to Siaka Stevens Street, and even had good lunch served with chill Coke from Dora at Small Waterloo Street.
Mr. Neville enquired more about me and his brother, Alfred (now deceased), who knew my family more told him I was from Kissy, and then I became a Philip Neville project, his younger brother, and a family member.
Mr. Neville believed in me and sometimes would ask me to cover some big stories like the missing Mayor chain, interviewing certain people including Dr. Kadie Sesay, Seray Timbo (late), and many others including Julius Maada Bio (now President) when he was returning from London to join the fight against Ebola, apparently his friend Alhaji Kanja had reached out to him for coverage and so he assigned me there.
I and many of my colleagues saw first-hand the generous and lovely Mr. Neville who will send gifts in appreciation of our good works, on holidays, and at the end of the year. As Muslims, we were receiving Ramadan gifts either in rice or other condiments (same for our Christian friends), and at the end of the year, the whole Kingtom neighborhood where his office was and later Mamma Street would look forward to the slaughtering of the cow and everyone would have their share even if they weren’t around.
Mr. Neville was helping people, families, and individuals. I know because I saw and interacted with many who came to the office and the others, he would ask me to go drop something for them.
He believed in what he was doing as a journalist and would always say to us that he knew some people did not like him for doing his work but many appreciated what he was doing so he would just serve his conscience.
Mr. Neville wasn’t happy that I left, and he told his brother Alfred (late) who tried to get me back, and many other mutual friends including even my family. But I actually left Media One to challenge myself and I let him know even though I couldn’t convince him then but he later accepted and said he was happy that people who passed through him were excelling, an indication that he was providing the right training and guidance.
After he was informed that I refused to go testify against him in a matter he had in court, we met a few days later at an event and he held my hand and just said “thank you” with a broad smile. Then we were cool again and I would send him warm greetings, and I mourned with him when he lost his mom he loved so much, and his younger brother, Alfred, who was very close to him.
Mr. Neville would always warn us against Okada, they’ve hit his car several times and he believed they were more of a menace to society. Unfortunately, he was reportedly hit by the Okada he was always warning us about.
I am surprised that the Sierra Leone Police hasn’t issued an official statement on the incident that caused his death; are they investigating, or has anyone been arrested?
Mr. Neville is a senior citizen, he served as Vice and Acting President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and he was one of the biggest investors in the media in Sierra Leone. Therefore, he deserves some respect; his family and loved ones need to know what the police is doing.
Many other citizens are victims of reckless riding by Okada, people continue to die from the reckless abandonment of our law enforcement agencies and this won’t be the last if us as a people do not collectively demand some serious actions to address this Okada menace.
I will continue to mourn Mr. Neville; his impact in my life will forever remain, my story won’t be complete without his name and contribution to my journalistic journey.
My prayers and thoughts are with his son Philip Neville Jnr, the rest of the family and my colleagues at Media One Centre, and the SLAJ family.
May your soul rest in perfect peace Mr. Philip Neville, the man who made me.